Thursday, July 9, 2009

What the hell happened to me?

Initial Hope
This post is more a reflection. I feel like Korea changed me a bit. I'm finally starting to realize it. When I stepped of that plane in 2004 I was a hopeful college student. I came here to develop some devastating Taekwondo skills, which I did to some extent, but nearly five (no exactly five F me) years later I'm not as lean and and nearly as mean as I was.

Please don't ask me Questions that I don't know the Answer to

My day at work started like this. It was 8:00 in the morning. I sat down in my chair an turned on my computer. One co-teacher approached me with a text book to see if the text book had a sentence wrong. I looked at the sentence. It seemed fine to me so, and said so. Then another co-teacher chimed in and started saying real conditional unreal conditional blah blah blah. I really couldn't take that at eight in the morning, so I gave a rather terse response, "It's really not that important, the sentence is fine."

That response kind of shut them all up but I feel bad because I can't really explain why the sentence was fine, and for the life of me I don't see why it is so important. It really made me feel like a bit of a failure, because after that indecent I criticized them in my mind. "Why the hell do you care about that stuff, I still can't have any kind of meaningful conversation with the majority of these kids." Then I felt disappointed in myself because I have been there for two years and I can't have an English conversation for more than twenty second with most of the student body. And frankly I don't know how to change things. I can type out worksheets, I can make Korean and English vocabulary lists (I learned a lot of Korean that way). I can search for and plan activities, but I'd say that only about 1/10 of the students honestly try. The rest either use my class to dick around, or they just can't. (Those kids that started middle school, not knowing how to read English...guess what they still can't.)

My school made a change in its curriculum. At the beginning of this semester I was designing communicative lessons that simulated situational English. For a while I was running some pretty good classes with that. Then the students seemed to get bored with it. Then the principal decided that the third grade students should use one of the periods that I was using to take practice tests to get ready for some big test that they have to take in October. I don't blame him, he has to boost the school's standing somehow. It actually made my life a bit easier, but it made my co-teachers' jobs a bit harder, because they also had to take on about 2 extra extra classes per day each. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays all feature zero hour classes, as well as seventh and eight hour classes. Some days my co-teachers are teaching seven hours a day. As for the students they seem to hate school now, which has made classes that I teach that much more difficult. I do thank my co-teachers for putting a few questions from my self generated material on the tests so they have to pay attention in my class.

05 Remembered
The second time I came to Korea I did a free tesol course. In many respects I got what I paid for, because I learned a whole bunch of games and activities that I can bring into a classroom, but I still don't really know that much about English grammar. Korean middle school text books don't make it very easy either.

When you try to come up with ideas for classes a government issued text book has stunning material like this:

Let's talk 1

Sujin: Minho do you think that we can save the animals?
Minho: I'm sure we can save the animals. What about you sujin?
Sujin: I don't think we will.
Minho: Cheer up Sujin, you should be an optimist.

Just what the hell am I supposed to do with that for 45 minutes?

The grammar part doesn't get that much better.

Language Focus

Can you tell me where the library is?
I don't know what the hell is going on with this text book?

There is no teachers edition of the text book in English to tell me what the hell the point of the exercise is. I spent about two hours on the Internet learning about adverb or adjective phrases, whatever, I don't know why this is important, and not many people can tell me. I just want to have something to teach to the student other than Minho and Sujin's opinions on whether or not animals will be okay.

Remembering Me
Back when I was in high school and college I was pretty awesome. A bit like Napoleon Dynamite, but in someways pretty awesome. You see back in those days I thought that if I developed martial arts and break dancing skills, I would be more attractive to women. I actually never got around to being a competent break dancer, but I tried, and I genuinely enjoyed dancing at high school dances, and for a while some kids would put together nice little underground dance parties in a warehouse that was next to a fruit market. More importantly back in those days I despaired a bit, because I had a lot of things that I wanted to say to other people, but not many friends, and especially a girlfriend to tell them too. My solace had always been my car that always pumped the hottest underground hip hop beats of the time. Talib Kweli would rap about America's hypocrisy, and how hard it was to stay strong. That time I was making $150 teaching Taekwondo seven days a week. I learned a hate for something I loved. From teaching all the time and not having any strong opponents, my skills started to decline.

But hip hop was the sound track to that time of my life. Mos Def and Talib Kweli helped me to feel the city of Kalamazoo breathing, chest heaving, against the flesh of the evening, on me. My car was the place where hip hop would soothe my soul.

This Afternoon
I don't know what happened with me and my relationship with hip hop. We grew apart I guess. Just last week I posted a video of 9 Korean teenage girls dressed as Nazis doing a strange dance and singing about how they will grant all my wishes. Why am I accepting this? Where is is my inner dead prez? Where is Jill Scott on "The Roots Come Alive Album," reminding me that she can still sing despite having on all of her clothes? Oh yeah, I'm forgetting it because I've got a nine to five now. My needs are being met. The only thing I have to worry about is why there is is past tense verb in a second conditional sentence that seems to be set in the future. (I also have to worry about a crazy fuck to the north with his bombs.)

I remembered all that hip hop this afternoon though on youtube. In a personal sonic combination of typing lesson plans, nodding my head and hearing the aural pleasure of Nas's Hero I felt the power and righteousness of 400 years of oppression and creative expression ripping the strings of candy shop pop music that tethered my soul. Just check this out. If freedom had a sound it would be that. Now pressure cookers tick, cultural pressure cookers sound and look like this, and if you add too much water or turn the heat up too high, they explode.

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