On the upswing

Monday comes around just in time to lift my spirits once more. It’s the best feeling when I’m unsure of how my lesson will go, and then I get into the class and start teaching and suddenly everything is clicking and the students are responding well and it’s flowing smoothly and they understand and they’re having fun.

I have my lowest levels this week (always rough for everyone involved). But today, my first period class was canceled (we have midterms on Wednesday here at my small school, so my co-teacher needed to spend extra time on exam prep with them)… and then my second period class was absolutely fantastic.

They’re a class of low level, normally very quiet and shy 3rd graders.

Because of the midterms, I prepared a brief review of the key expressions from Lessons 1, 2, and 3 in their textbook, then a Mario-themed PowerPoint review game. It’s the first time I’ve played a game with them. I spent literally hours making it over the weekend, and I can’t use it again because it’s very specific to this particular class… but it was so worth it to see even the shy ones getting into it, answering the questions, eyes lighting up, smiling and laughing. So, so rewarding. I would spend double the time I already spent on making that PPT just to get that response from the kids.

And they all did such a great job of trying hard to answer the questions (in spite of their low level, they were really really trying) that afterwards, I gave candy to not just the winning team, but to the whole class. (Which was totally doable with this class of just 9 students.)

We had a minute or so left before the bell rang, so I asked them how the candy (Twix) was. “Delicious,” they said. “More delicious.” (Comparative adjectives was one of our review topics of the day.) “More delicious than what?” I asked. “Chocolate,” they said. Yeah, I guess caramel + cookie + chocolate > chocolate any day.

*     *     *

I feel so bad for my co-teacher today; she’s quite sick – chills, fever, aches, sore throat – but the nature of working in Korea is that you show up. Unless you are actually on your deathbed or violently ill, you show up and you do your job. The same goes for the students; just put a surgical mask on and get on with your day. You can collapse when you get home.

Everyone goes around wearing these, either to try to prevent the spread of germs when they’re sick or to keep out the dreaded Yellow Dust from China.

So far I haven’t been sick one time since coming here (*knocks on wood and feels ashamed of her superstitiousness*). Considering the amount of new germs I’ve been exposed to, the number of meals I’ve shared with Koreans where everyone was digging their chopsticks/spoons into the same dish, the number of sick kids I’ve had contact with, and how filthy my apartment was for a couple weeks when I first moved in, until I deep-cleaned it… I think that says quite a bit for the strength of my immune system. *pats self on back*

*     *     *

…Speaking of yellow dust, it’s here and it’s not good. This site lets you track how bad the pollution is on any given day, and Daegu is right up there in the orange zone right now – so not the worst, but certainly not the best in terms of air cleanliness. So far I haven’t noticed any respiratory issues, but it’s still not healthy to be breathing chemicals and pollutants all day. I did notice yesterday that my throat felt a bit scratchy after being outside. And the effects are bound to be exacerbated by the sweltering heat and humidity coming in the next couple of months. Thanks a lot, China.

*     *     *

Trying to teach my low level 1st graders the response “I’d love to” – it was kind of adorable that a couple of them kept saying “I love you” by accident. “How about going swimming?” “Sure, I love you.” LOL.

Edit: Looking through a few worksheets from last week, I caught something I missed initially that made me chuckle:

Problem: “I’m crazy.”

Suggestion: “How about hitting you?”

*     *     *

One of my 2nd grade girls ran up to me in the hallway today, “Oh, Teacher, Teacher!”, wrapped her arms around me and gently kissed my cheek, complete with “Mwah!” sound.

Can you imagine a 14-year-old girl doing that to her teacher in the States? ‘Cause I can’t.

It’s just another example of how I feel so constantly surrounded by love and caring here – from my students and my co-teachers, from other non-English-speaking teachers at my schools, and even from random people I run into while I’m out on errands and such. But more to come on this topic in another post!

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