Lovely days

I guess the silver lining of having an extended streak of really hard days is that when you finally have that nice day, it’s even lovelier than it would’ve been otherwise. Similar to that blessed relief that washes over you when a physical pain finally subsides, that wonderful moment when the headache or muscle cramp or whatever slips away, leaving you with a renewed appreciation for your body.

Yesterday was lovely.

Not for any particular reason; nothing out of the ordinary happened, but it was a day at the end of which I sat down at my desk and felt good. (okay so maybe part of it is because I brought coffee to work for the first time in a loooong time…?)

Today was lovely as well.

I’m doing speaking tests with the 3rd graders, and I’ve been very impressed by a few of them. Being less green than I was last year, I’ve become very stringent with giving out perfect scores – which means the kids that do get 100s really really deserve it.

Yesterday I also started my “Halloween” culture lesson for the 1st and 2nd graders. I was kind of worried about it (then again, I always worry about trying out new lessons) because some of the kids go to intensive private English academies, where the foreign teachers frequently teach aspects of Western culture, but some of the other kids who can’t afford academies have much less knowledge of holidays like Halloween. It’s a mixed bag.

Some aspects of Halloween have certainly leaked into Korean culture; they have haunted houses here, and on Halloween night, foreigners and Koreans alike dress up and go downtown. (Although from what I’ve seen, Koreans are less likely to get creative with their costumes.) There’s no trick-or-treating, though.

Anyway, the Halloween lesson is going better than I expected. I do a 15-minute PPT where I go through the vocab for traditional Halloween ‘spooks’ like ghosts, vampires, witches, skeletons, etc. and show them pictures of Halloween traditions like costumes, trick-or-treating, bobbing for apples, decorating our houses, and carving jack-o-lanterns, with very simple verbal explanations (eliciting what they already know whenever possible). Then we do a simple gap fill review worksheet to help them remember.

Last, we play a PPT “bomb game.” I made it with spooky sounds and slightly-spooky pictures of zombies and ghosts – nothing too scary, but just creepily atmospheric enough to get them in the spirit of things. It simulates going trick or treating with them “choosing a house”, answering a question about Halloween, and then receiving points in the form of “candy.” At the end, regardless of the winner, I tell them that Halloween means every kid gets candy. At this point they start whooping and applauding. I make them say “trick or treat” before they can take a candy from my bucket.

It’s so cute because it’s such a reminder of home to hear them chirruping “Trick or treat! Trick or treat! Thank you!”

And as if that isn’t all lovely enough, the weather is lovely too. It’s finally brisk enough that I can wear a sweater all day without dying of sweat around 2 p.m. when the sun reaches its peak. At night, I leave the window open a crack just to feel cozy under the blankets and to get that fresh air. I’m sleeping the same amount or less than usual, but wake up feeling refreshed, and I’m convinced it’s because the air is better and clearer in fall than in summer.

(GIF from Pinterest)

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Have introverts overcorrected?

I’ve been rather hard on extroverts on this blog in the past. Perhaps a bit too hard, blinded by my need to vent out all the frustrations of growing up shy and introverted in a pre-Susan Cain world. Without meaning to, maybe I’ve even sounded smug and superior, as many introverts might tend to do when we defiantly proclaim our love of solitude.

But then I happened upon this article from the New York Times today: “Am I introverted, or just rude?” (Full article here.) (As implied in the title, the writer is an introvert herself.)

“I’m shy, yes. But am I also rude? In a contest between my manners and my preferences, am I allowing my preferences to win? […]

A minority of introverts suffer from clinical social anxiety. That’s not true of me. I find parties uncomfortable: I have trouble making small talk, and after I’ve been surrounded by people for too long, I need time alone. But I can set aside my inclinations […]

“Good manners are mere mannerisms, the argument goes, which serve only to put barriers in the way of deeper connections. […] Life is largely lived among acquaintances and strangers. So many fall into problematic categories: some appear different or unapproachable, some we actively dislike, some we’ve failed to connect with in the past. What do we have to gain from even trying?

“A lot, as it turns out. When I skip big gatherings of strangers, I’m not just being a little rude to the individual people around me, I’m being uncivil in a larger sense. The more we isolate ourselves from new people, the more isolated and segregated our society is likely to become. […] We can respect our own introversion, and embrace the ‘quiet’ people among us, without abandoning every challenging interaction.

I may be naturally reserved, and more comfortable alone than I will ever be in a crowd, but I am not at the mercy of my nature. There are many excuses for failing to conduct ourselves with courtesy, for avoiding gatherings and conversations we don’t think we will enjoy, or for just putting on our pajamas and staying home. Too many of them boil down to just that one thing: We care more about ourselves than about the needs of others.

That’s not about introversion. It’s just an ordinary version of selfishness.

I’m willing to bet some extroverts, upon reading the many many MANY articles and memes that have come out of the woodwork in recent years (since introversion became “a thing”), have concluded exactly that – that introverts are using it as an excuse to be rude/antisocial/selfish.

And honestly, if I were an extrovert I’d probably be annoyed at some of the more self-righteous social media posts out there. In a total role reversal, introverts are the ones being obnoxiously loud on the internet and extroverts are kind of just chilling and letting us have our time in the spotlight. In fact, when you type “extrovert meme” into Google Images, the majority of them will actually be introvert memes! And I don’t see extroverts touting around demands like this:

Image result for introvert don't embarrass me

(Pardon the spelling mistakes; I couldn’t find one like this without them.)

Like, okay introvert friends, we are neither special snowflakes nor God’s gift to the world. Chill. We’re just people, and so are extroverts. I’m pretty sure extroverts don’t want to be embarrassed in public either, and sometimes introverts are being a little antisocial when we avoid certain interactions/outings just for the sake of preserving our own energy. (I could pick apart more from that particular meme but I think you get the idea.)

Again, back to the ideas from the NY Times article, introversion is no excuse for being rude or selfish. Because being introverted has become more mainstream, maybe people (including myself) feel justified in blowing off plans or avoiding meeting people because “I’m an introvert.” I’ve even posted about embracing shyness and realizing, for example, that it’s okay not to be good at small talk.

But the article was a good reminder not to indulge my introversion every single time, because it’s not all about me. I think introversion easily lends itself to selfishness (and laziness), much more so than extroversion, so we have to be vigilant against that. What’s comfortable isn’t always what’s best or what’s right.

Also, remember that to enjoy staying home in your pajamas and watching movies is not an indication of being introverted. Neither is being a book lover. I’m sure plenty of extroverts love doing that as well – just as many introverts have a genuinely good time hanging out with friends or socializing (once you give us a good kick in the pants to get our butts out the door, that is).

Anyway, the article was my food for thought today because I do think introverts have overcorrected a little bit, and although I find it super fun to “categorize” people’s personalities (both introversion/extroversion and the MBTI), it’s best not to be so polarizing and to just be people and try to be kind to each other. /soapbox

P.S. In spite of everything I said above, and without detracting from it, I found this chart while googling “introvert/extrovert memes” and it is the truest thing I’ve ever seen. Reading it is a visceral experience as I relive all the extended socializing I’ve ever done in my life. Consider this a guide to being out with an introvert.

Image result for introvert meme

We really do hit that peak around 1 hour, get a 2nd wind when there’s just “one more” [drink/activity/conversation] to be had, and then a slight 3rd wind when we think we see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s all downhill from there until we can get the hell out.

If you engage an introvert after that 3rd wind stage, their mental processes are slowly shutting down, so please be kind if you notice their responses becoming more and more curt and their eyes glazing over or shiftily darting around as if looking for an escape. The need for alone time becomes a desperate one akin to the need to release a full bladder. You reach a certain point where there is literally nothing else you can think about until you get relief.

Classroom woes

Yesterday, I drafted a whiny woe-is-me post.

Today, I’m glad I didn’t hit publish. [nonetheless i will now proceed with summarizing said woe-is-me post, only a bit less negatively]

Every teacher goes through work stress, from misbehaving students to lesson planning to coworker clashes to administration frustrations to fighting the counterproductive stupidities that have been embedded into the “system.” I think I can safely say literally every teacher. As an ESL teacher in Korea specifically, there is another set of frustrations related to lack of communication / language barrier and lack of power (as our role is technically a ‘guest/assistant’ teacher).

Anyway, yesterday was just one of those days.

My classroom TV/computer connection had a freak-out moment and stopped working mid-class, and my co-teachers and I were running around the school looking for an empty classroom every period until the very awesome technology teacher set up a temporary fix by plugging his laptop directly into the TV via HDMI cable.

(I am seriously so thankful for our new technology teacher; since he started working at my school just about a month ago, he’s helped me with SO many annoying technical problems in my classroom, and he’s always super prompt and cheerful, AND he can speak English! If I were the boss of something, I would hire him as my personal assistant. hahaha)

(Also, insert argument about not relying on technology in the classroom here. It’s true, but in my case and the case of many foreign teachers in Korea, using PPT makes it soooo much easier to explain vocabulary or activity/game instructions without bringing in tons of realia or pictures or relying on the Korean teacher for assistance/demonstration/translation.)

Besides the technical inconveniences, I was drained of all my energy by unmotivated students. My after-school class with the 16-yr-olds made me want to drown in a pool of my own tears afterwards. Or maybe to just yell “FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, WHAT DO YOU WANT?“, as I have now tried a wide variety of formats including non-PPT-based speaking games and activities, a pop song guessing game, Hot Seat (basically Taboo), watching a short animation and making a comic, and – yesterday’s failure of epic proportions – writing a simple “poem” using the 5 Ws (who, what, when, where, why). I have let them sit where they want and also made a seating chart to separate the chatty ones.

NOTHING. IS. WORKING.

Now that I’ve recovered from that critical hit to my pride, I’ve decided to simplify the remaining lessons as much as possible and just do what every other teacher is probably doing and hurry up and get through it.

As for today, most of it was an echo of yesterday, but at the very end, just before my final class of the day, my buddy the technology teacher saved the day yet again by bringing in a guy to fix the original computer/TV connection.

And not only was I able to use my normal classroom computer for that class, but it was one of my favorite classes, a very cheerful and polite bunch of kids. The lesson was on “I can’t believe it!”, so I showed them some weird facts (did you know the average person’s forearm is the same length as their foot?) and optical illusions. They had a very enjoyable time with those.

Just one class like that is all I need to feel that the rest of it is worth it. So this Thursday is ending happily. Even better, tomorrow is Friday AND it’s Sports Day, which means no classes and the kids will be running around outside all day, doing relay races and jump rope contests and tug-of-war.

stamina

I’m feeling rather like this today:

Just pushing through.

It’s been an extremely bumpy week.

The lows:

Monday is always a difficult day, but especially because it’s my busiest day and a day with some of my worst-behaved classes. It’s particularly frustrating for me, as someone who used to have a teaching role with total authority in the classroom and the ability to appropriately discipline students who were misbehaving, to now have almost zero power in that area. It’s unfortunate that my co-teachers often seem to have a higher tolerance for bad behavior than I do, but because their status in the hierarchy trumps mine, I can’t do anything about it.

On Wednesday I was gifted with a Korean surprise – initially I was told we were having a school-wide “open class” in the afternoon, and I foolishly assumed that meant other teachers in the area or an open house deal for the parents (which wasn’t a crazy thing for me to think since we held that type of thing last year for the parents). A bit stressful, but not that big of a deal.

BUT THEN after lunch on Wednesday I found out that it was actually a school inspection. People from the city’s office of education were coming to check out the quality of our teaching and such. This did make me feel more nervous, because by luck of the draw, the open class period happened to be one where I’d be teaching the lesson for the first time ever (i.e., no “practice” with another class).

And of course, this was the one class this semester that my planned activity totally flopped. I had wanted to just try something different, and usually even when I do try a new idea, it works out okay – but this was just that internal panic mode, rapidly-spiraling-out-of-control situation that every teacher dreads. The kids weren’t into it, they were getting restless, and I realized a couple of the questions I had prepared as part of the game were convoluted, leading them to give the wrong answer.

Thankfully, the class wasn’t filmed, and the inspectors only stayed in the room for a couple of minutes in the beginning, so no one was really witness to said disaster.

Still, it was completely and utterly demoralizing because I knew that that wasn’t my best, and even though no one actually saw the crash and burn (besides my sympathetic co-teacher), I was so disappointed and frustrated that I was near tears afterwards.

I had a double period after-school class today to make up for a missed class 2 weeks ago. The 15 kids in my class (16 yr olds) are such a mixed bag of high and low level, wanting to be there and not wanting to be there. A few of the kids spend half of the class telling me “I no English” while others are getting bored with the simple material. It’s so hard at their age because I want to / sometimes can relate to them as adults, and they have the maturity to grasp and discuss bigger topics than the 14 yr olds, but at the same time they are still kids and they just want to go home.

I’ve honestly had my hands full all semester trying to think of activities that I can modify for different levels or things that will engage all of them, with moderate to weak success. It’s freaking HARD to please a group of teenagers, man.

Today was particularly difficult due to the double period and the fact that while outside is cool, inside is sun-baked like an oven. It was okay in the end, because I purposely saved a K-pop/American pop song game for the end of the second period when I knew their patience would be wearing thin, but overall it was just a draining and soul-sucking experience. (heh heh, kidding, mostly)

The highs:

There are two boys assigned as greeters this semester, so they stand at the gate every morning to say hello to every student and teacher that enters. They are two of my faves for their cheerful attitudes in and out of class (in spite of their English skills being quite low). Every single morning, I turn the corner past the gates and am met with a boisterous “HELLO MADDY TEACHER! WELCOME TO [OUR MIDDLE SCHOOL]!” and occasionally an “I love you.” Today, one of the boys added, “Eat breakfast?” It’s very cute and it means so much to me to be able to start the day like that.

I discovered this note on my desk when I entered my classroom a few minutes before the bell. No clue as to who wrote it, but it made me smile. Also, I should really teach the kids how to spell my name, as so far I’ve only seen “Meddy” and “Mady.”

20161007_180024

(Yes, that is an earthquake disaster information sheet beneath the note. Korea got a bit freaked out by the chain of earthquakes in September.)

 

I played a ‘Family Feud’ style game with the 1st graders, in which they guessed the top survey answers for questions like ‘favorite food,’ ‘favorite movie,’ ‘best drama,’ etc. (Back in August, I think I mentioned I had surveyed all the students at my school with these questions, compiled them, and created this game, because it’s more fun for the kids to guess their peers’ answers than random strangers’ answers.)

Anyway, we didn’t have time to finish all the questions before the bell rang, but a few boys lingered behind and asked if they could click on all the remaining questions to reveal the answers. It was just a cute moment as one boy clicked away and a few of his friends crowded around the TV, laughing, scoffing, or exclaiming in surprise as the top answers were revealed. Any time one of them gives up their precious break time to linger and interact with me or ask to see what we didn’t have time for in a game is touching to me.

So now here I am, 5:50 p.m., about to leave work and so, so, so thankful that it’s Friday.

Life takes stamina.

Physical stamina, yes, but also mental and emotional and spiritual stamina. It’s certainly important to build those up as much as you would your physical stamina. Push through those hard times the way you would push through a tough workout, and have faith that on the other side, you’ll come out stronger, and things will get better.

I’m not saying my own problems are so horrible; for the most part, I’m just being a baby. But I want to remind myself that all these small hurdles and frustrations and fears are chances to build my stamina, not as a body, but as a human soul.

So, to close out the week, I’ll just leave this here. Song of the week (month? year?).

Don’t give up, I won’t give up

I got stamina

i’m alive and stuff.

thinking about explaining why i haven’t blogged makes me want to close my browser, so let’s just strike while the iron is hot (at 11:58pm on a monday… okay…) and ignore the fact that it’s been MORE THAN A MONTH. I SKIPPED SEPTEMBER.

that’s fine with me. september wasn’t so great.

On a different note (which deserves proper capitalization and punctuation), when I reentered the blogging arena tonight I discovered I was nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award by the very lovely Adina (check out her blog, unfiltered freckles!). I’m honored and grateful (and also feel bad because it’s been several weeks since she posted the nomination, and those were the weeks that I didn’t have the motivation to even check my WordPress feed).

The rules are to nominate 10-15 other lovely blogs – which I will try to remember to do at some point (but this is just my ‘I’m still here’ post, and honestly I haven’t been reading many blogs lately) – and to list 7 facts about myself.

I’ll try to list things that I haven’t previously brought up (or beaten to death) about myself in other posts. Like, ‘yeah, we know Maddy, you’re all introverted and hypochondriatic and stuff. cool story.’

  1. i have a playlist of certain music videos that i watch when i’m in the mood to cry (among them are “Set Fire to the Third Bar” by Snow Patrol & Martha Wainwright, the acoustic “Thinking of You” by Katy Perry,  and “Elastic Heart” by Sia). please tell me i’m not the only one? (i mean, not necessarily with those songs, but just having a crying playlist. it’s healthy to cry for no reason once in a while.)
  2. i once lightly tossed my hairbrush towards my bed because i was apparently, in that moment, too lazy to put it down somewhere like a normal person, and my Herculean strength overthrew that thing straight into the window and cracked it. actually, that was a few months ago and my window still has a spiderweb crack in it. ooooops. welp, that’ll be coming out of my housing deposit.
  3. living in a perceived mess, or things appearing dirty or unkempt around me, causes me a great amount of stress.
  4. when i was young, i was a voracious consumer of books, i thought i loved dogs, and i thought fruit snacks were disgusting. now i am 26, i can’t remember the last time i picked up a physical book, i know that i’m not fond of dogs, and i quite enjoy fruit snacks. weird how life does that to you. (and yes, i am an adult and i eat fruit snacks. don’t judge. they’re made with real fruit juice.)
  5. when i’m nervous or stressed, i pick the skin around my nails. that poor skin will probably never know wholeness.
  6. a couple weeks ago, i went to see Sully with my 3rd year girls’ English reading club (it was after the midterm test, so all the clubs had some kind of special activity in the afternoon, and we were the lucky ones who got to see a movie). It was amazing and I highly, highly recommend it. i cried (speaking of crying).
  7. Good Mythical Morning (Rhett & Link) is my favorite thing on the internet, and almost my favorite thing anywhere.

it is now 12:41 am and i should definitely be sleeping.

so, yeah. anyway.

i’m alive, and stuff.