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23 December 2004
South Korean Flag

KLB - You Just Can't Win

Today was a good day, for the most part. I'm up to lesson 35 of Pimsleur's Japanese. I can probably speak Japanese better now than Korean. Wish Pimsleur made an equally good Korean set. I also had a nice dinner, more rice and side dishes from the local shop:

Had a nice day at work too. The kids had to take their "final" test of the "semester" so I just sat there all day basically. I found out many of the students are quitting - or more precisely, the parents won't be paying anymore. The biggest reason is that it will be winter vacation. The next biggest reason is that several parents are disappointed with the program. This is because their children aren't doing much better with their English writing skills, and this is where I get confused.

When I worked in the hagwons, I was not supposed to make the kids write. My job, and understandably so, was to teach speaking. Ironically, because I hated those jobs so much, I used to make the kids write a lot to take up time. At this job, because I enjoy it so much, I've fully concentrated on speaking with minimal emphasis on writing. After all, that's what the Korean teachers focus on when they teach English. My kids can speak English a lot better than just a few months ago. I am proud of that.

Because most of these parents can't speak English well, though they probably can read and write a fair bit, they don't know how much their children have learned. So they have assumed they aren't learning enough. Now they will probably send their kids to more expensive private schools where they will learn even less.

Cathy, amazingly enough, agrees that the students are doing very well and that speaking is the most important aspect of learning English. She knows this, she said, because she can read and write a lot better than she can speak - and she wishes the opposite were true. She'd much rather be fluent with her speaking. (And I wish so too).

At first the fact that so many kids will be quitting bothered me. But then I realized, next semester, during the winter schedule, I will have less than 10 kids per class. That means the agency loses. They already planned the schedule for double the time and, for me, double the pay (though money in hand will be when I believe it). So I will be getting quite a bit of money for teaching about half as many kids! However, Cathy has to call all the parents and try to persuade them to keep paying. (If you didn't know, even though this a public school, the parents still pay for our program - though the cost is far less than at a private institute).

Cathy was actually very nice today and we got along well. We talked quite a bit while the students were taking their tests. I found out that her father had been sick for a long time before he died 3 years ago and that her mother was forced to work. Cathy had to do all the cooking and cleaning and also work to help out financially. That's why she's as old as she is (34) and still going to school for her master's degree. She also had no idea that my father died and that I moved out of the house and have been supporting myself since 18, when I went to college. She was even more surprised to find out this not that uncommon in America.

Julie works until after 9 at her new job. I get home around 5:30, so I've had some time alone (she used to get home before me). Tonight, now that I have a region-free player, I watched many of the extras on the Pink Floyd The Wall DVD. This is truly a great DVD with a "saucer full of features". And it sounds excellent with the home theater. There probably is no other album I have listened to more than this one, except for maybe Radiohead's OK Computer, and it was awesome to here Roger Water's commentary, though it was a bit scary to see how much he's aged. He truly is a musical/lyrical genius. If you have never seen it, you should check it out.


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