"I don't have that."
In our whole conversation about job goals, I never once heard any hint of what she would enjoy doing. I know what her dad wants her to do, what her teachers want her to do, and she certainly knows which jobs are most difficult to get and which pay the most. But apparently there's nothing she loves to do.
This makes me really sad.
I know it's rather old hat to complain about the harshness of the Korean school system, but I'm going to jump right in regardless. These are the things I witness on a daily basis. This is the stuff I talk with my students about. I don't know how to fix it, but I can at least give a view from the inside.
While talking with one of my brightest students about her high school and college and job plans, her hopes and dreams, I told her to just find the thing that makes her happy, and try to do that as a job. She looked a me for a moment, a look of confusion on her face before saying:
Now, the name camp is a bit misleading. Before I started teaching I always thought of camp, especially summer camp, as a place where you go for a week or longer and stay overnight and whatnot. In the Korean school system, though, it's just a name for extra classes in various subjects. Cooking camp, guitar camp, English camp, science camp, you name it. Some camps go on for most of the vacation, while some are only a few days long.
One of the hallmarks of teaching English in Korea is the often dreaded summer and winter "English Camp". What is an English Camp, you ask? In it's most basic form, a camp is a combination of daycare and conversation club. It's like English class minus any serious studying. If you plan it right, it's actually really fun.
AKA Slow Motion Teacher Talk.It's a disease.
The first symptom, as you might guess from my subtitle, is slower speaking speed. Unsurprisingly, if you speak quickly to someone in a language they aren't super comfortable with, they won't understand you. It's the same for me with Korean. If someone mumbles or talks too fast, I can't catch anything, but if they slow down for me, suddenly a world of comprehension opens up for me.
When I first started teaching, I was nervous. When I'm nervous, I speak more quickly. I think a lot of people do this. In an ESL classroom, though, fast talking is not gonna fly (though it is great for saying things you don't want your students to hear). That was the first critique I got from my co-teacher: slow down. So I did. Suddenly, a classroom full of unresponsive glassy-eyed students began to understand me. Maybe not everything I said, but finally I was getting through to them on some level.
I know it's not what you want to hear, but it's true. A good portion of my students on any given day don't give a crap about learning English. When I first started teaching, I really let that get to me. I sincerely care about these kids, I want them to learn, so every student who talked or napped through my class was like a personal wound. Right in the feelings.
Teaching is hard.
Yet one of the most significant things Sahlberg said passed practically unnoticed. “Oh,” he mentioned at one point, “and there are no private schools in Finland.”
It never ceased to amaze me how abruptly summer vacation came to an end as a kid. The magical, care-free days of summer seemed to cease overnight, without the slightest warning of abandonment. It was always a depressing time for me, knowing that there would be no more trips to the beaches of Florida or endless afternoons spent watching Nickelodeon. But, the end of summer did mean one good thing: new school supplies. For the strangest reason, that annual trip to K-Mart for new supplies filled my little heart with such content. Looking back on it, I wonder why I ever felt that way about notebooks and erasers, but I'm glad to now see that I wasn't the only one who gets excited over new pencils.
When I first came to Korea in 2000, I soon got used to the notion that people should use nopimmal (높임말; respectful language) to their obvious “superiors”, such as their parents and bosses. But also to friends, even if they were just a year or two older?
It’s such a struggle being a feminist parent.
I have two daughters: Alice, born in June 2006, and Elizabeth, born in August 2008. Fortunately, Elizabeth at least is just fine in the girl-power department, and is “second-sex” to no-one. Rather, it’s sex that comes a far-distant second to catering to her demands, but let’s not go there.
Has anyone been paying close attention to teenage girls’ legs recently?
If so, then please answer a question for me, as they’re the darnedest things to find once you actually have a legitimate reason to look. Until their recent break, had female school students still been required to wear skirts this winter, while their male classmates got to wear pants? Or did Korean schools show some flexibility because of the unusually cold weather?
Much to my regret later, I never properly met any Koreans in New Zealand before I first came here.
But by coincidence, a Korean woman replaced me in my last flat after I left. And as my ex-flatmates soon gleefully reported, she was the perfect flatmate, paying her share of the rent without ever actually spending so much as a single night there.