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16 December 2004
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KLB - Jingle Bells

I left the office-tel pretty early today again, but I stopped to have a sandwich and a cup of coffee and winded up arriving just a few minutes before class. Thursday is Theme Day, my least favorite day of the week. I'm supposed to teach these little kids about Christmas in America while only speaking English and without any materials. Since we're behind in the books (I don't move on unless the kids have learned the material) I thought we could skip the BS and use the book again, then maybe have them draw Santa Claus or whatever. Wrong. Cathy had printed lyrics of Jingle Bells and decided it would be fun if I teach them to sing it. Now, for those of you teaching in Korea, you can sympathize with me. For those who live elsewhere and haven't taught English to foreigners, think about how difficult it would be to teach these lyrics to little Korean kids:

Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bob tails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to laugh and sing
A sleighing song tonight

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh

A day or two ago
I thought I'd take a ride
And soon Miss Fanny Bright
Was seated by my side
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
We got into a drifted bank
And then we got upsot

A day or two ago
The story I must tell
I went out on the snow
And on my back I fell;
A gent was riding by
In a one-horse open sleigh
He laughed at me as
I there sprawling laid
But quickly drove away.

Now the ground is white,
Go it while you're young,
Take the girls along
And sing this sleighing song.
Just bet a bob-tailed bay,
Two-forty as his speed,
Hitch him to an open sleigh
and crack! You'll take the lead.

Not only that, but she printed enough for every kid in every class. I just looked at her blankly and said, "I can't teach this."

"But you have to. The parents want."

"The parents want them to learn this song?"

"Yeah, I think so."

I sighed and said, "Well, that's too bad. We can listen to this song, but I'm not going to teach this. It's impossible. If you want to teach them this song, feel free."

"Oh, no, not me. You're the teacher. You have to teach."

"No, thank you."

She also had made copies of a Christmas card worksheet the agency gave her. At first, this dismayed me as well, but I worked out how to explain to the kids how to make them and simply put on the Christmas music while they did so - which ended up being fun. I put the Jingle Bells lyric sheets in with the ever-growing pile of useless handouts Cathy makes. I feel sorry for the tree that lost it's life to make them. At least there's an ajusshi (older man) that comes to the school every week to pick up paper that can be recycled.

Cathy had a big blister on her bottom lip today. I asked her about it, and she said it's from stress and not sleeping (as I mentioned before, she tells me daily how she only sleeps a few hours every night). I want to tell her to relax, not worry about everything so much and take it easy, but what's the point? I know her reply would be, "But I have to like this. I'm Korean." And, I suppose, telling her that would be about as useful as her telling me to be more serious and work harder.

Later, about halfway through one of the classes, I looked up and saw her diligently making snowflake decorations for the backboard while humming and bobbing her head to the Christmas music. Even though I think she causes herself stress, I felt bad for her. I walked over and talked to her a bit and told her what a great job she's doing. The back board really does look very nice.

I looked down and noticed she's still wearing the same beat-up old workboots. I asked her if she wanted me to pick her up a pair of slippers from Walmart, like the ones I wear. I was going to do this a long time ago, actually, but I completely forgot and also wondered if buying them would insult her. She beamed and said yes, that she has really wanted a pair, "but, I have no money." Now, I know for a fact you can buy these slippers just about anywhere, including Walmart, for 1,000 won and they would last her at least a semester. I swear that psychologically she makes herself miserable to attract attention.

Anyway, I'll pick her up a pair tonight and continue to try, at least, to be nice to her even though she drives me nuts. I'm dreading next month, the winter program, when I'll be working 6 hours/day with her. The program has been approved. I'll be teaching a variety of subjects to the same kids using a load of materials, 100 minutes each class instead of 50...and for double the pay! That's actually quite a lot of cash for working from just 10 - 4!


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