Thursday, November 25, 2010

Apologies and Dinner (5 November)

Screw-ups and Apologies

First, let me say that I genuinely love my kids but, sometimes, they really get on my nerves.  Today was one such day.  It really irritates me that they procrastinate so during lessons and some of them openly watch the clock, unashamedly counting down the minutes - sorry, seconds (they’re Korean, they’re really good at maths) – until the end of the lesson and don’t hesitate to say goodbye the second the bell rings.  Today’s class just irked me!

I’d worked so hard to try and make the week’s lessons as fun and different as possible which was my first mistake – at least, trying to make them different was a mistake.  My students now feel so comfortable with me that they don’t feel awkward telling me how much they miss the GET I replaced (the one who only lasted three weeks!) and how they prefer her to me.  I walked out the class and couldn’t help crying.  My older kids hate me!

Within 10 minutes, one of the students had come to apologise and explain that he had misheard something and hadn’t meant to offend me.  His exit bow was low, I actually felt uncomfortable.  However, the great thing about bows is that the depth is an indicator as to the level of respect – the lower the better.  I thought this kid’s head was going to hit the floor or he was going to overbalance and tumble down the stairs and then I’d really be in the dog-box at school but, miraculously, like a contortionist, he returns to an upright position, I thank him and we go our separate ways.  Another student kindly tells me that she thinks my lessons are childish.

Lesson 3: If you want to change approaches to learning in a Korean classroom, start with something small like…expecting the students to stay awake during the lesson.


By the time I get home, I don’t feel like going to the potluck dinner I was invited to by another New Zealander who found me on Facebook.  I reluctantly drag myself from my bed, fix my tear-ruined make-up and head to Naund-dong with the hope that there’ll be lots of new foreigners there to meet.  I’m surprised to immediately recognise one of the foreigners before I’m even through the door.

An hour into the evening, I recognise several people who were at the same orientation session with me which is somewhat comforting.  After a truly lousy day at school, and a hectic week playing catch-up of all the work that piled up for me while I was in Seoul, I’m surprised to discover that I’m really enjoying my evening.  The gorgeous Brit I met briefly last weekend is also present and a formal introduction is made.  I also meet a Canadian couple who live within walking distance from me.  Apparently not all the foreigners live on the newer side of town.

My side of Gunsan where foreigner-hunting is a legitimate sport.

The newer and more developed side of Gunsan
where most of the foreigners seem to live.
As an American recounts his experience of attempting to take a bus from Jeonju to Gunsan (a 30 minute trip) and ending up on a bus to Busan instead thanks to a small error in pronunciation, I find myself hopeful that bad days are inevitable but there are so many good days to enjoy - a sense of humour is a definite pre-requisite for teaching in Korea.

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