Friday, December 14, 2007

Life on the English Teaching Front: My Job is Hilarious

Warning: This post contains some stories that are not entirely...appropriate. Sorry, Mom and Dad.

This post is really more like a bunch of mini-blogs I've thought about writing up this semester, but always decided against it because they just weren't long enough. But by now I've collected multiple funny stories from my first semester living and teaching in Korea, and I think they provide a good window into my life here - namely, the awkwardness and uncertainty of it all. If nothing else, this stuff keeps me entertained, so perhaps it will entertain some of you as well.

I am boring and hard
In Korean, "재미 없어요" (chemi obsoyo) can be used to mean both boring and bored. So before Korean students learn the difference between bored and boring, which is not very easy to explain, they really only know the word boring. When I go out with my host family, my host sister Mina likes to make sure I'm enjoying myself, so she often asks me, "Anna, are you boring?"

"What? Why, do you think...oh. Oh, no Mina, I'm not bored."

Sometime early this semester, Mina also learned hard, and apparently learned that it can refer to things like a person's day as well as things like tests. So now I also get asked, "Anna, are you hard?"

I think I did, like a triple-take the first time she said this.

I make an effort to answer correctly - "No, this is not hard" - and hope that she picks up on the different structure I'm using. She hasn't yet, even though I've tried explaining it a few times (really, I'm much better suited to teaching advanced students).

I do not think that word means what you think it means
Every now and then, hard-working students, eager to test out new vocab, will use a word they naturally don't quite understand. In all honesty, sometimes they've never even said the words out loud before. Furthermore, some words are just generally misused. A few weeks ago I did an activity where my students had to agree or disagree with the statement "Women are smarter than men." Several students explained that yes, women are smarter than men, because they've more delicate. I checked over and over to make sure they didn't mean "dedicated." They didn't. I still don't understand what the word delicate means to them.

What's even more awkward is when the other English teachers start asking questions about vocab. During my first week, my co-teacher drove me to school in the morning. During one such car ride, he asked me to explain the word "sexy" to him. His students use the word a lot, he said, and the ones who have been to America tell him that it's a common phrase.

Well...yes, I suppose so, but...I vaguely explained that it isn't really a word you should go around using a lot. 'But it's a compliment," he persisted. "My students say it's a compliment." I just told him that yes, it means attractive, but you should definitely not just say to it a random person on the street, or anyone other than your significant other. Man, I was glad when that car ride was over.

Who the heck writes these textbooks?
The other day one of the other English teachers showed me a page from one of her textbooks that had a list of "common," "new" slang expressions. Very briefly: Frankenfood (genetically-modified superfood), Dead Presidents (money, but it took me a while to figure that one out), and crunk (crazy drunk). Yep, all phrases I feel comfortable using in my daily life. I love imagining my super-sweet boys traveling to America in a few years, when they're of age, and telling the people they meet there that they "wanna get CRUNKED!"

Why I am entirely too young to teach high school
Really, I think people should have at least a few years out of college before they teach high schoolers. Especially if they have a more laid-back teaching style, like I do. Case in point: class 2-4. Oh, class 2-4...Class 2-4 is full of boys who are a very loud and energetic, but genuinely sweet people (they don't terrorize me like my first-grade boys try to) and also really funny (as opposed to the boys who just THINK they're funny). Anyway, these guys are always a lot of fun to be around, and I was looking forward to their responses when I did an activity on expressing opinions.

First topic up: "Women are smarter than men." It always gets some interesting opinions from the kids, plus it's fun for the ones who just want to brown-nose the teacher. One of the boys said he disagreed with the statement, and I was excited he had volunteered, because he isn't one of the strongest speakers. He paused for a moment, then looked at me with a smile on his face, and man, I knew something was coming...

"God give men brain, God give women chest."

I didn't want to laugh. I didn't want to look embarrassed. I wanted to be a strict teacher in this instance, because really, that's not an appropriate thing to say in the classroom, even in a more relaxed class. But the way that kid I was looking at me...I couldn't help it. My face turned bright red as the rest of the class cracked up. I quickly moved on to another student.

Next topic: "Military service for men should be optional." Another boy disagrees with this statement. He goes on and on about how military service makes you strong, and about how it's important for men to be strong. And why do men need to be strong, you ask? "Men need to be powerful to make babies."

Oh. My. I had promised myself I wouldn't let another inappropriate comment slide. But I didn't know that's where he was going - I had no idea he was going to say something like that. Again, I really didn't want to laugh!...but I did. And then my face turned an even brighter shade of scarlet, something my boys were only too happy to point out to me. I tried to regain control, finishing up the activity, telling them that was inappropriate, and moving on like it didn't happen. As one student told me, "I'm sorry, we're teenage boys."

Yes, yes you are. And I adore my students, but I'm beginning to think that one needs to be at least ten years older than the kids you teach. Especially when those students are teenage boys and you're a female teacher.

Teaching English in a foreign country is never dull, that's for sure. I can't wait to see what next semester has in store for me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work.