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

 

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Beauty and Korea

It’s not exactly a hidden aspect of modern Korean culture: looks matter here. Even more than in the Western world, beauty is favored and beautiful people enjoy elevated social status, the admiration of those around them, greater leniency around making mistakes, and various other benefits. (Seriously.)

Having a “high nose” (meaning, basically, a Western-looking nose with a higher bridge) is considered beautiful.

Pale skin is considered beautiful.

“Double eyelids” (the extra fold or crease over the eye, as opposed to the “monolids” that Koreans have naturally) are considered beautiful.

Hair that is naturally a color other than black and eyes that are naturally a color other than brown are considered beautiful – mostly because they stand out in a largely homogeneous culture.

It’s sad that so many of the traits that are considered ideal are ones that Koreans are not naturally born with (i.e. the “high” nose, the double eyelids, the hair and eye color), which leads to the high rate of plastic surgery for things like nose reconstruction and creating “double eyelids.” (That’s not to say that natural Korean traits are not considered beautiful, but there is this prevalence of idealizing a more Western look.)

It should also be noted that I fit the bill as a Westerner, and traits that get me no attractiveness mileage in America (such as rather large nose and pale skin) earn lots of compliments here.

As a result, sometimes, it’s like we’re having this conversation from The Swan Princess… every. single. day. And not only with my students, but sometimes even with adults.

is beauty all that matters to you

Derek (Korea): “You’re all I ever wanted! You’re beautiful!”
Odette (Me): “Thank you. But what else?”
Derek (Korea): “What else?”
Odette (Me): “Is beauty all that matters to you?”
Derek (Korea): “What else… is there?”
Me: *internal sigh of despair*

Mood

Teaching.

Confident.

Inspired.

Relaxed.

Happy.

Spring.

Light.

This has been my mood over the last few weeks. Mood isn’t just a feeling like ‘sad’ or ‘happy’. There are so many components to mood. And since I’m taking the liberty of defining it broadly…

AMC’s The Walking Dead.

A bit late to the party, I’m a few episodes into Season 4 now and my hypochondria has me 1000x more terrified of [what happens at the start of Season 4] than the zombies I’m supposed to be scared of. I’m that person who can’t watch any type of horror because undoubtedly I will spend the next 2 weeks lying in bed at night in stark fear with all the lights on, trying to push that darkness away from my mind.

But for me, zombie stories get a pass because at its core, a good zombie story is about human psychology, weakness, strength, good, evil, faith, hope, love, the struggle for survival and/vs. morality.

The fundamental premise of a well-crafted zombie saga is something that applies even to our mundane (and thankfully zombie-less) lives: It’s not about whether you live or die; it’s about what you do with the time you have left. Can you hold on to your sense of right and wrong in the face of stark fear? Can you remain kind and good and human (in a spiritual sense) while every day is a physical, mental, and emotional fight for survival? Can you remain open and helpful to the people around you, even if you’ve lost everything? And can you really blame the ones that don’t or can’t do all those things?

The Walking Dead delivers on all of that immensely.

It’s brutal, relentless, chilling, heartbreaking, poignant, beautiful, and inspiring.

daryl

The real MVP. Love him. Also, I googled this image at my own risk while carefully guarding my eyes against spoilers.

First Aid Kit. (Which, incidentally, pairs well with Walking Dead. Matching moods.) They’re a Swedish sister duo singing American-style folk/country music. It’s so melancholy. I love melancholy.

More specifically, this is my mood these days:

What if our hard work ends in despair?
What if the road won’t take me there?
Oh, I wish, for once, we could stay gold

What if to love and be loved’s not enough?
What if I fall and can’t bear to get up?
Oh, I wish, for once, we could stay gold
We could stay gold

(The song references this poem.)

And also:

I don’t know if I’m scared of dying
But I’m scared of living too fast, too slow

Regret, remorse, hold on, oh no I’ve got to go
There’s no starting over, no new beginnings
Time races on
And you’ve just gotta keep on keeping on

Something good comes with the bad
A song’s never just sad
There’s hope, there’s a silver lining
Show me my silver lining

I hear a voice calling
Calling out for me
These shackles I’ve made in an attempt to be free
Be it for reason, be it for love
I won’t take the easy road


postscript. where have i been? after my trip to america last month, i resolved not to blog anymore. the main reason was blogging felt whimsical and unnecessarily vulnerable while i was surrounded by my old life, i guess. it felt silly. so i put it aside.

but today i was brimming with this mood that made me want to write. so, maybe i’ll blog again. maybe.

sunset-gyeongju

Sometimes, the Land of the Morning Calm really is calm.

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.

bright spots on a gloomy monday

On Mondays, I fear for my vocal cords.

(vocal nodules are sometimes called ‘teacher’s nodules’, you know)

But there are always bright spots, and today there were these:

  • A very small, very brief smile from a very sullen girl who hasn’t given me the time of day all year
  • This interaction during an offering/asking for food lesson:

Me: What would you like?

Girl:(wraps both arms around my hips from her seated position) I would like a boyfriend.

(turns to her male desk mate) Will you marry me?

(upon no response from him, turns to her other male desk mate, completely unfazed) Will you marry me?

Maybe that kind of unshakable confidence and hopefulness is what we all need on a Monday.

sunset.jpg

from my office window, 5:28 p.m.

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)

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

grateful

I had a housewarming party today.

The party consisted of my two closest co-teachers and myself. They pretty much invited themselves over, which is totally cool because they’re the best. I’m most comfortable with them out of any of my coworkers here.

I will say, though, that my apartment has never been cleaner.

(in the process I found a spider in the corner of my closet. 10 minutes, a rolled-up newspaper, and half a Kleenex box later, the issue was resolved but I spent the next 15 minutes googling and image searching “venomous spiders Korea” just in case. (it wasn’t deadly.) (regardless, I then had a case of the creepy crawlies for the next 20 minutes.))

Anyway, they arrived at 7 p.m. and brought gifts: dishes and tissues and laundry detergent (the latter two are traditional Korean housewarming gifts).

We ate jjimdak (which is NOT evil fish jjim, but a mildly spicy chicken, potato, carrot, and onion stew which is delicious – picture at link) and strawberries and cinnamon cake and chatted for over 3 hours. One of these two women no longer works at my school, so we caught up on her school and compared notes re: students, coworkers, schedules, principals and vice principals. We talked about how school went last year. About our stress. Our insecurities. Our future goals.

These women are 10+ years older than me, but somehow – and this is where the gratitude comes in – the three of us have formed this friendship of sorts.

[[In Korean culture, it is actually impossible to be “friends” with someone who is not the exact same age as you. You can be “close” with them, but the Korean word 친구 (chingu) is only for people born the same year as yourself. If there is an age difference, even of just a year, you have to use different titles to refer to them rather than the word “friend.”]]

But anyway, as we sat cross-legged on my floor eating strawberries and chatting up a storm, I just kept reflecting on how grateful I am for them. They are two amazing women: kind, strong, honest, smart, considerate, and very supportive of me in and out of school.

As the night came to an end, we shared mutual relief that tomorrow is Sunday, not Monday, and promised to try to meet once a month like this amid our busy schedules.

so.

i am grateful.

the end.

emotional rollercoasters

*Alert, alert: This post contains sentimental rambling and is outrageously long. If you dislike, please click away now. You have been warned.*

This is the last day of classes for the 2nd semester, 2015.

All my creative and productive juices have been spent.

All my candy has been handed out (except a few stale Twix and MyChews).

All my brain power is fizzling out.

I can’t muster the energy to search for even one more GIF, write even one more lesson plan, create even one more worksheet.

This is not the time to be riding rollercoasters of any kind, especially not emotional ones.

And yet, here I am, heart soaring to the top of joy and plunging down into the depths of sadness, because…

Today is also the last day I will ever teach at my main school.

I’m remembering my first day of teaching at this school just about 10 months ago, and how completely overwhelmed and out-of-place I was that day. How the 3rd graders towered over me like giants. How they cheered and clapped when I walked into their classrooms for the first time. How difficult it was to connect with them beyond just “Hello, I’m the new foreign teacher and you’re my new students.”

I’m remembering the first couple months and how some days felt like pulling teeth and yet some kids were always such day-brighteners, and I would get home sometimes and laugh and cry almost at the same time.

I’m remembering how I had no clue how to teach Korean students for a good long while. In fact, I’m not so sure I have a clue even now, but I do know that I’ve improved at least.

I’m remembering how deeply I ended up caring about my 3rd graders by the end of the 1st semester, and what great rapport we had (something I haven’t quite been able to replicate with 1st and 2nd). How even now, half a year later, I can recall the faces and personalities from each class. Even now, I miss them and wish I could teach them again.

And I’m remembering how I coasted through the first part of 2nd semester by teaching the amazing 1st graders, who were eager to learn, attentive, smart, sweet, and hilarious – a teacher’s nearly-impossible dream. And how I miss them too, and all the energy they gave me during class.

And now we come to today, when I’ve just finished saying goodbye to my 2nd grade classes. To be honest, we probably have the weakest relationship out of the three grades I taught this year because I only had them for 9ish weeks and 14- or 15-year-olds are tough nuts to crack, but nevertheless a few of my classes were full of groaning and fake crying when I announced my departure, and “Teacher, I will go to [my transfer school] next year!” “Teacher, I’ll miss you!” “Teacher, I won’t forget you!” “Teacher, don’t forget me!”

Oh, believe me kiddos, I won’t forget you.

The adorable chubby boy and sassy girl who always sit together, and she acts the perfect Abbott to his Costello, always (good-naturedly) yelling at him for his hilarious comments and trying to help him with his English attempts.

The boy with the sweetest manners and the extraordinarily strong, deep singing voice who sings in the 2nd graders’ band and told me he loves horror movies.

The girl who sits directly in front of my desk and always looked up at me expectantly with this sweet smile, like she couldn’t wait to see what amazing, inspiring, wise piece of knowledge is going to come out of my mouth (don’t think I lived up to that!).

The boy with the extremely black hair (Koreans actually have a range of natural hair colors, from dark brown to black, and his hair is the darkest black I’ve ever seen) and inquisitive face who was always making sheep’s eyes at me while I taught, and then looking away with a goofy grin if I made eye contact.

The cute girl with the tiny heart-shaped face, huge eyes, and freckles, who always wears her hair in a ballet bun, and who always made intelligent, engaged eye contact with me when I would speak.

The boy who somehow refused to obtain or bring an English textbook to class, ever, but would nevertheless sit there during CD/bookwork time with a random class textbook open in front of him. He also shouts “HELLO!” at the top of his lungs any time he sees me, no matter when or where.

The boy who, without fail, carried my laptop and materials back to my office from the classroom, every single time.

The boy who loves Andromeda (the galaxy) and found a way to bring it into every topic of discussion. “Giving instructions” lesson? “How to go to Andromeda.” “Have you ever?” lesson? “Have you been to Andromeda?” “I hope ____” lesson? “I hope you can go to Andromeda.”

I won’t forget.

fellings

I guess I had the energy to search for another GIF after all. Heck, there’s never a bad time to search for GIFs really.

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.