Let the holiday begin

We’ve made it, in one piece, to our glorious 10-day holiday.

Yesterday the principal strolled by at the end of the day and I showed him how to lock the English classroom doors. He gave me a thumbs up. As I bowed and turned to leave, he said “Bye!”, catching me off-guard. When I stammered “bye,” he asked if I can speak Korean, and chuckled benevolently(?) at my “조금만요 (just a little bit).” I consider this progress.

This morning one of the P.E. teachers greeted me at the school gate, as he always does, “Maddy! Have a beautiful* day!” I answered, as I always do, “Thank you, you too!”, but today he added “추석 잘 보내세요 (have a nice Chuseok [Thanksgiving])!”

*He likes to switch up the adjectives, so sometimes it’s wonderfulgreatfantastic, etc. Then he turns to any students who happen to be walking in and says in Korean “Hey, I’m pretty good at English, huh?”

The 2nd and 3rd graders finished their midterm exams this morning. I had one class with the 1st graders (who don’t have exams in the 2nd semester), and we played a trivia game. Even my occasionally-crotchety elderly co-teacher cracked a few jokes with the kids. Definitely a pleasant anticipatory mood in the air.

The weather is so cool today that I’d almost feel chilly if I weren’t from a state where we know how to handle bitter winters. My students and coworkers are already bundling up in sweatshirts and jackets and I haven’t even pulled out a long-sleeved top yet. “Teacher, not cold?” No, but I’m living for every crisp gust of goosebump-inducing air.

In two days we begin what is in my mind undoubtedly the most beautiful and magical month of the year.

Today, for this one moment if nothing more, all is well.

“I’m so glad I live in a world

where there are Octobers.”

– Anne of Green Gables

 

Advertisements

For my parents

It’s Parents’ Day in Korea today, Monday, May 8th. Mother’s and Father’s Day are coming up soon in the U.S. too.

My family and extended family (if I may speak for the majority of them, at least on one side) aren’t too big on expressing our emotions to each other. We’re not into that mushy gushy stuff. (Okay, Mom, maybe you are.)

But as I continue living on my own as an adult, I keep thinking of things that I want to say to my parents (but would probably most likely definitely 100% never say in person because it’s too mushy and weird. and also, it would take too long).

So, Mom and Dad, this is for you. Consider it your Parents’ Day gift. Because as you both know, I can express myself much better in writing.

Dad:

Thank you for always working hard to take care of our family, from providing everything we need to immediately fixing all the little things that get broken from time to time.

Thank you for instilling in me a work ethic so strong that, like you, I’m kind of a workaholic (in a good way). You taught me by example to go the extra mile, to work until something is finished and not just drop everything the minute I’m off the clock, to be a person that other people can count on to get things done. Now I understand what a valuable skill that is.

Thank you for teaching me how to keep my living space clean and to take care of the small details, like wiping up that little spot I notice on the counter right away and putting away my clean laundry as soon as it’s ready – even if sometimes it involved calling me back to re-clean the kitchen after “inspection” or insisting that I pick up my clothes right now. Every time I take care of these little things, every time I multitask on my chores for maximum efficiency, and especially when I wipe down the faucet and the sink to make them all shiny, I think of you, and I’m grateful.

Thank you for filling our house with all kinds of music and with “old movies.” Even if it makes us snobs, I don’t care because I can’t imagine growing up without Louis Armstrong or BB King or Cary Grant or Katherine Hepburn or the Marx Brothers or Alfred Hitchcock… (etc. etc.) For the rest of my life these things will bring back happy memories of our family coming together for music parties and movie nights.

Mom:

Thank you for being the sweetest, kindest, most thoughtful person, wife, and mother possible (and in doing so, giving me an amazing example of all the above). I have a long way to go before I could ever be as selfless as you are. Practically everything you’ve done ever since I can remember has been for the family, for us kids, or to help other people – not for yourself. I hope I can be like that someday for my own family. (But you deserve to focus on yourself too, Mom! <3)

Thank you for literally being the main provider of all of my education from the time I was born until I went to college. I’m so grateful for the richness and variety of our curriculum, for Latin and Roman mythology and Greek plays and grammar and diagramming sentences and all the other subjects that I probably complained about doing at the time. (But if I ever have to read and respond to that “Schemes of Life Often Illusory” essay again, I might scream. Sometimes little wisps of it float around in my head and threaten to drive me crazy.)

Thank you for also (like Dad) teaching me to properly clean a living space. Don’t take this the wrong way, but every time I scrub the toilet I think of you because every time I’m making my bathroom squeaky clean, I’m thinking of how glad I am that you taught me to be thorough and clean regularly. At the time, I wasn’t too crazy about the “proper order” for cleaning a toilet, but now, as I carry out these habits that have been instilled in me for years, I’m so so glad.

Mom and Dad:

Thank you for teaching me about the Catholic faith through words and through example. Thank you for taking us to church every Sunday, for making sure we prayed together every single night before dinner, for having long conversations about what our faith means, for simply incorporating the faith into daily life and not leaving it as just a Sunday thing. Thank you for teaching us about God in a real way, not a superficial or “lite” way. Some of the things you’ve said and the examples you’ve shown about what it means to follow Christ will always stay with me, for the rest of my life.

Thank you for giving me a beautiful example of marriage. You’ve stuck together through thick and thin, sickness and health, richer and poorer, and I truly hope that someday I will have a relationship as faithful and strong with my future husband.

Thank you for creating a strong, loving, fun family. Thank you for setting a tone of laughter and love and support from my earliest memories up to today. Thank you for setting up boundaries and sheltering us just enough to let us enjoy a safe, innocent, unpressured-to-grow-up-faster childhood. Thank you for encouraging us to do things to stretch and challenge ourselves. Thank you for knowing when to push and when to step back. Thank you for giving us the tools and skills we need to be competent, capable, good adults.

I’m no longer embarrassed or annoyed by you, as was the case for a lot of my teenage years. I’m really proud that you’re my parents.

I love you.

Oh, and one more thing…

Thank you for passing on your cool, smart, awesome genes to my siblings and me.

(Mom, don’t cry, okay? Dad, don’t make a joke about cool jeans and cool genes, okay?)

A Musical Profile

Having contemplated music a couple days ago in passing, I decided to frankenstein this tag together from various “music tag” questions around the internet as a more interesting way for me to write about my own musical preferences.

I’m sure my tastes are a bit polarizing since I tend to stay within a very specific sound and emotional range (i.e. melancholy, grey*, pensive, perhaps existential, angsty and/or lovelorn indie pop & folk). Not that I don’t listen to other stuff, but that’s my home base as it were.

I’m not trying to take myself too seriously here. I’m no music connoisseur. I just like doing these tags, and have ever since my friends and I used to forward them back and forth via email, when that was a thing like 15 years ago. Now they just float around Facebook and YouTube and annoy people, but come on, we all secretly want to fill them out, right?

1. Favorite bands/artists:

Bands: Bastille, Sea Wolf, Walk Off the Earth.

Artists: Gabrielle Aplin, Ingrid Michaelson, Kimbra, Regina Spektor, Sia, Ron Pope.

2. One band you always come back to:

The Beatles.

3. Favorite movie Korean drama soundtrack:

City Hunter, Playful Kiss, and Master’s Sun.

4. What is/are your favorite song(s) of all time?

Since I can’t choose one or even a few, here are my Top 10 at the moment (in no particular order and I’ll probably change my mind later):

5. What was the last song you listened to?

“The Anchor” by Bastille

6. Most embarrassing song on your iTunes:

Ashley Tisdale 😂😂😂

7. Top 3 most played songs on your iTunes:

I no longer have iTunes on my computer, but if I recall correctly from before I came to Korea:

  • “All You Had To Do Was Stay” by Taylor Swift
  • “October Trees” by Ron Pope
  • “Things We Lost in the Fire” by Bastille

8. Favorite concert you’ve attended:

I have never attended a concert. *oops*

9. First album you ever bought?

I think it was “With The Beatles” on CD.

10. Favorite album of all time?

“Human Again”, “Everybody”, or “Girls and Boys” by Ingrid Michaelson. “Bad Blood” by Bastille. “English Rain” by Gabrielle Aplin. Was I supposed to just pick one?

11. Favorite song that is also the only song you know by that band/artist?

“The Daylight” by Andrew Belle“So Cold” by Ben Cocks, “Where To Now” by Cider Sky, “C’mon Through” by Lasse Lindh.

12. Do you share any musical tastes with your parents? Does it put you off when they like the same music as you?

When I was a teenager, of course I tried to avoid liking the same music as my parents. But considering the wide variety of genres and artists that they introduced me to, especially my dad, we inevitably have some overlap with each other, and I’m finally mature enough to think that’s nice. My mom and I like Taylor Swift (no hate please), and my dad liked Sia way before she was cool. Just as an example.

13. Three favorite genres of music?

Indie pop, indie folk, singer-songwriter (that counts, okay?).

14. Favorite guilty pleasure music?

Avril Lavigne, Vanessa Carlton, ’90s and ’00s pop to remind me of growing up.

15. If you had to choose a song to listen to forever, what would it be?

If this question means only being able to listen to one song, but I can choose when to listen to it: “Strip Me” by Natasha Bedingfield.

“But Maddy, that isn’t even on your Top 10!” No, but my Top 10 songs are all kinda woeful and moody, and if I can only listen to one song for the rest of my life it’d better be something that can pick my spirits up and motivate me.

But if this means I’d have to listen to it on repeat, nonstop, no respite, forever: 4’33” by John Cage.


As I alluded to at the start of this post, the trouble with music is the same as the reason it’s so amazing: it’s different for every person. Each of us experiences music in a totally unique way, and therefore listening to someone else talk about their taste in music is never quite as fun as talking about your own taste in music… or simply experiencing your own taste in music.

Therefore feel free to answer these questions yourself in the comments (I’d be interested!) or on your own blog or in your own head or whatever. Whatever works for you.


*I spell grey the British way because that spelling seems more true to the color than gray. Grey is more grey than gray.

today is…

…the first snow. Snow! In Daegu! I honestly hadn’t expected to see snow much at all this winter, much less in November. But in the middle of a class, one of the kids yelled, “Teacher, snowing!” And we all cheered and clapped and dashed to the windows and opened them and had a mini celebration for the snow.

My co-teacher told me that in Korea, couples usually make promises to meet on the day of the first snow. So romantic.

…the first day that I wore my new winter coat, which I was pleasantly surprised to find warm and cozy. You know, you can never really know how good a winter coat will be until you try it out in the cold.

…teaching one particularly hilarious class that always tries to guess what the textbook answers will be before listening to the CD dialogues (with uncanny accuracy), then insists, “Teacher we are smart!” (and this is their argument against listening to any dialogue more than once).

…instructing my students that the correct spelling of “vampire” is not, in fact, B-A-M-F-I-R-E. Although Bamfire is a pretty badass monster name too.

…realizing that I have a fully fluent kid in one of my classes who lived in America for awhile. I wish my co-teachers would tell me about these kids in advance, because they’ve gotta be bored at times when I’m explaining over and over about stuff that comes naturally to them, and I think if I can have some full-speed conversations with them, it will help. In my experience, though, the fluent/American-born kids (I’ve had about 4 that I know of) tend to stay really quiet for fear of being labeled a show-off.

…this conversation:

Me: “With your partner, you will write step-by-step instructions for how to do something. It can be anything, like how to draw something, how to make ramen…”

14-yr-old boy: “How to make a baby!”

I strongly advised him against this topic and moved on to help another student. When I returned to his desk a few minutes later, he said “Teacher, sorry, sorry. Korean teacher punish me.” His new topic was “How to be a good student.” LOL.

…discovering these lovely works of art by Puuung, who happens to be a Korean artist living in Seoul. I’m now desperately searching for a way to purchase prints, because this is something I would actually want to hang on my wall.

Much like with poetry, I’m rather picky about art (with no valid reason to be, since I’m neither an artist myself nor an art expert). Works that speak to me are few and far between, but Puuung’s “Love is…” collection is 100% my style.

Such a sweet, simple depiction of life and love. Her work tells a story – a peaceful, slow-moving, happy story. It feels like both something to aspire to and something totally achievable by a normal human.

The colors, the whimsy, the realness, the setting. I’m obsessed.

A few of my favorites (click to enlarge):

But there are so many more (100+!) on Puuung’s Grafolio page, so you can check them out for yourself.

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall”

My favorite quote, and the only quote I remember, from Great Gatsby. In my mind, the only one worth storing in long-term memory. (Sorry to any Gatsby aficionados out there; I wasn’t a fan.)

Autumn has come to Korea. The weather has been mostly beautiful, the leaves are changing colors, and the days have slipped by quietly without me really noticing. It’s already been almost 2 weeks since my last post.

You know how it goes… things happen, students say stuff, and it’s cute or funny or sweet, but then I don’t write about it because other things take priority, or because maybe I would’ve written about it 5 months ago, but now it’s just sort of par for the course as an ESL teacher here.

So now I will endeavor to give an all-encompassing update of what’s gone on in the last twoish weeks, for anyone who cares to read such things:

— I said goodbye to the delightful 1st graders at my main school and this week started teaching the 2nd graders. As such, by the end of the week I finally will have been introduced to all the students at that school (in total, about 880). I find the 2nd graders to lie somewhere between 1st and 3rd in terms of energy and motivation, but sadly leaning towards 3rd grade in enthusiasm (or rather, lack thereof).

To my 1st graders, everything I said was exciting and great. Every lesson I taught was fun and easy. There were no “pulling teeth” moments, none of those dreadful silences as I stand at the front, sweating wildly and waiting for the volunteer hand that will never be raised. There were no sleepers, no bored or exasperated looks. They were all eager to try and do and speak and learn.

I feel as though this goes beyond the fact that they are still young and prehormonal; this is a particularly all-around smart and nice group of kids, and I know what a blessing and rarity that is for teachers across the board. I miss them.

The 2nd graders have most definitely hit puberty and are caught in its raging throes. (Is that even a thing? Can a person be caught in throes? Whatever. They are, okay?) Attitudes, insecurities, egos, reproductive urges, and self-consciousness are coming out in full force, in a strange contradictory blend. They’re still good kids, though; I’m just going to have to work harder for their attention and their respect.

— Today one of the 3rd grade girls came to visit me in my office. She lived in America before and can speak fluent English. I was happy to see her, but still couldn’t help feeling shocked when this steady stream came out of a Korean student’s mouth: “Oh my gosh, okay, um, so like I was wondering if you could do me a favor – I like suck so much at writing, and I’m doing this speech contest…” She has the inflection, fillers, and slang that, without living in an English-speaking country, it’s nearly impossible for an L2 learner to achieve. It’s nice to be able to talk to her using natural speed and vocabulary. Basically, she asked me to proofread her speech and make suggestions, which I’m happy to do.

— Two boys in one of the 2nd grade classes, during my intro lesson today, insisted that their names are Tony Stark and Harry Potter. And so Tony Stark and Harry Potter they shall be.

— Now I am fighting the urge to merely “Save Draft” and let this sit in my drafts box until I realize how inane and repetitive and dull this post is and delete it.

Actually, I’m hoping to write a post very soon about how my perspective has shifted after living here for 8 months (basically, recognizing the pros and cons of life in Korea rather than just the pros). We’ll see!

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!

O, Children

Not to be confused with the wonderful song of the same name by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – which, in case you’re wondering why it sounds familiar, was featured in the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 movie.

In a pretty infamous scene, I might add: the Harry and Hermione dance. Most HP fans hated it because it was not canon. Personally, I love that scene. I love JK Rowling and I love HP, but I highly disagree with the Harry-Ginny / Hermione-Ron pairings. Sorry to all you diehard Ron & Hermione shippers out there.

And completely aside from all that, the scene is beautiful in its own right. I love the atmosphere, the lighting, the music (of course), and the fact that they don’t have to speak a word yet manage to convey such strong emotion. It’s really lovely. It’s also a bit meta – we, the audience, experience a little interlude in the action and plot, just as Harry and Hermione experience an interlude from the stress, heartache, and exhaustion. A bright spot in the dreary hopelessness and fear.

Anyway, my kids have been giving me plenty of laughs today. We’re doing an advice lesson for 1st grade, and they are getting quite creative with their advice. Here are some of the best.

Me: “When it’s good advice, you can say ‘OK, that’s a good idea!’ or ‘Thanks.’ But what can you say when it’s bad advice?”

Student: “Shut up!”

I suppose that’s a valid response. (No, he was not actually telling me to shut up.)

I was walking them through some examples of problems and advice so they could get the hang of it before creating their own problems and advice with a partner. Then this happened.

Me: “Here’s a problem: He says, ‘I have an English test tomorrow. I’m worried.’” (I showed them a picture of a stressed-out student who happened to have a very short buzz cut.)

Student: “You have no hair!”

Me: “Okay, but give him advice! Why don’t you…”

Student: “Why don’t you have hair?”

LOL. It’s even grammatically correct.

Another scenario:

Me: “Her problem is ‘My friend is angry at me.'”

Student: “Why don’t you hit her?”

In pairs, they would write a problem and then their partner would write some advice. These are my faves.

Problem: “I lost my sweetness.”

Advice: “EWWWWW.”

Problem: “I lost my beauty.”

Advice: “Don’t worry, I have it.”

Problem: “I’m too handsome.”

Advice: “Why don’t you look in the mirror?”

Problem: “I have no money.”

Advice: “Why don’t you steal your mom’s money?”

Problem: “(Name) is falling in love with me.”

Advice: “That’s not possible. Why don’t you go to the hospital?”

*Please note, the student giving the advice was the student named in the problem. Guess he wasn’t interested.

Problem: “I have no friends at school.”

Advice: “Me too.”

Problem: “I’m lost!”

Advice: “Why don’t you call your mommy?”

And the last one was when I asked them to stand and present their problems and advice.

Student (reading problem): “I’m (mumblemumble).”

Co-teacher (repeating in a louder voice for the class to hear): “I’m cute.”

Student: *horrified look* “Short! Teacher, I’m SHORT! Short!” (gesturing wildly)

He was evidently deeply insulted that my CT insinuated that he was cute.

My other highlight of the day was when I dropped by my co-teacher’s office on the 3rd graders’ floor. A few groups of 3rd graders were passing by, but they stopped when they saw me and cried, “Teacher! Hi! Long time no see! I miss you! How are you?” They took a minute of their break time to chat with me. Oh goodness, I miss those kids. Even though teaching them was like 10x more difficult than teaching 1st grade. I miss them.

A day for the Milky Way and lovers’ tears

Today is Chilseok (칠석), a day which celebrates a pretty, ethereal folk tale about young love, and which marks the end of the brutal heat and the coming of the rain. (Thank God.)

Google’s lovely rendition of the Chilseok story

According to the old story – and there are, of course, many variations in the telling – the beautiful daughter of a king (I guess some sort of heavenly-being-king, not a normal human) falls in love with a poor shepherd boy. Her father is displeased with this match and orders the two lovers to live far apart – very, very far apart. He sends the shepherd boy to live on the other side of the Milky Way. Talk about an overprotective dad, huh.

The two lovers are obviously heartbroken, and they cry and cry and their tears flood the land. (The rain at this time of year is said to be their tears.)

Finally the father caves and says they can see each other just once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th month in the lunar calendar (which explains why Chilseok is not on July 7th). In order for the two to reach each other across the Milky Way, all the crows and magpies fly up and create a bridge for the lovers to walk on and reach each other in the middle of the Milky Way on that special day.

Isn’t that such a beautiful image? Two young lovers walking across a bird bridge and meeting amongst the stars.

Fittingly enough, it rained today.

I love the rain.

Here are a couple more beautiful artistic interpretations of the story from two talented DeviantArt artists. (Japan and China also each have their own version of this legend, so some drawings reflect those stories rather than the Korean one.)

By taka0801 on DeviantArt

By AnHellica on DeviantArt

GIF attack (Korean Men edition)

This post is just me indulging myself with some Korean eye candy through the wonderful magic of GIFs. Because I want to. Because Monday.

Click through if you dare…

(Ladies, beware… once you enter the realm of Korean-guys-being-cute-GIFs, it’s hard to leave… and from there you’re only a small step away from being sucked into the addicting vortex of K-dramas. You have been warned.)

Continue reading

Art in short films

Happy Monday!

I’m always searching for high quality short animations with little to no dialogue that I can use in my classes for various activities. Today I stumbled across some really lovely films that are more art than animation. I doubt I’ll be using them with my classes (most of my kids aren’t quite at the level to be discussing complex themes and ideas), but I thought I might as well share them here.

“Gravity” by Ailin Liu

I love the ambiance and art style. The description says the piece is about “temptation and addiction.” If you’ve ever experienced struggling to resist a temptation of any kind (which I suspect most of us have), perhaps you can relate. The only thing I wish I could change about it (me being my optimistic self) would be the girl taking a stand against the temptation in the end, instead of being whisked away (consumed?) by it. Although I suppose that’s sort of the harsh reality about some addictions.

“Thought of You” by Ryan Woodward

Sweet and sad. The song is beautiful and the animation style is beautifully simple. I think it’s so cool to combine four art forms – drawing, animation, dance, and music – into one piece.

“BLIK” by Bastiaan Schravendeel, Jean-Paul Tossings, Sander Kamermans, and Piebe van der Storm

A bit longer and a very different style from the previous two, but I like it. I enjoy the choice to leave the characters’ faces blank; instead of reading the emotions plainly from their expressions, we absorb those emotions from the body language and the context. I also think the blank faces give it more of an artsy feel, rather than a cartoony feel. (And perhaps also give the viewer a bit of a blank canvas, so the emotions are open to individual, subjective interpretation.) And the story is so cute and relatable. Young unrequited love.

There are many more similar animations on that YouTube channel, Mad Artist Publishing, but these three were my favorites of the ones I watched.

That’s all, folks. I’m back to grading speaking tests. Enjoy your Monday, and I hope some of these animations give you a little upliftedness.