Is this a school or a zoo

I kid.

But surely this thought runs through every teacher’s head from time to time.

We’re into Week 2, we’ve picked up speed, we’re diving into the textbooks.

This is only Day 6 and I’ve already come to that desperate stage of being tempted to eat all the candy I bought for the kids. In one sitting, possibly.

I decided to try out some new activities this week (and this semester), and the first has been getting the 2nd graders to brainstorm a ton of “Have you ever~?” questions in groups, then each group takes turns asking me one question. If I say “Yes, I have,” they get a point; “No, I haven’t,” no point. I change up the scoring (Yes = 0 pts, No = 3 pts / Yes = 5 pts, No = -5 pts, etc.) to keep it interesting, and then I have a student come to the front to answer the questions, and we rotate. The kids have been more interested and engaged than I thought they’d be.

Currently, an entire class of 2nd graders is “cleaning” my classroom. Half of them are belting out “Let It Go” at the top of their lungs and one boy is screeching like a hawk. Exactly like a hawk.

Hence the titular zoo comment.

… He came out through my office just now, looked at me and said, “Oh, loudly? Sorry.”

As I finish typing up all the “favorite things” surveys I collected last week, I find a strange entry under “Favorite Computer/Video Game”: “엄마가 내 게임을 숨겼다” – “Mom hid my games.” LOL. Sorry, kid.



And so it begins

This was Day 2, Semester 2, Year 2.

Yesterday my stress-and-heat-induced headache was way too strong to allow me to blog, and when I got home around 6:30 p.m. I literally collapsed into bed and only ventured out of it to get sustenance from my kitchen (so, about five steps).

But today I’m feeling much better and more energetic, perhaps mostly due to the fact that I only have two classes on Wednesdays, which is lovely because every other day of the week is pretty packed (and bottom-heavy, so I’m usually teaching back-to-back classes after lunch straight through till last period).

There have already been ups and downs. The blistering, record-setting heat (apparently the hottest summer in Korea since 1994!!!) is not helping anyone’s back-to-school spirit, but we’re trying.

Among other activities, we’re playing People Bingo this week to talk about our summer vacations. (There was no way I was going to make my kids study the textbook in the first week; I’ve learned my lesson from previous semesters. It’s completely counterproductive.)

The kids have to go to other students (or teacher) with their Bingo sheets and ask questions like “Did you eat ice cream during summer vacation? Did you visit another city? Did you go to a museum?” If the answer is “yes” they can write that student’s name in the box.

Well, a boy came up to me within 3 minutes, confident that he’d achieved BINGO. I glanced at his sheet.

Me: “Did you ask different people?”

Him: “…”

Me: “You have to ask different people each question!”

Him: *taking the Bingo Sheet back in defeat* “Oh, Jeejus. Jeejus.”

Apparently he thought asking a couple of his friends over and over until he got BINGO was acceptable? Not so fast, kid! It’s a mingling activity, not a cliquing activity.

Because the cafeteria is under construction until November, all the kids have to eat lunch in their homerooms with their homeroom teachers. As a result, when I go down to the teachers’ cafeteria at 12:30, instead of a hallway filled with ravenous, squabbling, play-fighting children, there is silence and emptiness. The teachers’ cafeteria room is like a funeral room of hushed voices and silent head-bow greetings as the handful of non-homeroom teachers (teachers on shorter contracts like me, for example) eat together. It’s not necessarily a bad experience. I kind of prefer it, actually.

One of the other activities I’ve been having the kids do is a “favorite things survey.” I have a series of questions like favorite food, movie, music, K-pop group, city in Korea, superhero, sport, candy, color, etc. etc. I’m letting them write their answers in Korean if need be (but encouraging the ones who can to use English wherever possible) – and the reason for that is that I really want every single kid to be able to participate, because I plan to compile all their answers into an Excel spreadsheet, find the top 3-5 most popular answers, and play a Family Feud-style game with all the classes later this semester based on our school’s student opinions. It’s an idea I’ve seen on Waygook and other sites in various formats, but of course it’s more fun and engaging for the kids if they’re guessing the opinions of their own peers and not some random strangers.

Beginning to compile the answers* has tested my Korean handwriting-deciphering abilities, which I’ve discovered are markedly improved but nowhere near great. The process has involved a lot of googling my best guess until something viable pops up.

On a personal note, it’s nice to see what my kids are actually into. Sure, some of the 2nd grade boys have trolled me with their answers – a few have done things like put the name of an erotica drama down for “best TV show” (which I only discovered after googling the title) or “North Korea” for “country you want to visit.” But for the most part, it’s helping me see what they’re interested in (and what candy to buy if they deserve a treat).

Fortunately there have been no Korean surprises yet (other than a few last-minute co-teacher switches), and we can only hope it remains this way.

And we also hope that the air con holds up because yesterday it was struggling to cool the entire school and kept cycling off and on.

Fall, please hurry up and get here.

Love, Maddy

*For anyone interested in Korean pop culture du jour, here are some of the top survey results so far:

  • K-pop (boy group): BTS, EXO, Big Bang
  • K-pop (girl group): TWICE, iOi, Mamamoo
  • Foreign band/singer: Maroon 5 (overwhelmingly so, probably because it’s basically the only Western music they know), honorable mentions for The Beatles & Michael Jackson
  • Movie: Train to Busan (recent Korean zombie thriller), Suicide Squad
  • Game: Overwatch (it’s beating out League of Legends, amazingly)
  • Subject: P.E. (so, so, so many votes for P.E.)
  • Superhero: Ironman far & away in the lead, with Captain America a distant 2nd and a few stubborn votes for The Joker and Harley Quinn
  • City in Korea: Daegu (Daeguites are a loyal bunch), followed by Sokcho (because it’s the only Korean city where Pokemon Go is available)
  • Animal: Two-thirds dog, one-third cat. 1 vote for armadillo.
  • Country to visit: Japan at the top, followed weakly by the U.S. and then Brazil (no doubt influenced by the Rio Olympics)
  • Baskin Robbins flavor: “My Mom Is an Alien” (pretty sure we don’t have this flavor in the U.S.!? But apparently it’s really popular here)

Behold “My Mom is an Alien”, which contains dark, milk, and white chocolate ice cream and is studded with (I think) malted milk balls. I think I need to try this. For like… research purposes. To see if my kids are correct or not, you know.

a flurry of speaking tests

It’s finally here. Speaking Test Week. This is Day 1.

Instead of teaching lessons, all my class periods this week are being used to test every student in the school on their speaking abilities (or more accurately, their composing-an-answer-and-memorizing-it abilities).

Tomorrow I’ll test 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade classes all in one day, but today I only had a total of four classes, three 1st grade and one 2nd grade.

Which means I have said a billion times already,

“How are you doing?”

“How can I get to the bakery?”

“Can you introduce yourself?”

“Tell me about your best friend.”

“Which do you prefer, the math club or the art club?”

“Can you tell me 3 differences between American and Korean school?”

“What do you think about English? Why?”

“What do you think about traveling to other countries? Why?”

When the bell rings, the class stays in the classroom and (if they’re lucky) have time to study more while their classmates come into my adjacent office one by one to take the test. Some of my co-teachers have them draw random papers to see what order they’ll test in; others just go by student number (either Student 1 – Student 20 or Student 20 – Student 1).

Even after conducting countless speaking tests last year at both of my schools, I still don’t feel like I’ve got the grading quite right. It’s a really subjective process, like How many ‘the’ or ‘a’ articles do I allow to be missed before I downgrade them? Was that four or five sentences? Wait, this kid got an 85 and he definitely did better than this kid but they got the same score… Okay, give me a second to process and write down this score – oh too late, the next kid is coming in the door.

Fortunately I’m using a little handy-dandy USB audio recorder this year. While this is good for me so I don’t stress about getting each score exactly right in that moment and trying to remember exactly what each student said, it also means I feel obligated to carefully review the entire 45 or 50 minute recording afterwards and go over each grade to make sure it’s as accurate as possible.

I don’t know why I’ve been thinking about Speaking Test Week as some kind of break for myself – yeah, it’s a break from teaching, but I’ve essentially doubled my class hours compared to a normal week!

But it’s okay. I want to do right by the kids and be fair. Even if it means staying till 6 p.m. on a Monday, and knowing I’ll be here even later tomorrow and a couple more days this week.

I do enjoy actually conducting the tests as well, since it’s a chance to see each kid one-on-one for at least a minute or two, and give them a chance to show their personality or ability more. I also get the occasional hilariously creative kids who, even though they can’t speak English much and don’t study, make me laugh with their answer and get a few extra points for it.

Today’s example:

Q: Can you tell me how to wash a dog?

(Suggested answer, based on their textbook: “First, put the dog in the water. Second, wash the dog from head to tail. Third, dry it with a hair dryer.”)

Student: Put the dog in the animal hospital.

Me: *confused* Second?

Student: Yes.

Me: That’s all?

Student: Yes. Animal hospital. Put.

Me: Ah, the animal hospital will wash it?

Student: Yes. “Clean please!”하고(and) money *makes money transaction sound*


And side note: it was climbing towards 90 degrees with 50%+ humidity at EIGHT O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING today. You can imagine how the rest of the day has been. Thank God for air conditioning.

Edit: After publishing and walking home, I have to admit that some late-afternoon rain showers cooled everything down a bit. In fact, you could even say the breeze was chilly… but it’s a moist chilly. Humidity is currently at 61%. More like swimming home than walking home, am I right?

happy june

here is the weather forecast for the next week in my area:


Why Maddy Teacher’s hair is frizzy and face is shiny, Exhibit A

I don’t understand how my co-teachers can be all:


When I’m all:


(The above is literally me on a daily basis. I have literally never seen a more accurate depiction of my reaction to hot weather. Every slightly fan-able thing I can get a hold of becomes a fan.)

But don’t worry, it will definitely get much much hotter in July and August.

Today was a good day, though.

It’s June, and just being able to say that makes The End of School feel so much closer. T-minus 32 days… but who’s counting? (oh yeah. everyone. even the principal, probably.)

My 2nd grade class on Wednesdays is simply the sweetest, pleasantest group of children I’ve ever encountered, especially for 2nd graders. No matter what time of day (for example, today our schedule changed from 1st period to 5th period, directly after lunch, typically a sleepy time period), no matter how hot it is (they’d been running around outside after lunch), no matter how tired and stressed they are (listening & speaking tests coming up the next two weeks), they show up with cheerful attitudes, a willingness to learn, and they somehow make even the dull stuff (textbook) fun. I want to pinch all their cheeks because they’re so cute. But that’d be weird, so I content myself with giving out as much candy as possible, because they are the one class that 100% deserves it 100% of the time.

Also, I wore what my students have apparently deemed “the Elsa dress” today, because there were multiple “Teacher is Elsa!” comments.

I mean, it’s the same color, but other than that…

I wouldn’t mind having some ice powers right about now, though.

suddenly, summer

I mean, I’m used to it because it’s often the same in my state back home, but we really barely got a spring this year.

It was chilly enough for jackets in the daytime and downright cold at night straight through most of April, and there were only a handful of really nice days before the blistering heat struck earlier this month. This week has been torturous for all of us stuck in offices and classrooms sans air conditioning, with the sun beating down mercilessly on the windows and baking us alive.

My co-teacher wisely gave me permission to turn on the a/c in my English classroom when it gets especially unbearable, because so many kids at this school need a lot of extra motivation to care about studying English particularly, and a comfortable, inviting environment really helps with that. I’m lucky because my classroom, being the “English zone,” is the only room in the whole school with an independent heating/air-con system, so we don’t have to ask the admin to turn it on for us. And we can get away with using it a bit under the radar without getting yelled at. mwahahaha.

Anyway, we’ve had some ups and downs this week.

2nd graders are an exhausting sample of the middle school population. In one class, we had played a whole ONE ROUND of a new game and a boy loudly declared “Teacher, no jam. No jam.” (No jam is a newish slang term, a mix of the English “no” and the Korean “jaemi eopseo,” which means not fun / boring.) Like, kid, give it a freaking try before you announce to the whole class that this is boring. K thx. (Also, if it’s really that boring how about we go back to the textbook? No? Didn’t think so.)

The second incident was with another 2nd grade boy, who is particularly troublesome in general, but this week his team was doing poorly in a game and so he decided to give up and start writing English profanities on his whiteboard. He caught my look and started erasing pretty darn fast, but the bad attitude of one can be a disease that spreads to the whole class. (Although a minute later he did write “Merry [sic] Teacher is pretty” to try to bribe me for points. Nice try, kiddo.)

On the upside, my 3rd graders are absolutely lovely and generally well-behaved and polite. Recently, one of the high level boys has managed to do something that I never could, last year or this year – his partner in class is a kid with a learning disability who usually never speaks, even in Korean. Two weeks in a row now, Boy 1 has successfully encouraged Boy 2 to perform the textbook dialogue with him in front of the class. It’s so sweet.

And when we were playing a survey guessing game (a bit like Family Feud in reverse; I showed them four actual American survey answers for a particular category, they guessed which answer was the most popular – practicing “Agree/Disagree”), one of the questions was “Which woman is the most beautiful? Scarlett Johansson / Jennifer Lawrence / Katy Perry / Zooey Deschanel.” One of the boys said confidently, “Teacher is most beautiful.” Pretty sure I can’t touch any of those ladies in the looks category, but still, it was a day brightener.

And today is Friday, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel as we speed up towards the last 6 weeks of school, 1 of which will consist of the speaking test for all students (conducted by yours truly), 1 of which will be at least partly taken up by final exams, and the rest of which I’ve almost finished planning lessons for.

Happy weekend everyone, and as the science teacher cried joyfully at lunch today, “TGIF!”

The cute and the crazy

I had a class last year that was off-the-walls crazy and wild, but they somehow managed to be crazy in the most adorable and endearing way. They were my secret faves. Sadly, I only taught them for half a semester, and I don’t think they will ever be topped.

But this year I have Class 106.

They’re active and outgoing collectively, but they’re also unique in the mix of extremely strong personalities. They’re all pretty sharp kids for 13-year-olds, but they tend to yell at each other a lot and get worked up over small things. Every lesson plan takes at least 10% longer to get through with 106 because of the yelling, the enthusiasm, and the sidetracking.

With this class, I get experiences like the following (these are from the last several consecutive weeks):

It’s early in the semester and I’m still getting to know these kids. I tell them to sit according to their homeroom seating chart (this makes it easier for me since the homeroom teacher has already gone through the work of making sure they’re paired off in the least-trouble-making way possible). A girl asks if she can change her seat, and I say no, that’s not fair to the other kids. She goes to her seat and promptly starts crying.

I’ve never seen this kind of petulant behavior from a Korean middle schooler (my only frame of reference being the spoiled fake-cry tantrum that a Western kid might throw), so I go over to her, shocked, and ask what’s wrong.

With the help of a few friends, I understand that the reason she’s crying (and these were genuine tears) is because the boy she sits next to says things like “Maddy teacher is not pretty” under his breath while I’m teaching. LOL. While her loyalty is touching, I assure her not to worry about his opinion and to just do her best. She sucks it up and we carry on smoothly.

As the weeks pass by, I realize that this previously mentioned boy is the definite troublemaker of the bunch. I make it my mission to befriend him. Each week I call on him to answer simple questions and praise him generously. Although the other kids seem disgruntled, this boy starts actually paying attention and doing his work. Today, he takes the initiative to tell me, “Teacher, I interest in beatboxing.” [My teacher’s heart leaps with joy at his attempt to use “interested in”] I ask him to demonstrate for me, and he does. He’s actually pretty good. “Wow, you’re really good!” I say. “Oh, thank you!” I can tell he’s pleased.

I’m teaching them “How about ~ing?” We practice and then I tell to write their own sentence.

One boy writes, “How about going to 천국?”
Me: “What is 천국?”
Him: “Hell. How about going to hell?”

I know he doesn’t realize the impact of the sentence in English, but I’m still taken aback that he would want to visit that particular place. Seeing my expression, his partner quickly corrects, “Heaven, Teacher! 천국 is heaven! He mistake.”

I confirm this to be true via Google translate afterwards. (I’m still not sure, though, whether he’s merely saying, “Hey, let’s go to heaven sometime,” or whether he’s implying the death of the person he’s asking.)

Several weeks in a row, the name-calling gets out of hand. “Teacher, he is stupid. She is crazy. He is ugly.” While 99.9% of the time, they’re just teasing their friends (not angry), I worry that some kids are taking it to heart. One week I call a time-out and make them say our class rules together, stopping to heavily underline #2: Be friendly, be kind. “Don’t say ‘he is stupid.’ Be kind. Say ‘he is smart.'” We’re still working on it, but it’s getting a lot better. (As an aside, I had noticed this was becoming a trend with all my classes, and besides asking the kids to be kind to each other, it spurred me to start telling them that they are smart more often.)

I’m trying to go through a practice round of the game we’re about to play, and I struggle to keep a straight face as the troublemaker boy (who has been sent to the very back of the room by my CT for pouring half his water bottle all over his desk) makes a ridiculously contorted face (not AT me, but more just… putting it out there in the world) and then starts blowing spit bubbles with intense concentration.

It’s 30 seconds to the bell for the start of our class but one of the girls insists that I look up the definition of something-something “결절” (which turned out to be “vocal nodes”) just so that I would most definitely understand that her sore throat was not just a sore throat, but due to speaking too much and too loudly. (Believe me, honey, I know.)

They’re supposed to be drawing things on a map – in this instance, a tree. One of the girls waves me down. “Teacher, do you know 어린 왕자?” Other students help out. “Little prince. Ah, little princess. No no, little prince! Little prince.” “Ah, yes, The Little Prince. The story. Yes, I know.” The girl points to her drawing of a little boy standing next to a tree. “This is little prince.”


Sidenote: This book traumatized me when I was young. I still find it disturbing.

We’re reviewing giving directions (go straight, turn left/right, etc) and a boy in the front row is muttering fervently (but not maliciously), “Son of a betch. Son of a betch.” One of the sharper girls catches it and looks at me with shock and amusement, but I shake my head at her and carry on until the boy suddenly says, “Son of a BETCH!” and everyone hears it, and then I say “Hey!” and my co-teacher has to yell at him in the back.

Such is Class 106. What a bunch of punks. But they’re cute punks, and they tend to be the highlight of not just my Wednesday, but my whole week. The cute and the crazy.

uncomposed thoughts

You’re so much more at the mercy of the weather when you don’t own a car. In America, if it was unexpectedly raining and I was caught without an umbrella,  it’s just a three-second dash to the car. I might get a little wet, but no big deal. Walking 10 or 20 minutes in a downpour sans umbrella is quite a different story. The same goes for cold and heat. All your outfits better be carefully planned because as far as I know, there’s no mobile A/C and heat for pedestrians.

This week’s culture lesson has been school in the U.S. and how it compares to Korean school. Since I was homeschooled up until college, I had to do my research on this one and ask a couple friends for their experiences. It’s a lecture-intensive class, so I’ve loaded my PPT with pictures and simplified my explanations.

To keep them from getting bored, I throw in multiple-choice quiz questions throughout, where they’re guessing things like “How long is the [typical] American school lunch time?” and “When does the American school year start?” I tell them that whoever gets the most answers right, I’ll give that student a choco pie. That keeps them motivated enough to pay attention.

They also, of course, love the lunch section where I show pictures of American cafeteria food – but they also understand when I explain that the food is usually not healthy and doesn’t even taste good anyway. Korean school lunch is 100x better (at least at this school, which has a reputation for pretty good lunches).

All my classes at all grade levels have been pretty interested in this topic. At the end, I have them write 2 compare/contrast sentences about Korean and American school, read some of them aloud, and then I do a quick overview of homeschooling and what my school experience was like. Homeschooling, with a parent as the teacher, is pretty unheard of in Korea, although I think online school / private tutoring might be a thing.

Last week I started one of my 1st grade classes as usual. Usually my various co-teachers will show up 1-3 minutes after the bell rings, and that’s no problem. I’m running the show anyway, and the first part of class is usually a simple warm-up that doesn’t need any Korean explanation.

But my ct never showed, and never gave any warning or explanation as to why not. I won’t go any further into that because nothing is anonymous on the internet, and anyway it’s the first time it’s ever happened, so whatever.

The point of this blurb is really just that I’m happy with the way I was able to teach them the American school culture lesson without relying on any translation. I threw in the Korean I do know when necessary, and made a lot of comparisons between their school life and U.S. school life to help them understand what we were talking about. (Like, if I ask them “What time does American school start and end?”, they might not get it, but if I first elicit when their school starts and ends – 8:15 a.m. to 3:55 p.m. – now they have context and I get a chorus of light-bulb-over-the-head “Aaaahs”.)

One of the 1st grade kids pranced up to me the other day before class and cheekily proclaimed, “I am as handsome as Song Joong-ki!”

While his classmates scoffed and laughed, I said in amazement, “Wow, that was a perfect sentence!”

I mean, do you know how rare it is to hear a Korean student (let alone a 1st year) use proper grammar using that “as…as” structure? Floored.


Incidentally, here is the man of the hour, Song Joong-ki. Recently made crazy popular by the TV drama that’s sweeping the nation, Descendants of the Sun. All the girls want to marry him (middle-aged women included). All the guys want to be him. Let the hipster in me make it known that I liked him before he was cool. Way, way before. Ever since I saw Innocent Man.

Last week, before class started, I was talking with some of the 1st graders who came into my classroom early. Somehow they got me to demonstrate my Korean writing skills on the board. They coached me through writing the Korean alphabet (I know all the letters, but I don’t know the order of the alphabet) and applauded as I wrote each letter correctly while they dictated.

Afterwards, one of the boys turned to me and said solemnly, “Teacher, you… Korean… hard. Us… English-ee… hard.”

Ain’t that the truth, kid.

building up

*alert alert: long rambly post ahead*

Is it me or the school being a total roller coaster of emotions right now?

Today was exceptionally good. Today was the first time I thought to myself, I’m glad I work at this school every day.

Which is crazy considering that today is Thursday, and if you read my past Thursday posts from this semester so far you’ll see how I’ve been feeling about them. (hint: not good)

I’m really loving having my own classroom. The kids come to me rather than vice versa, and hence I can prep the classroom at my leisure, set up and test things on the computer, unlock and lock the door, tell them where to sit, etc.

But the best thing is that, if I choose to spend my 10-minute break in the classroom instead of in my office, I can chat with the kids who come in before the bell.

Today I spent basically 100% of my between-classes break time in my classroom, solely for that purpose. As I did so with each class, I realized that I’m actually forming bonds with these kids that were impossible for me to form last year at either school. Break time is one of the only ways I can talk with them about silly, fun, or otherwise unrelated-to-the-textbook topics. And doing that really does make a difference in their attitudes during class time.

Some conversations:

2nd grade boy: “When I 25, America go. And marry girl. Blue eyes, gold hair.”

Me: “Okay.”

He tried to tell me something else but didn’t know the words. A few minutes later I heard him asking my co-teacher, and then he came back.

Him: “When I wedding ceremony… you… invite.”

Me: “Oh, you will invite me?”

Him: “Yes. And present give.”

Another boy usually comes in and uses random English that he knows – “What’s your name? Where are you from? Do you like k-pop? Oh, good good!” (Please note that he already knows my name and where I’m from.)

In my last class today, a group of kids came in early and oohed and aahed over the Pikachu GIF on my PPT. (I always make the first slide of my PPT a cute dance GIF or something to have on the TV as they come in.) They asked if I know 짱구 (Jjang-gu, in English known as Shin Chan, apparently an anime character) and requested that I put him on next week’s PPT “hello” slide. I agreed, then asked how to spell Jjang-gu and wrote it in hangeul on the board so I could search for it later. They thought it was hilarious and amazing that I could write in Korean.


짱구 it is

Aside from the bonding going on, I started a new batch of lessons today that went over pretty well. It’s hard to please every class, as sometimes the first class will go crazy over a game and the next one will be so over it before you even start – and that can depend on general class mood, which period it is, co-teacher, etc. etc. But overall I think things went pretty smoothly.

I mean heck, if playing people bingo and “4 corners” (choose a corner, say the dialogue for that corner, and 1 corner is eliminated randomly) is enough to get even the most grumpy kids all out of their seats and using English, what more can I ask for? [There’s this one boy who usually slouches down in his seat and refuses to participate, but he was all “Teacher, teacher, do you know how to play League of Legends?!?” and I was all “HA I fooled you into having fun in English class. TAKE THAT SULLEN TEENAGER!”]

I also discussed the open class lesson (T minus 7 days… ㅠㅠ) with my co-teacher, skimmed through my draft of the lesson plan and PPT with her, and she put my mind at ease about it.

I’ve had this thing ever since I was little where I can’t feel good about my work if there’s some little uncomfortable thought in the back of my mind that it’s not quite right somehow. And I had that little uncomfortable thought nagging at me all week, even after my overhaul of the entire lesson on Monday night. Overthinking? Maybe. But I know once I get the lesson to where I want it, everything will click into place for me, mentally speaking, and I’ll be satisfied with it. And now that my co-teacher approved my ideas, I’m much closer to getting there.

AND tomorrow is Friday. I mean, it can’t get much better than this, right?

P.S. There is however apparently a particularly nasty flu virus going around atm. Seems like almost a third of every class is either absent or sitting there looking like death with the surgical mask on to “protect” their classmates. They’re dropping like flies. My 3rd graders said they’re required to all use hand sanitizer at the start of every class. (Not a bad idea at all. Korea could use more of this honestly.)

Thus far my ironclad immune system is holding out quite well, perhaps because I’ve spent the last 10 years of my life (literally) working with children of all ages and being coughed and sneezed at on the daily. [Hopefully I’m not jinxing myself by writing that.]

So I guess the title of this post remains apropos. building up that immunity. hang in there, everyone. after the weather change, spring will be here and we’ll be okay.

Why I love my job

Item 1. A 3rd grader approaches me in the hallway as I’m unlocking my classroom door. “Hello Maddy!” “Hi, how are you?” “I’m fine, thank you, and you?” “I’m good.”

He walks by, but doubles back a second later to hand me a mini Tootsie Pop.

Him: “Here.”

Me: “Really?”

Him: “Yes.”

Me: “Oh, thank you!”

Him: “Yes.”

He walks on.


Exhibit A.

I’m still trying to open the lock (the English Zone’s double glass doors don’t lock, so we have a flexible plastic bike lock style lock around the handles). He doubles back yet again.

Him: “Oh, help me?” (LOL at this because he obviously meant “Can I help you?” That or he decided to say what he believed to be my dialogue in this situation.)

Me: “Oh, okay! Can you do it?”

Him: “Okay, yes. Okay.”

[struggling for a few seconds, twisting the key around]

Him: “Okay, relax. Relax.”


He did manage to open the lock and was clearly very happy about that. I thanked him – not really for opening the lock but for making me laugh right at the start of my Monday morning.

p.s. this kid used to sleep through the entire class, every class. when i taught his class on thursday, he put in the greatest effort of any student there.

Item 2. I walk to lunch and am bombarded with “Oh, Maddy saem!” “Maddy Teach-uh!”

Item 3. At the end of the school day, a very low-level 2nd grader strolls into my office singing “Newspap-uh, newspap-uh, newspap-uh” and asks me, using his new key expression from the textbook, “Which-ee do you pruh-per, KIA Tigers or Samsung Lions?” (referring to two Korean baseball teams). He then recommended that I choose Lions because “Tigers, [thumbs down]. Lions, [thumbs up], good good.” Then he asked me to write my name under my choice. I guess it’s some homework project for one of the English teachers.

It’s true that a percentage of kids at this school do not try and give major attitude when I dare require them to practice their textbook dialogue, but the kids who do make this massive effort, even if they aren’t very advanced… they totally make up for it.

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.