Archive for students

At my school, there’s a handful of mainstreamed kids, some who are lucky (supportive classmates and teachers) and some who are not so lucky (merciless teasing, uninvolved teachers). When I first came to the school, it took me awhile to even realize that the classes had such a wide range of abilities – teachers tend to be mum on if there’s something ‘wrong’ with a student. Disability isn’t really a word that used – or understood? I’ve seen a lot go on with the mainstreamed students that have made me uneasy, but today (I say this without hyperbole) I saw the best thing ever.

Last year one of the high needs students (let’s call her Hyewon) had a rough time. I knew that English was her favorite class, but her classmates would almost never work with her, and the Korean co-teacher told me “You know why they won’t [work with her]. Let’s not make them.” She spent class either smiling at me, or with her head down on her desk, embarrassed whenever I made eye contact with her. She’s one of the bubbliest students that I have, but only at a distance. If you get close, she closes up like a cute shy clam. I think things are a little different now, with different classmates and teachers. Kind of… more nurturing?

Today, to prepare for the midterm, we played vocabulary Pictionary. The class of 36 is split into 3 teams, and they each take turns sending up one girl to draw. I choose the vocab pretty randomly out of an envelope, but if I know the students levels I try to adjust. The words are a mix of concepts (extinct, unusual), short sentences (“do you need help?”) and things (panda, pollution, envelope).

On Hyewon’s second turn, the draw-ers got the word “pollution.” It was a little bit more abstract than her first word (panda), but she was totally into the game and excited to just be in class, playing. As they started drawing and the teams started yelling out answers, I didn’t really pay attention to what they were drawing.

As Hyewon’s team called out the winning answer and I clapped and yelled that they had the point, the two other drawers put down their markers and stepped away from the board towards their seats. Hyewon looked at me, and back at her drawing, and back at me and back to the board, unmoving — She had made a car with smoke rising from the back, and a cloud overhead. Then, with incredible deliberation, she drew the Korean character-face ‘woo woo ㅜ.ㅜ’ in the cloud. The crying face.

I think I must have smiled about the biggest cheese ever. The whole class erupted into this wonderful laughter – that Hyewon had clearly made the best drawing about the impact of pollution to ever grace the school – or the world. I just about died. And Hyewon’s face? Like bliss. Everyone clearly loved her drawing, no one was making fun of her… it was just so 180 from when I first met her.

Honestly I’m a little teary writing this. This makes everything worth it. The next time I want to kill my students, I’ll try to think about Hyewon’s sad cloud, and her face as she turned around to look at me, glowing. Seriously.


best email ever

I sent one of my hike girls some pictures of her, and I got this message back-

“Thank you Naeohmi
You are the best
Pretty cute, sexy and charming and lovely kkamjjikhago bourgeois women and the teachers love the chic (students’ name)
I am writing now to English Google Translator
Naeohmiui ppogeulppogeulhan naeohmiui good head voice is the best”

Ah… ppogeulppogeul means “curly” 😉 Made me grin.
I wrote back to her nothing but “ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ”
(The Korean laugh sound~ haha I feel like my typing is getting konglish-ized.)

Hiking in Seoul

Last week one of my co-teachers asked me if I wanted to go hiking on the weekend.
After my disastrous attempts on the teachers retreat, I figured I’d never have to encounter another ‘san’ in Korea, besides my daily climb up the Hyewon Hill.
(SIDE NOTE: My kids hate it more than I do. Why? They’ve built monster calf muscles, haha.)

Turns out this optional weekend climb is on one of the easiest mountains in Seoul. But what me say yes was who else was going: The Bad Girls. Oh yes.
The way that school works here is that each grade is broken up into 8 or 9 homerooms. The homeroom teacher acts as kind of a parental figure. If a class of girls is especially awesome, tell their homeroom teacher – if a class is especially horrific one week, I tell their homeroom teacher. In every homeroom class, there are about 3 ‘bad’ girls. This isn’t an arbitrary number, the school evenly divided these students up.

What is ‘bad’ in Korea? I guess about the same as in the States – these are the kids who have been caught stealing, who get into fights, who have the worst attendance, who are disruptive in class and who have some of the lowest grade averages. The funny thing is, MOST of them behave decently in my class. Most. Well, no more worse than their peers. Anyway, in an effort to bond these girls with their homeroom teachers, Hyewon Girls’ Middle School presents: hiking.

Now, I ain’t no homeroom teacher. But I each every 3rd year class and every 1st year class, so out of the 25-ish girls that where chosen for the trip, a lot of them were my kids. A good chunk at least. So, strapping on some sneakers, I found myself on yet another hike in Korea.

SangAe is actually her class president~ She just wanted to go hiking!

You can't even imagine how much I was sweating. . .

The hike was promised to be easy. While there’s a difference between the Korean idea of an “easy hike” and MY idea of an easy hike (my idea involves walking around an air-conditioned mall) this was easily my most enjoyable hike ever. I didn’t trial behind everyone, I didn’t get hurt, and even though I was leaking tons and tons of h20, I still had fun. It was great to get to know some of the girls better – like that one of the toughest ones is afraid of dogs. And having them share their candy with me. And having them trying out their english skills outside of the classroom.

So yeah. All kinds of awesomeness being had here! 😀
In other news, I bought a plane ticket to go back to the states for vacation. Two weeks of Ben n Jerry’s ice cream, driving and forgetting all of the korean I have creamed into my head —- hopefully not on that last one! It’ll be nice to be back, for a little bit at least.