the turning tide


Today Mr. Lee listened to my lesson and it spoke to him.  It spoke to him so much that, in class 1-7 he voluntarily managed the classroom, to the point where he threw his drum stick at a boy and then cracked his skull with it and sent him out of the room.  He really wanted the boys to hear this lesson, and the lesson was an hour long lecture about the importance of learning English.

Basically, I talk about economics.  I tell the students they should care because it’s all about money – which the students are obsessed with.  It doesn’t matter what profession they want to be in as adults, the truth is the big companies’ profits are fueling the entire economy, and those professions are dependent on the big companies.  The economic miracle is all due to a few of these companies that were able to trade globally in a market where English is the language of commerce.

And the language of commerce, like it or not, is English.  I tell the students that if these companies fail, then Korea fails, and you have no prospects and no money and no future.  I tell them it doesn’t matter if they like America or not.  America may decline, but English is on the rise, and on the rise in growing markets.  I tell the kids it’s great they think Korea is the best country IN THE WORLD, but I also explain what xenophobia and nationalism are.  I tell them that if they don’t know the competition, they can’t beat the competition.  I tell them that if they can’t recognize their own faults, then they can’t fix or improve them, and they are doomed to fail.  I then go on to show them a power point presentation of Engrish.com and point out the many ways in which poor knowledge of English hurts Korean image, reputation, and profits.  I explain that Engrish is a joke to westerners, and that it makes me laugh because I am a westerner.  But I also explain that it hurts me because I am also Asian, and it makes all Asians look stupid.

I point out where hanguel letters that have two sounds can create problems.  I point out where type-o’s and bad grammar can create problems, and I point out where a total lack of understanding about western culture can lose business.

This one, is especially tragic.  I tell them maybe 300 jobs and untold hours and untold dollars were lost because no westerner is going to have the confidence to purchase technology that can’t even spell its own name right.  Yes.  This is a color LOSER.  Korea’s loss.  And all because their study of English is superficial.

An hour of this was a bit much, but half the class was focused, so that was a good sign.

Class 1-1, however, is still on their dictation punishment.  I told them the choice was theirs and we could end this if I got two lessons where they could prove themselves to be young men and not children.  But they failed, so dictation will continue.  And then one smart ass decided to make a popping noise with his mouth and it spread like an uncontrollable and moving cancer.  Since I don’t care anymore I made any further disturbances punishable by push-ups and standing against the wall.  There were about nine standing by the end of class, and I sent two outside for talking and being disrespectful while I was dictating.  Mr. Lee left class five minutes early to take care of them, and I have no idea what he did.  But it was nice to see him actually being motivated on his own.  I don’t know or want to know what happened in those halls.

Today  I thanked Seven Star for sitting with me at lunch.  He told me that his thesis adviser was in control of his life, and that he would never achieve his PHD if he didn’t pass the TEPS test like his adviser told him to.  So he spends four nights a week studying English at an academy.  He can’t afford to not sit with me.  He needs the exposure to English.  At least the guy is honest.  So I’m okay with that.  We’ll use each other for the rest of the year.

He still hopes Y and I will mend our differences.   He told me she is in big trouble right now.  Last week the Vice Principal took a photo of her doing something she wasn’t supposed to, so Y STOLE HIS CAMERA.  I guess this story is supposed to impress me, but I don’t think it’s right to protest civil right violations with criminal acts.  And putting your job on the line is short-sighted and dis-empowering.

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