Monday, June 29, 2009

Fourth Graders Are Adorable

4th Graders Are Adorable

There are truths universally acknowledged: a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife and fourth graders are adorable. I teach third through sixth grade, but fourth and sixth grade are my favorite. I have a rotating group of fourth grade girls assigned to clean my classroom (no janitors in Korea, they use the children instead). Half of them hate it because my classroom is always a mess (although hopefully my new policy of if-I-see-you-throwing-things-in-my-class-you're-staying-late-to-clean will help with that), but the other half love it because it means fun times with the English teacher. Also, sometimes I give them candy.

예림 & 유지

This is 예림 and 유지. 예림 (Ye Lim, English name: Tiffany) is on the left. 유지 (Yu Ji, English name: Alice) is on the right. They don't actually like cleaning the English room, but they love to come by my office after school. We talk, usually about makeup (which they are obsessed with and I am woefully uninformed about) and I let them play games (usually about makeup) on my computer. I justify it by making them explain the rules to me in English and they make it worth my while by showing me a Fair Isle knitting game on Naver (Korean Google).

4th Graders Are Adorable

This is 윤주 (Yun Ju, English name: Judith). She is easily one of my best students of any grade. I am constantly taken aback by how *advanced* her English is. She's all quiet and demure in class and then - bam! - she breaks out a fully formed, grammatically complex sentence. With the rest of my fourth graders, I'm just happy if their sentences have a noun AND a verb. She used 'widow' in conversation one day and when I asked how she knew the word, she told me it was because she's reading the Bible in English.

4th Graders are Adorable

Only girls are assigned to clean the classrooms, which, of course. Korea? A patriarchal society? What makes you say that? (The boys do have chores, but they're assigned things like crossing guard duty in the morning, not cleaning.) 강석 is the one and only boy in the cleaning rota and it's only because he was shanghaied. The poor kid was just walking down the hallway one day, minding his own business, when a group of girls rushed out, grabbed him, drug him into the English classroom and put him to work. He was a good sport about it.

4th Graders Are Adorable

재희 loves to teach me Korean. She usually stick with nouns, things in the classroom she can point to. I have learned to words for pencil (연필), pencil sharpener (연필 깎개), scissors (가위), eraser (지우개) and window (창문) a hundred times. She's always super excited when I write anything in Hangul (Oh Teacher, very good job!) and together we cover the whiteboard with writing. On the board, you can see the day's vocabulary: sun (해), name (이름), desk (책상), the name of my school, table (서탁), dog (개), girl (소녀), phone (전화) and radio (라디오).

Boggle Jr.

On Friday, my cleaning crew discovered that there are some English board games in the back of the classroom. We never use them because the classes are too big (a 4-6 player game in a class of 38 doesn't work well), but they're great for a couple of 4th graders. The girls chose Boggle Jr. which was perfect for them. The fourth graders are just starting to learn to read and write, and since the curriculum completely ignores phonics, I jumped at any chance to teach it. (I have a big long rant about phonics and how they don't exist in the public school curriculum. I think I understand where they're coming from. The Korean English teachers are often woefully unqualified to teach English and phonics are confusing, especially if your native writing system is a one-letter-one-sound-no-exceptions system like Hangul, but if the children don't learn to sound out words, their only alternative is to what? Memorize the dictionary? Good luck with that one. A few months ago one of the vocabulary words for 5th grade was elevator. I gave the kids a worksheet with their vocabulary words written in English and told them to translate it. Only a handful where able to translate elevator, which is funny, since it's the same damn word in Korean. They had just never seen it written before and they couldn't figure out how to sound it out.)

Boggle Jr.

With that being said, English phonics are incredible confusing. Take for example wood (above) and tool. Both have "oo" as the vowel sound, but the vowel sounds aren't the same. My poor babies were so confused. "But Teacher," they told me. "Wood. Tool. Not same same. Why?!" Kiddos, the answer is that English is the language that lurks in dark alleys, beats up other languages and rifles through their pockets for spare vocabulary. Also, we like to screw with your minds.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Seoul Racecourse

6.21.2009 - Seoul Racecourse

I went to the Seoul Racecourse with Tony, Christine and Charles this Sunday. They've been a couple of times and I've passed the Seoul Racecourse Station hundreds of times, but this was my first trip. The racecourse is nice; it's in the middle of Gwacheon but the mountain across from the track is undeveloped, giving the racecourse a secluded feel.

6.21.2009 - Seoul Racecourse

I'd never been to a horse race before, much less bet on one, so this was a new experience. I'm very bad at betting, probably because I ignored the stats and went with the horse with the best name. There was a giant screen at the track that provided up the minute stats for the race, but I ignored it and put all my money (all eighty cents [1,000 won] of it) on Free Hugs and Angus Empire. I lost all the races I bet on, but I only bet a few dollars in the first place.

6.21.2009 - Seoul Racecourse

We stayed for seven races and watched a few of the Busan races that were being shown on the TV screens at the track. We watched from the Foreigner Only lounge, which I was fine with because it had air conditioning and it was scorching outside. I spent a few races down at the tracks, just so I could take pictures, and the racecourse was packed. It was a fun day, although not something I would necessarily choose to do again.

6.21.2009 - Seoul Racecourse

The full set of pictures are here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

WWKIP Day 2009

World Wide Knit in Public Day was this weekend and last weekend! In Seoul, we celebrated last Saturday.

WWKIP 2009

The Seoul KIP was held at the Seoul Arts Center in Seocho. The Art Center is very nice; all open and green with dance performances and sculptures and lots of families enjoying the nice weather. We met at the Mozart Cafe next to the World Music Fountain. The World Music Fountain mainly played things like "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion and the theme of Chariots of Fire, but the kids seemed to like it.

WWKIP 2009

WWKIP 2009
I would like it to be known that I am wearing the exact same glasses as that six year old boy.

There were about fifteen knitters, including a couple of people I'd never met. There are five or six Stitch N' Bitches in Seoul and I can only make it to three of them, so it was nice to have a chance to meet some new knitters. We took up two tables, and even eventually managed to get two tables next to each other.

WWKIP 2009
Starting with the redhead and going clockwise: Siobhain, Jennifer, Sha, Jinny, Angie. Please notice the looks we're getting from the passing ajumma.

WWKIP 2009
Starting in the bottom right corner and going clockwise: Denise, Carson, Bethany, Kathie, Nikki's mom, Nikki and Michele's hat.

WWKIP 2009
From left to right: Bethany, Caron's seriously adorable sock monkey cup cozy and Kathie.

Nikki organized a yarn swap (I got nine skeins of yarn even though I didn't actually bring anything to swap) and a knitting quiz. The quiz was a combination of your knitting experience and knitting knowledge. I did quite poorly on the last part. One of the questions was Odd One Out: Nupp, Noil, Thrum, Slub. I thought they all sounded like things parents threatened their naughty children with. As in, boy, you're asking for a nuppin' when we get home.

WWKIP 2009
From left to right: Nikki and Carson

Angie was selling raffle tickets for an ugly blanket and a bunch of people were working on squares. Siobhain was making a square from Chenille and eyelash yarn held together and the yarns became horrible tangled, as yarn is wont to do. Marie and I were helping her untangle the knots, and we decided that this wasn't a mere tangle. This was performance art and should be displayed as such. There was a grass field next to the fountains, and we stood in the middle of it and worked though the knots while the Koreans watched with bemusement. One of the ideas behind WWKIP Day is to draw attention to knitters and show the public what exactly the knitting demographic is. In Korea, I think we proved that it's crazy waegooks.

WWKIP 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

[and you’re blown away by your own hurricane // and you wonder why]

A few weeks ago, I told a friend that I love taking photos because it means I had a blog post without having to write anything. Of course, I always end up writing something anyways (I'm not good about shutting up), but it is easier, especially when I'm swamped at work because of two %$&@#* open classes in two weeks.



Roses, incongruously juxtaposed against the urban sprawl of modern Seoul. (The bee says, "Bzzzt!")

abc bracelet

One of my tiny precious 4th graders (the one who always wants hugs) gave me a bracelet made of random Latin letters. It happens to spell out SSK. Any knitters reading this will know why that's funny. It also spells out ZOG, which is such a coincidence since ZOG! the Maleficent is the villain in the B-movie of my heart.


Sixth graders! I needed a photo of students for my open class lesson (Q: What do they do? A: They are students!), so this afternoon I stuck my head into the music room and snapped a quick picture in between songs. A few weeks ago my dad asked me why I kept throwing the peace sign in the photos I sent home. I told him, "Well, when in Asia, do as the Asians." (I started out doing it ironically, but now I think it's just that thing I do when I see a camera.) He asked if it was true that Asians, or at least Koreans, have a Pavlovian reflex to make the peace sign when they see a camera. Since I quite literally stuck my head in the classroom, shouted, "Guys!" to get the kids attention and snapped the photo, I think it's safe to say that yes, yes they do.

Friday, June 5, 2009

First post!

안녕! Hi, I'm Cait. I'm a twenty-four year old American teaching English in Seoul, South Korea. I started blogging when I was seventeen, and I've had approximately eleventy hundred and one blogs since then, but this is the first one I've attached my real name to. Here I am looking unimpressed with my attempts to take my own picture:

Unimpressed Cait is unimpressed
Unimpressed Cait is unimpressed!

I moved to Korea in September of 2008, partly because I wanted to live abroad, partly because I've always been interested in Korea and mostly because I didn't fancy waiting out the recession working at a coffee shop. I teach English to 3rd-6th graders at a public elementary school just south of Seoul and I absolutely love it. No one was more surprised by that than me. (Many people weren't surprised at all and repeatedly said things like "Well, duh," and "I told you so.")

The obligatory likes and dislikes: I like words. A lot. And things involving words, like reading and writing. (And talking, but not nearly as much.) I can be pedantic, although I'm working on that. I get overly enthusiastic about very geeky topics. I knit and take lots of photos, which can be found here. I like to travel by hoping on buses and seeing where they take me. I like to write things out long hand, even though my spelling is terrible and it takes way longer. There's something about a pen and paper that helps me think. I like wearing flip-flops and cult sci-fi.

I don't like the Oxford comma.

(You'll notice there are sixty entries before this one. They're from one of my other blogs. It's like an instant blog; just add water. Except you should maybe avoid adding water to your computer.)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My Hobby

Telling my students, "한국말 몰라요!" (translation=I don't know Korean) and watching their brains slowly implode. "But Teacher," they wail as they try to process me telling them I can't speak Korean IN Korean, which means that I can - in fact - speak Korean, at least a little. "You Korean speaking now!" I just smile, repeat myself and watch steam slowly pour from my kids' ears. They like the sneak up behind me and shout, "Teacher! Hello Korean speaking!" in an attempt to trick me into using Korean, therefore admitting that I DO speak Korean and allowing us to drop this ridiculous English speaking façade. This, plus my habit of answering question asked in Korean*, has my students CONVINCED that I actually can speak Korean and won't, just to be mean.

*This actually isn't that hard. There's a very finite number of questions I am regularly asked in class and it's not that hard to learn the necessary vocabulary to be able to understand them. Blah blah blah something in Korean 아니오 책 means, "Teacher, I have forgotten my textbook." I don't have to be able to understand what is undoubtedly a sob story about how the dog ate the textbook to be able to understand that sentence. No (아니오) and book (책) are sufficient. Plus, it's really not that difficult to guess a lot of what they're saying. While speaking the same language is nice, it's not actually that necessary for basic communication, and little kids are ridiculously expressive. Blah blah blah something in Korean 아니오 책, plus pointing down the hallways means, "Teacher, I have left my textbook in my classroom. Many apologize and, with your permission, I shall go fetch it. Be back, prepared for class, in a jiff." I nod, wave towards their classroom and tell them, "Okay, but next time, remember your book before you get to class." The student runs off, the entire exchange was conducted without either of us having the slightest clue what the other person was saying, the other students stare at me and exclaim, "Teacher! He Korean speaking! You understand! WHAT?!" All I'm saying is, kid, if you're doing a little jig and pointing down the hallway, I don't need to know the word 화장실 to know you need to take a leak.