Kommunicating in Korea


My fellow English teachers are feeling like talking parrots with their prescribed lesson plans.  Meanwhile, I am putting my heart and soul into writing these lesson plans – but all anybody wants is a talking parrot.  So why do I bother?

What good is learning and speaking a language without cultural context?  They’re just words at that point.

What do those words communicate?  The answer is:  the basics.   And nothing more.  NOTHING MORE.

Yes, it’s been a demoralizing day.  My new computer wouldn’t play any audio on the speakers I bought.  Then, it just flat out died for several hours.  A teacher in my class for teachers told me I talked too much.  Another teacher who sat in on my class told me I needed to get the kids to talk more.  And here I was all proud that they had brainstormed rhyming words with me out loud and without raising their hands timidly.  And here I was all proud that I had gotten them all to say a whole string of words with out adding “e” at the end.  Like English-e.  I got them to understand that the last consonant in words like hate, late, weight, etc. was like a double consonant in Korean – extra emphasis, strong, cut off, with NO “e” or “uh” added at the end.  I taught them about American phonics and how our rules have been broken by other languages being added.  I told them about rappers writing lyrics on the bus, working to come up with mad rhymes, and how by the end of the bus trip they would have a song.  I told them the lists we were making was called brainstorming, and that the more ideas they wrote down, the more choices they would have when they were trying to be creative. I taught them how to rhyme sentences. I taught them how the placement of the word in the sentence affects the rhythm.  I taught them…She saw my face drop and then told me she was impressed by how much planning I’d done for my lesson.

But none of it matters because I didn’t have them repeating every word I said like a parrot.  It is as if there is no hope for anything even resembling expression or creativity or conceptual learning in this country.  One girl had a pillow with her.  That’s right – some of them purchase small pillows to bring to school specifically so they can nap in class.

Makes one not even want to bother.  At least Myung Sook likes my lesson!

I am supposed to have two co-teachers:  one for the boys and one for the girls.  I have NOT ONCE had a co-teacher show up for the boys’ classes.  And THEY are the classes where I could use a second person policing and keeping the kids on task.  And the female co-teacher only shows up some of the time.  This is in classes of forty students.  How the hell are you supposed to get forty students to all talk in English, when it takes three minutes just to convince them it’s okay to stand up?

After classes, a fellow English teacher brought over forms to me to fill out.  Seems that extra class I was pressured into teaching the VERY FIRST SECOND I went to the school the first time, and for which I only get paid abut $20 for twice a week, I am supposed to go and canvas my students to join, submit the sign up sheets, and then I have to submit a curriculum for it to the school system.  Never mind I have to teach 90 minutes to these exhausted kids each time and come up with another lesson plan – a longer lesson plan – TWO longer lesson plans, and then all this beaurocracy on top of it?  She brought me the forms – had to do it by flash drive because I’m not on the network.  It was in a Korean program, so I couldn’t open it on Word.  Had to do it again, only of course I can’t print it because I’m still not on the network.  This is really getting old.

After school and several cigarettes – screw whether or not women are looked down upon smoking in public – I should have equal rights to kill myself just like any man – I went to go purchase a phone plan.  I spend my last 1,000 won on a subway ticket so I can get to the only phone store that spoke English.  Only the English speaker is not there.  And he had told me I could purchase a plan with a free phone.  WRONG.  I had to talk by phone to an English speaking phone company rep, and as a foreigner I have to start an account with 80,000 won.  Even with my alien registration card and a bank account, even though Koreans can start a phone account with zero money down.  So I smoked another cigarette and then came home.  No won.  No phone.  Hating the world.

Tomorrow is the teacher’s class.  I am going to give them some meaningless parrotting to do.  So I don’t have to hear any more criticism.  Forget the language sensitivity class from Tuesday.  You just say basic English-e and never talk to an African American or Latino or gay person.  If you say negro and you get called a chink and then get hammered into the ground, you can just blame it on me.

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One thought on “Kommunicating in Korea

  1. Now I know you are a good teacher, and probably the best in your school!

    The private teacher I had in Maine used to record me and make me listen to what I was saying in English.
    It was the first time of my life that I saw that “strange machine” recording my voice, so I was very impressed and at home, I liked recording myself. I stil have an audio tape where I’m saying the first sentence that I’ve been taught to say in English, which was: “My name is Kim Goudreau, I have brown eyes, black hairs. I’m from Korea.” But, it sounds like “My name isu kim goudoureau. I habu, I habu, blown eyesu. Blacku hailes. This is Korea!… I habu blow eyesu. This is Kolea!”

    You are absolutely right. It doesn’t give nothing to make them repeat like parrot. It didn’t give me nothing to repeat like parrots.

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