2/27/2008

They Just Don't Get It...



I'm at the end of another semester...thank God! So, I don't have new students but we just select new books for the classes. My Directors, who don't speak any English, insist on choosing these extra hard books for the kids. I've come to the realization that they don't really give a crap if these kids understand a lick of English. All they want to do is create an illusion for parents. The kids are divided into different levels, but truthfully, I feel some of these classes could use the same book. So I suggested that to Steve. He looked kinda nervous and I said, "What? What is the problem?" He said, "Well, she [the Director] doesn't want them to use the same books. It looks bad. If parents find out, they'll be angry because an upper level is using the same book as a lower level..."

WHAT?!?!?!?!!?

I got so angry. There are no daggone upper and lower levels in MY opinion. Hardly any of these kids can write a complete sentence and whoa, don't even THINK about compound sentences!! All of them need basics and some even need phonics reinforcement. But I spoke up and I refused to allow them to force me to teach an advanced book just for appearances. And then they'll be getting pissed with me because I could only finish half of the book!? Off your rocker, lady! That just irritated the crap out of me. THEN I finished my evaluations. I do them first then Steve and the other teacher add their comments in Korean (or they probably just translate what I wrote...who knows!?). So anyway, one of my favorite students, Louis, just does terribly on tests and he doesn't do his homework. I love him to pieces but he's slacked off (yes, he's only 8 but oh well!). So for the homework, I gave him a C....and for tests, he got an F. I mean, it's basic math! The average of his test scores equated to an F. So Steve says, "Oh, this must be a mistake...you're giving him an F???" I said, "Yeah, well....that's his score...I did the math.." And he's like, "That's a little harsh...how about a C??? An F looks bad to parents..."

Well EXCUUUUUUUUSE ME!!! But if you don't want your kid to get an F, maybe you should make him do his homework. I'm sorry, but my teachers weren't gonna just "give me" a C because an F "looks bad"!! I see now that I am dealing with a different type of beast out here. This isn't real school. This is play school. And you know why they can get away with it? Because the parents are paying customers and they don't really care what their kids learn, they just want high test scores. I've even had to water down my tests because the scores were "too low". This is such a foreign concept to me though. You can't get high test scores if you don't do the work. You're not just going to magically learn English by osmosis! You have to study...and these kids should know a thing or two about studying because they're at school all damn day and night. Thankfully, this semester, I've been able to select more books and I'll be able to focus on grammar more. They get grammar lessons from Korean teachers in Korean, which is fine for basics. But when they come to my class, they can't say boo.

Ahhhh, just drives me up a wall. Basically it seems that my Directors just want me to plow through the book and not reinforce anything and not play any games. Let's see how quickly students start leaving then! I should sit down and have a talk with them...with a translator of course.

Hmmmm...ok onto fun stuff!!! :)

I went to a town in Seoul last weekend called Apgujeong. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Margot and I had brunch in Seoul so we decided, "Hey, let's hop on the subway and just pick a place!" So we did. Apgujeong is the richest area in Seoul, also called The Beverly Hills of Seoul. I'd tried to get a job there actually but as you can imagine, those positions go fast. The subway let us off inside of the Hyundai Department Store. It kinda reminded me of Bloomingdale's actually! They had every single designer shop you could imagine. They have a grocery store inside that looks like Whole Foods Market on speed! All the cashiers and other workers wear suits. They have a section of the store for "Premium Water". I was like, "Oh really?! $7 for some water?!" A bottle of water normally costs 65 cents here! But I guess this water will be paying some bills right? Uh huh...Margot nearly knocked me over when we saw a group of really tall Korean guys.

Ok, let's clear this up because I always get asked: Are Korean men really short?? My answer is always, "No, they're not as short as people think..." And that's true. But you have to consider the source - I am 5'9", which Michelle seems to think is freakishly tall even by American standards. However, she is 4'11.5" so sure...I am freakishly tall to HER. So, yes, by Western standards, Korean men are shorter. But a lot of the younger guys are taller, probably about my height. Coming from the US where seeing men 6' and over isn't a big deal...yes, it was an adjustment to be in Korea. But those men at the department store were like 6'2" or 6'3" and they did NOT play basketball! So it was like seeing Big Foot, yes. Hahaha. Just like back home though, tall men are a hot commodity so you can be assured there's a petite little Korean girl on their arm. That's a whole other post - Why Short Women Are Stealing Our Men!!! Lol....Ok, moving on...

There are also cosmetic surgery places on every corner. Not even joking. A lot of Korean women, with money that is, get the double eyelid surgery. Well, that's what I call it anyway. It's the surgery to give them that second crease in their eyelids. I never thought that would be a desirable characteristic. It's a heated debate around here but still very popular.


Apgujeong is totally hip and trendy. The streets were pretty empty though. I guess most people were either inside Hyundai Department Store or too busy driving around in their Beemers and Benzes. Oh yes...LOTS of those. Margot and I were seriously the only ones just walking! But we stumbled upon a Krispy Kreme!! Lord Have Mercy!!!!! And just as I expected, that "HOT NOW" sign was like a beacon of light. I tore off like someone was chasing me...and yes, I bought 3 donuts and a Snapple. But I actually ate 4 because they give you a free one when they're hot. Do they do this back home?! I don't remember...but I was ecstatic. A small moment of bliss. I can't wait to go back though. We saw a lot of cute clubs and lounge type places, definitely younger people which is always nice. No houses though. I'm used to it now but yeah, no one lives in houses here. Only out in the rural areas I suppose. Everyone has apartments...and they don't look like much on the outside but inside, it's sprawling and luxurious. They probably even have a washer AND dryer. Now, that's big money...

Overall though, a perfect day!! Oh, but I can't forget about the CRAZY African man who stalked me through the subway. I've met plenty of Crazies in many cultures. I seem to attract the Crazy. Maybe because I, too, am crazy. Hmmm, yeah that's logical. Sure, I've been hit on by the crazy ones around 125th street in Harlem. They're harmless and usually just want you to buy something. But lemme tell you, NEVER IN MY LIFE have I actually been a little scared when a man has hit on me. You put on the "Big Girl" voice and tell them to back off and they're gone. But oh noooooo, this is a different breed of Crazy. For starters, he just materialized. I thought his ass popped out of a genie bottle or something. I was with Margot thank God. But I'm walking down these steep steps and he says, "I want to see you..."

HUH????

So, I, being a smart ass, said, "Well you're looking at me aren't you???" My big mouth - talking only makes it worse. "What's your name???" "Funny, my parents didn't give me one! Isn't that weird?? I have no name..." I probably deserve all of this...I'm a real JERK for egging him on. So, we've made it down the flight of stairs. He's still walking and talking to me. His name is Leo...I know that much because he said it about 25 times. All I know is that this is the longest subway station ever. So finally, I said, "Look, I'm not interested. Just leave me alone.." But oh no, he keeps going. I go through the subway turnstile and I think "Ah ha!!! Gotcha!!" Hell no, he just slips his little skinny behind right on through, keeps talking and doesn't skip a BEAT! Ok, so now he has just been promoted to REALLY, REALLY CREEPY. We get on the escalator and I cannot believe this fool followed me!! So I turn around, face him and say, "Seriously!!! Seriously?!?!? STOP IT!!!" I think I get some funny glances from Koreans but I'm really freaked out. He kinda looks at me like HE'S hurt. Oh word? You're hurt? So Margot says, "Yeah, you're being very rude now. You don't do this to people..." And with that, he ran back up the escalator. Weirdo. This is exactly why I don't like Itaewon because it's the most obnoxious breed of men and people in general. And not to single out the African men because some of the American soldiers there are pretty bad, too. Even drunk Korean men don't know how to act. That just happened to be my experience. But I can't avoid Itaewon because it's where I get my hair done and they have THE best brunch! :) So, lesson learned. Just pretend to be deaf.

Hmmm...anymore adventures? Not really. My Korean classes are going great! I've learned most of the alphabet and I study like crazy. This is how you can tell I'm a real nerd. No one else in my class wanted a textbook but I did. I made the teacher go buy the book for ME. And I've now done all the homework and I keep practicing over and over. Now that I can recognize the characters, my brain starts involuntarily reading everything. It's kinda cool but it's also annoying. After a long day out in the city, I just want to come home and rest. But sure enough, I'm on the bus and my brain starts to read in Korean. Of course, I usually don't know what the heck I'm reading but I'm sounding out the letters and putting it together. Like a baby.

The weekends almost here again, which means it will be MARCH which means 7 more months!!! Wow, it's been 5 months already. Time is surely flying by now...should I continue this blog once I've left Korea? What do you think? I'm on the fence about it...but perhaps, if people really give a crap, I will :)

Until then, J

4 comments:

Christina said...

5'1.87!!!!!!!! GET IT RIGHT!

LadyWritesTheBlues said...

Glad to know you're back! I've been checking your blog on and off to see what's been going on in Korea. Glad to know the language classes are going well. I would be kinda frustrated with the other classes and issues with the grades, though. Oh and yes, you should keep blogging after you're done there. I enjoy your writing. Take care.

Andy M said...

Hi. I found your blog after you signed up to iluvkorea.com. I totally understand you about the class books and doing reports. My boss doesn't want me to do reports, because I write too "realistically". The bottom line is that Hagwons are there for making money, and if the kids aren't having a good time, they go and tell their parents, then the parents come to meet with your boss, blah blah blah, they'll blame "the foreigner", and its all your fault. It can't be the students fault for failing the test and not doing homework. That's just strange :p

How many times have you heard the excuse "This is Korea! This is how we do things!". That at least comes up once or twice if i have an argument with my boss. LOL.

I'm 6' 0.5" and I live in the countryside of 전라남도 (South Jeolla Province) with a Korean Military base near by. Heaps of tall Koreans here. A few of my middle school students are about the same height as me.

Hope your Korean classes are still going well *^^*

공부 열심히 하세요 *^^*

Nathan said...

Wow. There are so many things on your blog that I agree with especially the ajumma post.
I had the same experience in my hogwan regarding games in class. After I took out the games at their insistence they complained my classes are boring. 7 months to go for me as well and I'm not sure if I'll be able to hold on.

from Seoul