Thursday, September 6, 2007

English buddies!

So there really aren't many foreigners in our part of Seoul. Certainly few enough that two white kids walking down the street can turn some heads. So some of the neighbors have started to recognize us, which is nice--a more-sincere-than-usual anyunghasseyo, an extra smile and nod here or there. But a few of our neighbors have really gone over the top!

For instance: Nana and I were riding home on the bus the other night with a bus driver we'd seen several times before. (I've seen a grand total of about five different drivers on our route.) The bus can be a bit awkward sometimes--a lot of Korean spoken, and always the fear that we'll do something wrong and be left completely unable to understand the driver's directions. We're mostly just satisfied if we can get home without breaking our spines (these guys take those speed bumps hard!).

Anyway, the stop before ours, the bus empties. We're the last souls destined for Save Zone tonight. Then, at the last stoplight before our stop, the bus driver looks in his mirror and starts speaking--in English! Very good English, too. The exchange goes something like this.

Driver: mumble mumble
Justin: I'm sorry? (apologetic shrug I use when hangukoleur molumnida just won't come out>
Driver: You are getting off at Save Zone?
Nana: Yes, this is our stop.
Driver: Do you speak any Korean?
Justin: Not much!
Driver: Can you say "ahn-yung-hah-say-yo?"
Nana and Justin: "Anyunghasseyo!"
Justin: Yes, and "konggibap"! (bowl of rice)
Nana: "Dongaas!" (pork cutlet)
Driver: Ah! You can speak Korean!

And then! Not five minutes after we get off the bus, Nana and I are in the bakery downstairs, buying breakfasty things (which are surprisingly hard to come by at breakfast-time, oddly enough). And the manager, who definitely recognizes us by now, busts out in--you guessed it--excellent English! Good enough to ask us if we're English teachers (I had to specify that we're not ESL teachers--in Korea, that's an entirely different breed--but I can explain that later), and even persuade us to sign up for a point card. (We go to the bakery a lot.)

So, anyway, long story short, I ran this by Paul, our resident expert on being-whitey-in-Korea, and apparently this isn't uncommon. Many, many Koreans speak pretty good English, especially around Seoul . . . but they're terrified of using English in front of other Koreans. (If your English is bad, you look stupid, and if your English is good, you look like a smarty-pants.) But the second you get a Korean alone with English-speakers, out come the z's and the f's! (No z or f in Korean.)

And: we're helping the bakery guy with his English vocab. He now knows that "miles card" is only for airline rewards!


Caution: Non-Korea post

The defining film of my childhood is now available on YouTube!

I especially like the part where they're playing Scrabble and he has nothing but EEEs.

Edited to add: Okay, now I actually watched it again. Um... what the hell????? No wonder I'm so messed up.

Could it be?

Our recalcitrant shipping company has finally told us that our shipment has arrived in Seoul and is ready to clear customs. Since as recently as, oh, THIS MORNING we were wondering if they'd stolen the whole thing, we're hesitant to believe this news, but oh, how we want to! Especially since there's been a pretty intense cold front these last couple of days and most of our coats and sweaters and such are in the shipment. And I want the rest of my shoes.

Send more positive vibes! We're not out of the woods yet!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

If you don't have anything to say...

Post anyway!

Only a few minutes and not much to say so it'll be a short post.

I discovered to my chagrin on Monday that the unit I just completed with my sixth graders (prehistoric man and early farming) was supposed to take me six weeks. What? I could barely keep two weeks interesting! Come on!

So now a mad slowdown in curriculum is taking place, with the exception of the sevens. This is annoying because my sevens are the only class that might actually be considered behind, since it's the only class still in unit 1 and unit 1 isn't even technically in my standards.

Fine. If I have to slow down later and spend three days in Egypt on the alphabet alone, I will do that. But I'll be damned if my sixth grade is going to have to spend any more time on the role of the plow in the formation of early cities. "The hell with the role of the plow in the formation of early cities, that's our motto!"

PS. Is that my air conditioner beeping? What the heck?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Historical Fiction

My sixth grade test included the section "Tell Me A Story!" I don't believe in posting bad things about any of my students here, but I think it's definitely appropriate to call out some of the really great responses I got.

The prompt was this picture:

and the directions: "This is a skeleton of a woman. At her feet is the skeleton of a baby. Tell me a story about this woman and her baby. Where did they live? What did the woman do in her daily life? How did they die? Why are they buried like this? Be creative but be accurate."

Some responses:
- Death in childbirth
- The woman was the Queen of Egypt. She and her baby were killed by an enemy.
- Killed by a burglar
- Thief killed by fellow townsfolk
- Disease
- Mother gave up unwanted baby but then changed her mind and went to the house where she'd given the baby up, where the foster mother had fought with her boyfriend and accidentally stepped on the baby and fell, killing the baby and herself, but the boyfriend didn't tell the mother what happened
- Many, many votes for death by volcano

So that section went well. But on the whole, a disappointing test. I think the kids really didn't study (my evidence for this is the number of kids who asked me at lunch "Do we have a test or something?" and the kids who looked stunned to come into the classroom and find a test). I did have some A's and a couple of B's, but the mode grade was an F.

I'm sending the test home with a letter that the parents have to sign saying that they looked at the test with their kids. Then I'm going to crack down in learning vocabulary. I hate flashcards, but it may be the only thing to do...

Any suggestions?