Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What Teachers Make

Every now and then I revisit one of my favorite poems when I need some inspiration. Here it is, in all it's glory. TAYLOR MALI, ladies and gentlemen:

He says the problem with teachers is, "What's a kid going to learn
from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"
He reminds the other dinner guests that it's true what they say about
Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.

I decide to bite my tongue instead of his
and resist the temptation to remind the other dinner guests
that it's also true what they say about lawyers.

Because we're eating, after all, and this is polite company.

"I mean, you¹re a teacher, Taylor," he says.
"Be honest. What do you make?"

And I wish he hadn't done that
(asked me to be honest)
because, you see, I have a policy
about honesty and ass-kicking:
if you ask for it, I have to let you have it.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional medal of honor
and an A- feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall
in absolute silence. No, you may not work in groups.
No, you may not ask a question.
Why won't I let you get a drink of water?
Because you're not thirsty, you're bored, that's why.

I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:
I hope I haven't called at a bad time,
I just wanted to talk to you about something Billy said today.
Billy said, "Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don't you?"
And it was the noblest act of courage I have ever seen.

I make parents see their children for who they are
and what they can be.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids wonder,
I make them question.
I make them criticize.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write, write, write.
And then I make them read.
I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely
over and over and over again until they will never misspell
either one of those words again.
I make them show all their work in math.
And hide it on their final drafts in English.
I make them understand that if you got this (brains)
then you follow this (heart) and if someone ever tries to judge you
by what you make, you give them this (the finger).

Let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
I make a goddamn difference! What about you?

My List of things I HAVEN'T yet done after four months: Suggestions Welcome

Things to SEE, DO, and PLAY While in South Korea

1. Changdeok Palace, Insadong: Secret Garden and Royal Library are highlights to see here. Guided tour needed

2. Kimchi Museum and Aquarium at COEX Mall

3. Visit and use a public bath and gym

4. Inwangsan Shamanist Hillside Walk

5. Olympic Park

6. Take a cooking class

7. Seoul Drum Festival (October)

8. Norebong (Spelling is wrong, but the Karaoke room)

9. Ahyeondong Wedding Street

10. Beautiful Tea Museum, Insadong

11. Dongdaemun Market

12. Namdaemun Market

13.Noryangjin Fish Market

14. When I need new glasses, Supreme Optical. Staff speak English and frames start at $30/pair. You can get an exam on site too.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Generally Tuesday Before Chusuok

Why we needed to drive an hour to play four field games and eat lunch is beyond me, but so is everything else in this country, so I will go with it.

It has dawned on me that I haven't updated this blog with work and teaching-related Korea things in quite sometime. It's the week before Chusuok here, which is the week-long harvest festival holiday in this country. Koreans have described it to me to be their version of Thanksgiving, where all families gather in one small space to be together and do family things. Mostly bicker. No, I'm only kidding. But I'm sure some negativity happens when family is together, as it is like any family gathering in the states.

Work wise, that means I have a light load this week. We had a field trip today (described above as generally the most pointless trip ever) but I will go with it because it's one less (no, actually four less) classes I have to teach. Friday will be the same shinanigans, as we have a celebration for my morning kindergarten planned. And by planned, I mean planned by Korean teachers and we show up to speak English and pretend we are running the show when we really don't have a clue. That's how they want it. And by they, I mean my boss. Stay tuned for kids in traditional Hanbok robes. It will be adorable, or so I am told. In many ways this has been the easiest teaching gig I've ever had, and in many ways it's been the most difficult. But more on that later.

Next week I will teach MONDAY, and by teach I mean review content from last week and pray the little darlings retain some ENGRISH/KONGLISH over the holiday week-long break. Did I mention I get a WEEK OFF? Yeah, stoked about that one. Don't quite know what I'm going to do yet, because I didn't get my act in gear to plan anything far enough in advance. Because this is the one holiday where people all over the country MOVE, all train fares are booked solid for the entire week. So I plan to stick around Seoul and explore, and maybe do a temple stay just outside of Seoul. Stay tuned for photos.

But generally things are going well. Kids are generally well-behaved and eager to learn, and did I mention cute? I could do with a little more social life outside of work, but that will come. I have only been here for FOUR MONTHS, and as I type that, I can't believe that September 30 will mark my FOUR MONTH Koreaversary. And yes folks, I just made that up right here because I am that awesome.

Feel free to comment with anything else you care to know about this note, or anything you think I missed commenting about. I'm all out of ideas and motivation to write. Later.

Hope everyone is well who is reading this. Keep in touch and drop me an email. I miss all of you!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"Plus Two Stars, Teacher"

"Why is that?"
"You funny, teacher."

Sunday, September 5, 2010

I'm Rediscovering Some Songs from a Talented Lady...

...that got me through college. Her name is Cosy Sheridan, and she's a folk singer that verbalizes every thought I've ever had that I've never been able to express. She's got some great songs. Here's one of my favorites that's been on my mind a lot recently.


I lock the door. I turn off the porch light
I unplug the phone for the night
It's best when there's no one in sight
When you dance the Introvert Waltz

I dance fast and then I dance slow round the kitchen table
Past the cupboard to the stove
It's strictly a one-woman-show
When I dance the Introvert Waltz

Call me shy. Call my proud
Tell me how life is best when it's lived out loud
I get lonely in a crowd
That's why I dance
The Introvert Waltz

For some I hear the party is bliss all night revels are hard to resist
They're mystified if you might like it like this
If you dance the Introvert Waltz

American Limbo? I think so.

This American Life recently did a show about people in limbo. Ira Glass cited the original meaning of the term as the state of not knowing whether someone was going to heaven or hell. It was a show that everyone really should listen to at one time or another, and I believe that so much that a embedded it on my blog a few posts ago. It got me thinking (and that's never a good thing). Just how many people out there are in a perpetual state of limbo? I know I have been, am, and probably always will be.

Living in Korea, is a huge LIMBO move for me. Not knowing if I'd have a job in America next year, I moved to the other side of the world. I moved here, and I feel that I don't belong in a lot of ways, like I am living a huge lie. Is this what limbo really is? It's so surreal. What is life supposed to be like? Certainly not like this. Everyone I have talked to feels the same way about this place, like they are buying time between two places.

For some it's graduate school.
For others it's marriage, or a stronger relationship upon return.

At least these people have a goal at the end of this. I don't have anything. I'm floating. Is this what LIMBO feels like? Is everyone so mixed up? I don't want to do the graduate school thing and I definitely don't want to do the marriage thing anytime soon. I do know that I just want to keep exploring, but at what point does a wanderer become a sad, pathetic soul with no direction? There's a fine line when one walks the LIMBO line. I don't even know if I want to continue on my chosen career path when I return. I keep emailing people that can say they help me with renewing my certification in Minnesota for teaching reading, but am getting no definitive answers until I submit transcripts, so I just wait.

To those that have gotten out of their LIMBO state (if there are those), how did you do it and what advice do you have for those still there. Does it ever end? Or do we just muster through and do the best we can with what we have? I need some philosophical answers here.

College was also a huge limbo period. They say (who are THEY, anyway?) that college is supposed to be the best time of your life; it's the time when you really know who you are. Did anyone feel this way in college? Speak up now and comment if you really knew who you were in college, because all I knew about college when I was there is that I wanted out. Four years of HELL.

Every teaching position I've ever had has been a LIMBO in every way. My professional years since college have been lived by the year, buying time until something better comes along. I envy people who are happy with jobs for 5 and 10 years at a time. It's not like I'm all that flaky, either. I would love to stay in one place for more than one year, but nothing has ever felt quite right. I can't help but start to take it personally now. "We're sorry, you're a great person, but we have to let you go." EVERY. DAMN. YEAR. This is what people do. This is what companies, school districts, and nonprofits do. It's not personal, it's business. Numbers games, bottom lines. There's always some excuse. But deep inside, maybe it is me. I'm just not a fit for the world.

Other LIMBOS in my life?

--AmeriCorps*NCCC (where everyone was in the same position -- I think the TL's words for this was "this organization is a cesspool for mental illness" or "why do you think they keep a counselor on staff?")

--Minnesota (great people, bad weather)

--Girl Scout Camp (four summers of crazy)

--Mail + More (retail hell post college)

Just to name a few. I'm sure I could go on, but I've already done that too much thus far. I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. As a therapist once told me, I can go from 0 to 100 in rocket speed. That's probably what this post just did. I have a few things to ask.

Do we ever really get out of limbo?
Are we ever truly happy?

At what point do we have to stop searching and just be happy with what we have?

Comments welcome.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I need to do more reading on this, and I will...

...but, I also need some input too. Teachers, moms, or anyone that works with young children or foreign language learners.

What is your take on the language acquisition debate?

Is language simply a series of patterns to be learned and memorized, OR, does language need meaning behind the patterns to be learned effectively?

I know this will open up a can of worms, but it's been on my mind a lot lately in, well, my current position.

On another teaching note, I had a kid (of course, a Korean kid) tell me that SHE wants to be president of the USA today. Good luck with that one kid. Hate to burst your hopes and dreams...but, there's this thing we have called the citizenship rule...try explaining that to a newcomer English speaking nine-year-old. LOL.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

This American Life is Embeddable now, apparantly

Just thought I'd share this awesome show that I have listened to every week for over a year now with my blog audience. Love it. You should too.