Thoughts on a Monday afternoon (mostly related to music seemingly)

Postscript which I am adding as a cautionary prologue: This is a heinously long post, and even though I told myself I would write fewer of these touchy-feely “aren’t my students so wonderful” posts and focus more on just quoting the funny things they say… alas, today I was feeling sentimental, and I’m afraid this post became far too verbose. Enter if you dare.

On trust

— As of this week, I’ve officially started to feel that bond with the kids at my smaller school that I felt with the 3rd graders at my main school long ago. I guess it makes sense that it would take longer to build trust and relationship with the students I only see once every 3 weeks.

It’s crazy how important trust is for effective teaching. Maybe you’re thinking, “Why do they need to ‘trust’ their ESL teacher? You’re just going into their classroom once a week / once every 3 weeks for 45 minutes, making them repeat some English expressions, playing a game with them, and leaving again. What part of that involves trust?”

True. It’s not quite the same as trust in the sense of “I’m trusting you with my money” or “I’m trusting you with my deep dark secret,” but it is a sort of trust nonetheless. I think I’ve written about it before, when it started happening at my main school. It’s moving from the vague “Oh there’s the foreign teacher” (on their part) and “Oh there are some B-level 3rd graders” (on my part) to a more personal bond and understanding.

If trust is “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something” (according to Google), I think the feeling I’m talking about can fit into that definition.

I know more about their individual personalities and class needs as a whole now, and so I can tailor my lessons around that. On the flip side, my students know that I have the best intentions for them, even if my activities sometimes flop or my lessons (or parts of them) aren’t always exciting. They give more effort because they trust that I’m going to give them my best, and in turn I produce better and better materials for them, and the cycle continues, building more trust and a more positive environment.

Last semester here, I felt more like an exhibit or a special event – “Every 3 weeks you can stare at the foreign teacher for 45 minutes instead of staring at your usual teachers.” Any progress I could make with them during that time, in terms of building a relationship, seemed completely lost 3 weeks later.

Now, finally, after an average of 7 or 8 classes with each grade/level here, I feel more like their teacher. ‘Bout time.

This definitely also has something to do with the fact that I now have 6 months of teaching experience versus being a complete noob in the 1st semester. Not saying 6 months is a lot, but it’s something. Developing a harmonious, familiar, friendly atmosphere with the co-teachers that I see just as infrequently as the students also helps.

On classroom fun

— On that note, I had my B-level 3rd graders today. Back at the start, I dreaded the week that I had class with them because my experience with them was that they were rowdy, did not listen, did not care, etc. Gradually they have become better and better, and now they are actually one of my favorite levels to teach (due to aforementioned trust/rapport).

Today we played a telepathy game. Their textbook lesson was on opinions and saying “In my opinion, blah blah blah.” So I gave them mini whiteboards and asked them opinion questions with 3 multiple choice options. (For example, “Which food is most delicious? A) Banana, B) Ice cream, C) Cheeseburger.”) They wrote A, B, or C on their whiteboards; I counted down “3, 2, 1, boards up!” They would hold up the board to reveal their answers. Then I’d say, “Ready, go!” and they would say the key expression together: “In my opinion [A, B, or C] is best.” Then I’d reveal the “lucky answer,” a.k.a. the one that matches my personal opinion, which was worth 1 point. (That’s where the telepathy part comes in – trying to read the teacher’s mind.)

They got really into this game, like way more than I expected. It’s simple enough for the lower level kids to play along and have fun, but engaging even for the higher levels. When they realized that in order to get the “lucky answer,” they had to try to guess which option I would choose, they got very excited and had intense debates with their partners.

Some of them have been paying attention when I constantly tell them that I love ice cream more than life itself (okay, I don’t tell them exactly that…), so they get that question right.

One question is “Which shirt is best?” with a red dressy blouse, a plain blue T-shirt, and a simple black long-sleeve. The answer is the black long-sleeve. Almost all of them have gotten this one right, because, as they proudly proclaim after the big reveal, “they know Teacher’s style.” (And honestly, my wardrobe does consist of mostly whites, grays, and blacks. It’s hard to find formal wear in flattering colors here.)

They become outraged when I reveal that in my opinion, 2NE1 is better than EXID and Big Bang is preferable to PSY.

When I ask, “Which game is best? A) Sudden Attack, B) Starcraft II, C) League of Legends,” the boys get very excited and choose C (I swear every Korean middle school boy plays LoL), then get very indignant and let down when I reveal the answer as A, and also that I haven’t actually played any of these games. Hehehe.

On music

— My soul feels very ’90s grunge/alt rock today. Do you experience this? Days, or at least moments, when you just need to listen to one particular type of music, not necessarily by the same artist, but in the same genre and with the same general mood? So today has been a day for “Creep,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Black Hole Sun,” “Zombie,” “Wonderwall,” and “Where Is My Mind” (technically not ’90s, but close enough).

These types of songs are the ones that surrounded my childhood without actually entering it much, since during the first decade of my life I mostly listened to whatever my parents were listening to, particularly my dad – which was in itself an eclectically healthy blend of genres, eras, and styles, from Peter Gabriel, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, R.E.M., Cake, and The Go-Go’s to Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, B.B. King, and Duke Ellington to Van Morrison, The Beatles, and Steely Dan to Mozart, Handel, and Beethoven. (I’m sure my dad will read this and point out that I missed some quintessential artists in this list!)(Because he is one of maybe 6 or 7 people who read this blog consistently. Heh heh.)(Hi Dad.)

Those are the artists that can bring me directly back into my childhood, with warm fuzzy visions of cozy nights at home after dinner… of “music parties” that lasted long past bedtime* with my dad acting as DJ and pulling out his record collection to introduce my siblings and me to a new band or singer… of parties with my parents’ friends and their kids, when I would be waiting for everyone to just go home already (yes, I’ve always been an introvert).

*Who am I kidding, we didn’t have “bedtime” in my house! As a family of homeschooling night owls, it just made more sense to keep our days and nights running a few hours later than those of everyone else. And it was awesome, might I add.

The ’90s pop and alt rock, then, became the cushioning around my memories of childhood – always there at the edges in a general sense, but not attached to anything specific. Many of the most popular artists at the time – Britney Spears, Jewel, Christina Aguilera, No Doubt, Backstreet Boys, Third Eye Blind, Nirvana, Oasis, and the MANY one-hit wonders of the ’90s (I’m talking “Ice Ice Baby,” “U Can’t Touch This,” “What Is Love,” “Stay (I Missed You),” “Closing Time,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Save Tonight,” “MMMBop,” “Tubthumping”… seriously, the ’90s has to be the decade with the most one-hit wonders ever, right?!) – were not particularly popular in our household. I never owned a single Britney, NSYNC, or Backstreet Boys album (were my sister and I possibly the only ’90s kids who didn’t?).

But even so, those songs bring me back to my childhood in an equally nostalgic but different way. I think everyone has songs that fit into these two categories: the kind that gives you specific strong memories, and the kind that gives you general nostalgia feels.

I guess this post turned into a music post. But that’s okay. Music is so universal and yet so personal that the discussion of it is endless. I think many people can almost tell their life story through music, whether chronologically or emotionally or whatever, and the varying ways that different people are touched by different genres and artists is fascinating. So go listen to some music and brighten up your Monday!


5 thoughts on “Thoughts on a Monday afternoon (mostly related to music seemingly)

  1. Dad says:

    Hi Maddy

    I think you gave a very thorough list of my various music artists! Thanks for remembering them all 🙂 And I agree with your premise, music recalls events or timeframes or can just create or match a mood.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Craig says:

    Well i’ve got to reply to this excellent post. If only cos i’m so excited by the mention of Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians on the interwebz in 2015. If i ever try to mention Edie to any friends – either now or at any time in the past – the only recognition i get is after painstakingly explaining that one of the Spice Girls covered ‘What i am’. Or failing that resorting to my best warbled rendition of the epic wah-wah guitar solo.

    Also, a hand up here for membership to the elite club of 90s kids who never owned any of the aforementioned pop albums. But instead was brought up on a heavily dad-influenced diet of The Cranberries, Peter Gabriel, Gin Blossoms, Spin Doctors, Sophie B Hawkins and many many more. A real 90s education methinks.

    My question is though, was the 90s the last decade of really good music? proper bands like those, with some depth and sense of genuine musicianship? The last decade before everything else started to seem like too derivative or forced for its own good?

    Or maybe it’s more the case that i haven’t even hit 30 yet and am already a cynical, grumpy old man whining on about the good old days. 😦

    But seriously, was the 90s really that good, or is it just that everyone thinks the decade in which they grew up was the best?!

    Thanks for the post! Ignited an evening of nostagic hi-fi geekery for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maddy says:

      The ’90s really was that good for those of us who grew up in them, I think. (Granted that we’re all looking back on that decade through the rosy lens of nostalgia, making everything seem gloriously perfect even though it wasn’t.) ’90s music will always have a very special place in my heart for that reason.

      As for your question about the ’90s being the last decade of good music, I think that although formulaic pop music has taken over the mainstream, there are quite a few good bands/artists out there today making really good, genuine, and heartfelt music. I love Mumford & Sons, Bastille, Walk Off the Earth, Of Monsters and Men, and Sea Wolf, and for solo vocalists, Ingrid Michaelson, Kimbra, Regina Spektor, Kina Grannis. The sound is different from ’90s music, of course (my tastes lean towards the indie folk/indie pop/indie alternative genres), but I think these artists are all doing their own thing and writing/playing really fantastic music for its own sake, not just following the pop song equation to get on the charts and make money.

      Like I said, music is such a personal thing that I don’t know if any two people could ever 100% agree on all of its aspects, if Band A is better than Band B or Genre C is better than Genre D, etc., but I think if you search hard enough, you can always find passionate and genuine musicians who are doing what they do for the love of the art form, and are doing it really well to boot.

      P.S. This is not to bash on pop music; I’m not a genre snob, and I do enjoy my fair share of pop music… but the amount of talent and originality found among today’s pop musicians is certainly up for debate, regardless of the level of entertainment it provides.


  3. Craig says:

    You’re totally right of course about the good, genuine stuff still being out there – it’s just a little harder to find nowadays. I guess the cool thing about the 90s was that there was so many bands like the ones mentioned, and they were so accessible. That kind of music really had it’s time in the spotlight.

    Even that may be a cyclical thing though too. It seems to me each decade seems to swing one way, then back again. The 70s was full of really new, alternative, great rocky stuff. Then the 80s (while still full of great music) had more than it’s fair share of cheesy 80s pop. The 90s then seemed to swing back the other way again, and then the Noughties was a bit of a wasteland from memory?! I guess there was actually a lot of things going on in the ’00s, with Nu-metal and a lot of punky stuff, but it wasn’t quite my cup of tea thank you very much.

    The other thing that strikes me is that perhaps its simply more difficult, as time goes on, for people to keep creating what sounds like genuinely original and sincere music. That’s not to say that “all the songs” have already been written! That’s crazy. But i guess with every passing decade its harder to avoid the growing archive of influences and sounds that have gone before. As such it becomes rarer to be struck by something new with a ‘wow’ moment.

    And of course, there’s always a place for pop – but even that was better in the 90s! One of the best songs mentioned in your original post has got to be Haddaway’s What is Love?! Amazing!

    Furthermore you probably couldn’t survive in somewhere like S Korea, teaching S Korean teenagers everyday, without a good appreciation of cheesy pop! What is Korea’s music scene/tastes like aside from the mighty K-POP?!

    Liked by 1 person

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