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25 November 2004
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KLB - Thanksgiving Day

After a nice day off (the kids were on feild trip) it was back to "work" today. I feel kind of odd calling it work as I'm only there three hours. I had been feeling bad about my pay, as it is a wee bit less than others make working their butts off at hagwons (I can say this because I did that myself for years)...but with the strengthening won I'm actually making more than I used to, at least in US dollars, which has been a real bonus.

Something semi-eventful happened today. I have a student in my A class, let's call him Mixedupkid, who never does anything in class except roam around the back of the room and play with toys. He's usually pretty quiet about it and doesn't bother me. I often wonder about the runt as he has partially crossed eyes and appears a little off-balance. I've been told that he has some problems at home and his parents don't really care how he acts at school. In fact, we think they make him take my class as a cheap sort of baby-sitting, since it requires he be at the school a few hours more than usual (waiting for class and then the actual class). Cathy said he is like that in every class, and they punish him all the time to no avail.

Then, during open-house, his mother came to the school. She seemed perfectly normal to me, but who can tell. The fact that she actually came into the open-house was a surprise and got me thinking that I've been too lenient on him. She even scolded him when he didn't know any answers.

So today, as usual he did nothing again, flitting about the back of the room, playing with a toy when he was supposed to be copying words in his notebook. I walked over to him and decided I would take his toy. Bad move. He hid it under his shirt and started to act like a twerp. That made me angry, so I grabbed his arm and pulled out the toy. Another bad move. He flipped out of his mind, screaming and crying, stamping his foot and throwing things, then stormed out of the room and slammed the door. If this was America, I'd be worried he went to find his father's machine gun.

He never came back and Cathy told me not to worry about it. As it turns out, the principal found him and gave him some kind of punishment (this was a relief as I thought for sure I'd be the one blamed) then made him come back later in the day to apologize to me, which he did in tears. I told Cathy I feel really bad for the kid. I really do. It is obvious he either has a few mental problems or something bad is happening to him at home, or both. But what am I supposed to do as he roams around and plays with toys it distracts the other kids and makes them think they can do the same thing. Cathy said we just have to let him do what he wants. I suggested we refuse to keep him in the class and have the agency refund the money. Hahah, she scoffed at the absolute absurdity of the idea. Not in Korea - never.

I also got a little ticked off today about something else. Cathy, on her day off, called all the parents who came to the open-house. Fortunately, they all liked me and the class, BUT - of course there would be a BUT! - they complained that the students (A class especially - the youngest kids) spoke Korean in the classroom. Oh my God! It can't be! Little kids speaking their native tongue during the course of a 50 minute class! It never ceases to amaze me the naivete of some parents. Can you imagine how hard it would be as a little kid to not to speak naturally, especially when confused or unsure how to do something and have no idea how to ask in English?

It didn't surprise me though. It's pretty much par for the course when you teach in Korea that parents will complain about this. They must think their children know a lot more than they do. Instead of speaking Korean, I've been told to use body language and drawings to explain things. OK, sure..."Kids, what's this?" (now I magically use body language and drawings to show "this" is a verb). Now imagine how easy it would be for Cathy to tell the kids in Korean what verbs are, or what "ing" means at the end of one, or whatever.

Like I said, this was no real shocker and I kind of laughed it off. What did bother me about it is the effect it's having on Cathy. She's a nervous wreck now about the kids speaking Korean. She said "No Korean!" so many times today I thought I would strangle her if I heard it one more time! Now she writes all the students names on the board before class and says, for example, "Joe speaking Korean! No Korean! Minus one point!" and then puts a "-1" next to the name. This system, of course, was doomed to fail as there was no consequence other than the kind of comical "-1" next to their name and a little attention (laughter from the other kids). She has done this "minus one point" routine in the past, so the kids don't pay attention to it anymore, if they ever did - until now! I decided to make kids with minus points stay after class and write "I will never speak Korean again!" 20 times. Heheh. We'll see if this works.

Now for other things:

I realize I have been here much too long when I completely forgot today is Thanksgiving in America. It took an e-mail from my aunt to remind me. That e-mail got me thinking about Thanksgiving dinner. Oh, man...that is one thing I really miss. My grandfather always makes a HUGE dinner with all the works. I'm sure I'll hear all about it on Yahoo messenger later.

Here's what Julie and I had for Thanksgiving:

Is this the meal of a famous writer in his own mind?
I'm sure some people, especially those back in America, are thinking how pathetic this looks - especially today. When I first saw Julie eat a meal like this at my apartment in Nowhere-dong, I also thought it was pitiful. Sure enough, as with most things in Korea, I tried it and I liked it. It's actually a very easy and healthy dinner. You just pop open a can of tuna, grab a few leaves (there are several kinds there) put some tuna on them, some garlic, onion, and kochujang (red pepper paste) sauce, roll up the leaves and chomp away - I put olives in with mine, which freaked Julie out.

I guess that's about it. Back to packaging up these books. Had quite a few orders today, which I was happy to find. I also spoke to the person at the Korea Times who has written the IOF book review already (not bad since I just gave it to him in person last weekend). He said the review will appear in this Saturday's edition (he hopes)...we'll see.


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