hello, fall

November has been outshining October this year on the autumn beauty scale.

My kids have been outshining their former selves on the behavior scale as well.

I have no idea what prompted it, but hey, I’ll take it. I’m halfway through a week of (relatively) polite, attentive, mild-mannered classes. Teachers say the full moon makes kids go crazy, but since mine were already there, maybe Monday’s supermoon had the reverse effect.

Started a Thanksgiving lesson today. I was tentative about having them make “hand turkeys” like most of us did in elementary school, worried that 15-year-olds would dismiss the craft as childish and boring – but to my surprise they got into it, painstakingly tracing their hands, detailing the turkey’s face, wings, and feet, and carefully writing what they were thankful for on the “feathers”. And contrary to what happens with most worksheets or handouts I give them, not a single one was left behind, crumpled, or thrown out after class. I’d consider that a win.

Tomorrow is the Korean SAT (수능), the university entrance exam that senior high school students have literally been studying for all year. I pray there won’t be any suicides. The already-high rates tend to spike during the week of 수능 as teenagers who have had it pounded into their heads for almost 18 years that their lives are worthless without {good SAT score -> good university -> good career} make the terrible and heartbreaking decision to end their lives. The stress and shame of receiving a poor score can actually be that horribly overwhelming in Korea. It’s a very deep societal problem.

A really sweet, kind 3rd grade student recently told a co-teacher and I that he was applying to a technical high school. He was really excited about it, but a week later he came to tell us that he failed the entrance test (yes, even high schools have entrance exams here) and was therefore giving up on going to high school entirely (which is legal). My co-teacher and I urged him to keep trying with other schools. Today he once again visited our office and told my CT in Korean that he wouldn’t give up. She told him to tell me in English. “Teacher… I no high school,” he said. “Ah! No. I won’t give up high school.”

The best part of every Wednesday is that my last class of the day includes one of the sweetest students in this school. He is a 15-year-old with autism/Asperger’s, always kind, always tries to participate in class, and always stays after class to clean my classroom, meticulously straighten the desks and pick up scraps of paper. As the year has progressed, we’ve formed a good relationship even though he can’t speak English super well. He doesn’t let the language barrier stop him from communicating with me.

Today he slowly but surely explained the bus system to me, including which bus companies run in our area, the bus numbers, and that on weekdays, the bus stop in front of [Apartment Name] has many people, but on weekends, it has not many people. Then, as always, he asked for my approval: “English Zone is… to clean… good?” and only left after receiving my thumbs up and “Yes, very nice! Thank you!”

autumn night.jpg

walking home from school, 5:59 p.m.

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