being appreciated


Class 1-3’s last dictation was today.

Like some of the other class material I have introduced in the past, I vacillated whether or not to share what I chose today.  I have to carefully consider politics, my audience, the politics of the school, and the parents of my audience.  My lessons are sometimes strange even to me because, for instance, the last three weeks the focus has been about economics – and that’s thinking which is far to the right of my own nature.  Similar to when I did a lesson for my evening discussion class on body modification.  Despite my personal bias against plastic surgery, I found myself saying I would not take any position, as my ears were pierced and some might find that barbaric…

Consider if you will the current president is likened to Bush and was elected into office for the same reasons Americans tentatively and regrettably elected Bush into office.  Then you have the world’s oldest continuously maintained armed border for a war that officially hasn’t ended.  You have an older generation who fought against communism, decades of dictatorship and a middle-aged generation who fought for democracy, and young people who enjoy the benefits of capitalism but who think that the fights of the past are irrelevant and impotent.   And through every one of these political eras, Korean families have been separated and sacrificed.  Anyway, I am careful not to talk about reunification to anyone here.  Mostly because I haven’t done my homework and don’t understand all the nuances, and can at best only put my feelers out for what Koreans I talk with think – and those tend to only be middle aged Koreans, limited to the few who can speak English with me.  My sense is that most people want reunification, and that each and every family has somehow been touched by personal loss as a result, but that everyone secretly is glad if it doesn’t happen in their lifetime, as it will drastically alter the distribution of resources and affect everyone’s standard of living.

Today’s fare was an article Jane wrote in Pressian about Cheuseok.  It spoke about a Korean expression about returning home and the importance of family for the holidays.  It chronicled the emptying of Seoul as everyone returns to their family seat to honor their ancestors and their cultural traditions with loved ones.  And then it spoke about the two Koreas putting their differences aside for one day to allow 100 N. Korean and S. Korean family members to reunite.  It also linked a bit of news that had recently captured the hearts and minds of many S. Koreans, that being the Imjin river which flows across the border, which killed 6 S. Koreans and which, after devastating flooding in N. Korea, carried the body of a nameless boy across the border, yet obviously N. Korean due to his different attire.  The article spoke about adoptees as nameless and different:  returning yet denied the opportunity to have meaningful cultural experiences because we have no elders to bow to / no family to return to.  She likens this to how like the N. Korean and S. Korean families, adoptees and their families are kept divided by politics – the politics of governments and adoption agencies.  Jane wished also for 100 adoptees to be reunited this holiday, and then closed with a statement about the importance of family for ALL Korean people.

Despite dictation being a punishment for these young boys who need to learn appropriate behavior and self control, I’ve made sure that all the dictations also provided something insightful or provocative for them to think about.

Today, at the finish of the article, one boy applauded.  Applauded Jane’s writing, and maybe because I chose to read it to them.  Others hesitated but thought about it too late before the moment was over.  But I noted and registered and I respect where their hearts and minds were.  This has happened in other classes in the past, for other messages I’ve tried to impart.  I find the willingness of Korean students to show their appreciation in this way very encouraging.  I know I’m not the most fun teacher in the world, but I do feel like I am value added!  I think they are beginning to realize I REALLY CARE about them and their futures, so they are listening more and more.  I think it is partially this and maybe partially that their Korean teachers don’t appeal to their intellect much through issues-based discussion topics.

The non-dictation classes have been going well too.  The girls, especially, do an amazing job with their short presentations, even though their vocabulary is limited, they somehow manage to express themselves.

Some of their multi-cultural sensitivity is a bit disturbing, but I try to explain, for instance, that nappy hair is not dirty  (actually, just like delicious the word dirty is over-used for lack of other vocabulary, so that’s sounding like a new lesson in the works…) and that black hair is  a lot of work to take care of, etc.  That old people CAN work and have a lot of experience.  That baldness has nothing to do with skills, etc. etc.

The group work is always noisy, but there are often one or two students who will help call the class to order should my bell or voice fail.  One girl in particular, I complimented her group on their skills at concensus building, and she just BEAMS whenever she sees me.  Fortunately, she appears to be the class captain, so she’s on top of excess class noise more rigorously than even I am now.

Yeah, today was a good day.  I think I like teaching high school.  And honestly, there is sooo much prep time and vacation time and free time and liberty with the lesson planning, that I will miss it if I go entirely privates or privates and part-time hogwan.  I just wish I was in Seoul or the countryside instead of this new city.  And then there is Mr. Lee.  …

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