Sunday, April 5, 2009

North Korea Launches Rocket, World Freaks Out

Korea has been in the news lately after the North launched a supposedly non-military rocket in the direction of Japan. Like most diplomatic kerfluffles, the media have blown this one a bit out of proportion, and Japan made a great showing of getting ready to shoot the thing down. (It's not often the Japan Self-Defense Force gets to play with its toys.)

You're likely to hear some more exaggerated reports over the next couple of days, but don't worry. We're not on the brink of war over here, and life goes on normally.

At least, as normally as it can when you're us.

Pupdate: Flash Gordon

Nana and I got a new foster dog this past week: Flash Gordon (aka Gordie, Gordo, Gordito, and "Gordon," spoken through the nose with a thick French accent), a medium-sized three-legged collie mix from the Asan shelter.
He's just about the perfect dog for us: he's a complete lump, except for right when we get home from work, and for the first 5 minutes of his walk.
His favorite pastime is lying around on the couch getting petted. Or, when that gets old, lying around on the cool tile floor by the door.
And, of course, looking skeptical.

Happy Teacher Moment

Justin and I have worked really hard over the last two years (wow, it's almost been two years!) to encourage the kids to participate, to think critically, and to be unafraid to share ideas in class. Discussion is not part of the Korean educational system, and neither is much critical thinking: your job is to memorize the correct answer and repeat it when asked on a test. Abstract thinking and symbolism are also not skills they've practiced much. The lions in Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, for instance, symbolize youth, or courage, or several other interpretations. Justin got answers last year like, "The lions symbolize cats."

On Friday, as part of my lead-in to World War II, I put Picasso's "Guernica" on the board. I told them that Picasso himself said many times that the answer to what was in the Guernica was whatever the viewer saw in the Guernica, and so whatever they were seeing was correct. Then I asked for students to call out anything they saw so we could get an overall idea of the painting's contents.

"Bull." "Horse." "A dead baby." 'A broken sword." "A mother crying over the baby."

"A soul."

A soul?

"Yeah, it's coming in the door, and it's kind of going towards the candle. Like it's dying and moving towards heaven."

Two years later, my kids are seeing souls in the "Guernica."

I am a happy teacher.