6-4 class girls running (well, jumping) during a Sports Day race.
Friday was Sports Day at my school. It was a big deal; the kids practiced their performances for weeks. Every Monday morning all the students would gather in front of the school to practice the calisthenics routine and my 4-4 class was canceled for all of April because their teacher scheduled Sports Day dance practice during class. *disgruntled look* On Thursday, I asked my fifth graders what day was it tomorrow. They chorused, "It's Friday!" Then I asked them what classes they had on Friday. They stared at me, perplexed, trying to figure out how to explain Sports Day. Finally, they settled on this: "Teacher, class one, PE. Class two, PE. Class three, PE. All class, PE!" I love making them explain things they don't know the words for and seeing what they come up with!
The day started a little awkwardly when I was late to the festivities. I got to school at 8:30 as normal and the vice principal told me to be in front of the school at 9:30. I went up to my office to get some work done and at 9:20 I heard the national anthem begin to play. I rushed downstairs, but by the time I got to the front entrance, the principal had already started a lengthy speech directly in front of the main doors. I considered sneaking out a side entrance and mingling with the crowd (I wasn't sure where I was suppose to stand), but since in Korea you don't wear your street shoes in school and my shoes were kept in a cubby directly behind where the principal was standing, I was stuck inside. I awkwardly loitered in the hall until the school nurse found me, realized I had no clue what was going on and took me under her wing for the day. She plied me with kimbap and coffee, and we hung out in the administration office so we could still watch the opening activities.
Sports Day started with a synchronized calisthenics routine. I had seen the students practice it before, but I didn't realize it was going to be set to music! It was like interpretive dance, or possible Thai Chi to music. Whatever it was, it was amazing. It was also a little eerie watching a thousand children who all already look a bit the same, what with the same hair color and skin tone and matching white outfits, all move in unison. It also raises the question of could we ever pull that off back home. I don't think so. Korea is a far more collective society than America.
There were your normal Sports Days events, such as tug o' war. The fourth graders played a version of tug o' war involving a tire with ropes attached. The vice principal (who is fluent in English) asked me what the event would be called in English. I badly wanted to tell him that if it involves a tire and a dirt field, it's called "wrastlin' wit a tire", but I restrained myself and told him tug-of-war. Then the sixth graders came out and played a more traditional game of tug o' war, and I had to explain that really, English doesn't have an official term for wrestling over a tire.
There were also less orthodox games, such as sticking third graders in hula hoops and making them run around. As someone who actually teaches third graders, I think this is BRILLIANT and would like to be able to use this in class. "Jinho, if you don't sit down, I will stick you in a hula hoop with a group of your peers and make you camper about traffic cones, so help me God!" (Number of words in that sentence my third graders know: 0)
There were also races. Each class (four per grade, except for sixth grade, which has five) had a race to determine who the fastest boy and girl was. The youngest children ran a short 60 m race, but the students got older, the races got longer. The sixth graders ran more of an obstacle course than a race. There was a tumbling section, hula hoops and hurtles. After the grade races, there was a school-wide relay race. The fastest eight students from each grade formed four teams (two boy teams, two girl teams) and ran a relay race to determine who the fastest students in the school were. There was also races for the parents, who were surprisingly intense. Several of the fathers wiped out completely and had to limp off the track.
In addition to the regular Sports Day events, each grade had a special performance. The kindergartners dressed up like the Korean flag and danced (while waving actual Korean flags) to the song "Dokdo is Our Land." Which, of course they did. Indoctrination starts early here. (Dokdo [English name: Liancourt Rocks] is a group of small islands in the East Sea that both Korea and Japan claim sovereignty over. Due to the bad blood between Korea and Japan, it's a BIG DAMN DEAL to the Koreans and they feel STRONGLY that Dokdo is Korean territory and they will not hesitate to tell you about it. Even my little fourth graders have asked me if I know that Dokdo belongs to Korea. I can guarantee you that those kindergartners have been taught about Dokdo and how it belongs to Korea.) The sixth graders performed a dance with colored flags. They were originally suppose to perform buchaechum (Korean fan dance), but the teachers decided to switch with the fifth graders and my sixth grade girls were PISSED about it. I can understand why; buchaechum is so much cooler than waving colored flags about.
The second grade and fifth grade's special performances were traditional Korean dances. The second graders (top photo) performed a dance to a traditional Korean songs that, I must admit, sounds a little like someone strangling a goat. (My office is next to the music room, so after seven months here I'm pretty well versed in traditional Korean music. Most of it I like, but oh, this song is horrible.) The fifth graders danced the buchaechum. The outfits they're wearing are called hanboks, and are the traditional Korean outfit. The students wore their own hanboks; each outfit was different. I made an absolute fool of myself cooing over how pretty they were.
This is Korea, so no Sports Day would be complete without a Taekwondo demonstration. The best of the fourth and fifth graders gave a Taekwondo demonstration in the gym after lunch. It was set to music, including Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" and Queen's "We are the Champions." The kids were really good. Maybe I should think twice about reprimanding them in class. *g* There was also a Chinese dance troupe that performed, hence the Chinese on the banner behind the kids.
I talked with my fifth graders a lot during Sports Day. I ended up watching the festivities next to where they were sitting, and the second I moved away from the nurse, I was instantly mobbed by students. They crowded around me, challenging me to games of 가위바위보 (kawi bawi bo = rock-scissors-paper!), stealing my camera and asking me as many questions as their limited English would allow them. Since we weren't in the classroom, I used my pidgin Korean, which sent them into paroxysms of delight. (Oh my God! Teacher said 안녕하세요 (hello). Aaaaaaaah!! Let's go tell all our friend and spend the next hour begging her to say it again. Aaaaaaah!!) Because my classes are so large, I rarely get a chance to interact with students one-on-one for an extended period of time, so this was a good chance to get to know some of my newer students.