My students are good kids, and I had a nice time watching them perform and I was impressed by their pottery, paintings, and model homes on display on the first floor. It must be said, though, that in spite of weeks of practice, a lot of these performances were about as organized as a lesbian clusterfuck.
Students had weeks, maybe longer, to practice and they were dancing to songs they'd seen choreographed on TV or on the internet hundreds of times. Yet you see there's a chunk of students into it, a chunk of students not, and a chunk of students totally lost.
I bring that up because it's interesting to think about what goes on in the classroom in light of what goes on at a school festival. At the festival the MC---a teacher on a mic---spent about ten minutes getting all the students to a reasonably quiet level before proceeding. If a Korean teacher, with microphone, giving directions in Korean, is largely ineffective against chattering Korean students, it makes me less ashamed at the rowdiness of some of my own classes. Hell, during the principal's opening speech there was a noticable chatter in the background, and even teachers were chatting and playing on their phones.
It's also put some of my efforts in perspective. I sometimes get frustrated when my students seem incapable of doing the simplest of tasks. With their Korean English teachers they're reading stories, writing letters, learning pretty complicated grammar, and taking difficult standardized exams. In my class trying to get through a basic question-and-answer session is a chore. But watching the performances and the rehearsals made me rethink my expectations a little bit. A lot of students struggled with their dance moves---what an absurd sentence---even after all that preparation, a lot of the students just weren't into it, and a lot of students just made arbitrary movements with no regard to coordination or rhythm. So maybe it's asking a little much to expect students to come into English class and perform the language, and maybe I'm expecting too much when I want them to do a role play or something after a 30-minute lesson. I don't think it's a coincidence that the sharpest students and the most enthusiastic English learners were also the best dancers---what an absurd sentence. Seeing that at least half of each class was equally indifferent toward English as toward dancing---what an absurd sentence---makes me feel a little better.
Anyway, here's another clip from one of my more enjoyable classes.
The miniskirts weren't brought out until the second day. There was a fashion show and a dance number to Destiny Child's "Lose My Breath." Even the boys showed some leg.
If it seems ridiculous to wear miniskirts in winter, it's not, and if it sems ridiculous to wear miniskirts in middle school, it's not.
Today I watched classes at my other school prepare for their festival coming up on Christmas Eve. Like every other classroom in South Korea, they will be dancing to the Wondergirls' "Tell Me." Three boys in the class are dancing to Hyeon Jin-yeong's "흐린 기억 속의 그대," Destiny Child's "Lose My Breath" and Ivy's "Ah-ha," and were dancing along to internet videos. (I couldn't find the video they used for the first one, but the other two are linked.) To a Westerner it seems very bizarre for eighth graders to watch and copy this, which is how one of my second grade (8th grade US) classes is spending the day:
No foreigner in Korea will find anything uncommon or unusual about seeing dancing girls, young dancing girls, underclothed young dancing girls, or crossdressing dancing boys. What they might find unusual is that Koreans don't find it unusual.
There are tons of blog entries and home videos out there on the topic of "sexy dances" (their words, not mine) at Korean school festivals, but I won't link to them. They're easy enough to find on your own, and for the majority of users they will be a silly and entertaining look at a particular aspect of Korean school culture. Should you and your friends want to be a dance troupe comprised of high school students next Halloween, you have tons of reference material. However, on an earlier blog I posted pictures of a dance team from a local high school performing in Gwangju, a post that immediately attracted creepy visitors and their creepy comments. I'd rather this post not get into that. The students seem to enjoy themselves, and that's the most important thing.
So yeah, anyway, I was happy to learn a few things about my students and pick up a few tips for the classroom next year. I was also really impressed that everyone participated. Nobody had the too cool for school attitude that accompanies 86% of North American students. Even if they did it poorly, everyone---the smart kids, the dumb kids, the short kids, the fat kids, the shy kids, the bubbly kids, the nevertalktoanyone kids----got up and did their dance. It was cute that nobody was embarassed to get up there and embarass themselves, because everyone was embarassing themselves, hence nobody was embarassed.
You'll find similar logic behind the popularity of karaoke rooms throughout this part of the world, and such shared experiences are important in reinforcing the bonds that hold peer groups together. I think that's also why "dances" are popular. I mean, there's a "Tell Me" dance, an "Ah-ha" dance, a "Lose My Breath" dance, etc. I stole that idea from the Iceberg, who writes in this post about the Gangnam club scene circa 1997:
You’ll notice in the video that things weren’t too much different from what they are like nowadays. One thing that was different was that there was a specific dance that accompanied each Korean song. It was kind of fun…and funny…to watch everyone performing the same moves. Also, whenever a foreign song came on, many dancers sat down because they didn’t know how to dance to it.
In the States we have endzone celebrations and Achy Breaky Heart.