What a shitty day. The post office has usurped the bank as the most obnoxious place for me to go in all the land. After a bunch of problems there today, I swore off going there forever, but later decided that I'd visit tomorrow with my bamboo sword.
Confucius say "man who drop watch in toilet have crappy time." Works the same for teachers, I guess. (Yeah, I know it doesn't fit, but I just wanted to get that joke in there.) Anyway, some days I feel on top of the world. The lessons are clicking, the students are learning and smiling, and the time is flying. Other days, like today, I question why I even bothered to get out of bed. The students are more interested in writing on their desks than on their worksheets (when they manage to bring a pencil or a worksheet to class), they seem incapable of shutting the fuck up for two seconds, and they somehow can transform the simplest of tasks into period-long endeavors.
I have a lot to say on the matter of teaching English in Korea, but I haven't the time to write it now, and you don't have the time to read it. First, I should say that things are generally going well this year. But there are a few dichotomies each teacher must explore when trying to be the best s/he can be. The biggest one is "fun vs. function": play games, give candy, act like a clown, make the kids (sort of) laugh, but look like an ass, or try something educational, work them, but be thought of as a prick. Since I'm basically a guest speaker---I see each class once or twice a month---I want to lean toward making it fun, but since I'm a self-respecting adult who feels passionate about my native language and culture, and hates to see it bastardized by Koreans young and old, I can't in good conscience waste my time playing hangman or giving them bubble gum for doing what the fuck they're supposed to be doing.
Anyway, one of today's classes was quite nightmarish. Five minutes late, no worksheets, no pencils, no retention of anything they learned last time, no ability to sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up, no desire to stop throwing erasers or pulling each other's hair, no chance of the Korean coteacher doing much other than chiming in with an ineffective "조용" . . . after 25 minutes of trying to plow through it over the noise and teach to the attentive kids, I realized there weren't any attentive kids, and safely assumed that neither the kids nor my coteacher had any intention of doing any constructive today. I just said "'do what you want" and went to work on the million other things I have to do this week.
I did have the presence of mind to take a few pictures.
You'll see that, unfortunately, a few students noticed the camera. The boy at the back is clearly posing. If you look to the right, though, you'll see a kid preparing to throw something at the kid on the left of the picture. I'm not sure what exactly that kid is brandishing, but if it's the worksheet that took me forever to make and copy, it's the first time he used it in his life.
Some of the girls saw my camera, too, perhaps the first time they noticed a white person in the room that day. In spite of a smattering of awareness, you still see an alarming number of students turned around and in their natural state of unEnglish.
When classes like this take place I like to remember that my expensive presence is taking food out the mouths of hungry schoolchildren.