Saturday, November 17, 2012

It's Autumntime

The Jinju Lantern Festival and Gyeonguju trips were amazing, but our trips to nearby scenic locations have been concluded for the year, because it's quite chilly now.
All of the rice has been harvested and smoky fires spotted across the dying fields replace the bright greens of summer. It's cozy, actually. Instead of traveling now, most of us are taking turns catching some sort of virus or other and this weekend it's my turn. Having slept through most of my weekend, thanks to Nyquil, I had decided to share a little video clip, but it doesn't want to download for me...argh. We recently had a story telling and speaking presentation day at our school, for which I served as judge. This time, however, I had 3 classes of students involved in the event and directed them through their part in between judging, so I fumbled a few times. I put together a conversation for them, using grammar points they'd studied, along with 3 songs. This is our very first try at a speaking presentation, and we had only days to really prepare the final production. But this class of 4 girls were very enthused and willing, so I'd hoped to share it with you!
Their "English names" are Elly, Julia, Jessica and Heidi. I got to hear some of them perform this week at their schools too and, while I'm fond of many of my students, this group of 4 girls holds a particularly large space in my heart because they're so enthusiastic about anything and everything. They're smart, talented, creative and it's contagious. Over Chuseok vacation, I painted the classroom to brighten it up and no one was more enthused about the change than these girls!
Now we're working on preparing for more academic tests, along with another round of speaking presentations, so I'm trying to incorporate things to be thankful for with an old story of a competition between the sun and the wind. This blog probably feels a little disconnected, because I'd planned on sharing the video of my girls singing and speaking...sigh. Maybe later? However, good things are happening, life is vibrant and varied, as the students keep me from ever, EVER being bored! Finding stuff to do at the end of an already long school day is no small task, since these kids come to us after a full day of public school classes already and "fun" is defined in so many different ways.
Whether it's bowling, basketball, stick the nose on the ghost, or toss the eraser egg with chopsticks, every day holds something different, with or without trips out of town!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thoughts Penned By My Students

Every week I go over the grammar of over a hundred students' homework and essays. Some of it really intrigues me, and I'd like to share, beginning with this assigned topic: “Should Chewing gum be made illegal in Korea like it is in Singapore?” More or less unedited, here are some arguments against its banning, which depart from the norm: “We can taste and feel fresh when we chew. But if chewing gum is illegal, we can’t feel it.” “It can be useless for someone, but it can be useful to the others. The gum is really good for solving strain before having a test. It can be rude to someone, but it will be helpful to the others.” “The chin’s muscles can strengthen if we chew gum, our chin is moving. So, it is strengthened.” Hmmm…I hadn't considered that. “Gum can decrease our halitosis.” Have YOU ever heard that word? I had to look it up. “No one likes bad smelling people. Gum can decrease our bad smell and feeling of discomfort.” Also, by the same author (and more than one student thought of this) “people who are working at gum factories will lose their jobs. Increasing jobless people is not good for our economy.” Her closing argument: “Many children enjoy making big gum balloons.” :-) A young man adds, “According to research, chewing gum accelerates activities of the brain.” Did you know that? “Gum can make feeling change. If I feel gloomy, I’m chewing gum. Then my feel change more happy. And I think it can decrease afraid with sweet flavor.” “There are people who hate chewing gum. I understand. However, I think that if they hope for esteem, they also have to esteem other people.” Now here’s an interesting arguments FOR banning gum in Korea: “People’s face shape will become square. When we chew so much we will change the shape of our face to square.” Hmmmm….. One of my brightest elementary aged students' ability to speak and understand English is superb. His written skills—not so much. But his lack of writing skills don't mask the brilliance of his ideas: “I want to flying. I’m can’t flying. But, it’s so much fun. Also I want to eat fire.” He finishes with “I don’t like study. I’m a very happy person.” He IS!
What matters to my students is intriguing, as is revealed in answers to this topic “If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?” One sweet girl wants to meet a famous Korean singer, but she also wants to “travel with my family or…friends; or I’d kill my the most hated man; or I’d eat a lot of foods. I have many thing before the die. So I don’t never never die!!”
(For the record, I'm not matching photos up with quotes.) These kids have really, really full days, but when asked about how to improve her study habits, one girl wrote: “I didn’t think about that…Umm! What’s that? I think I had better make my plan. Then, I think I will study more better. When I want play computer games, I see my plan for future and I think, “I will study really hard!” Just my think. But it’s Okay. Why not?” She’s one of my best and brightest, by the way. Lots of the kids love Fall. “I think the fall is very beautiful season. It’s good to reading and playing. I love the weather of fall. In the fall, sky is so deep blue, and the weather is very refreshing. It’s not hot or cold. To we, Koreans, refreshing weather of fall is almost blessing of God. Thank you.” One boy, who wrote in a previous essay that he wants to be a terrorist and kill off the North Koreans, wrote this in the next: “I want to say to my children, “grow well and what you want to be,” and they will grow well, and my children grow what they want to be. But I want to tell them to be a teacher, to be a doctor. But they will grow what they want to be in the future.” I love this boy!
Another writes that he’ll “pass [his] room [to his] sister” when he dies. Naturally, in every day life he teases her mercilessly. I particularly love this part of his entry, though: “I’ll keep my favorite books and toys, because my soul will play with that.” My soul still smiles when I read this! In keeping with the wrapping up of presidential elections, a twelve year old girl wrote this: “I’m president??!!!! If I’m president, I think I'll really happy!!! Why? All people like me and sometimes they send presents to me.” Then she ponders more deeply; “But, I think I can’t work very well….Oh!!! My!!!!” The true nature of a president’s job begins to settle in, along with its possible ramifications; “If I work really bad….Who wants to die [kill] me?….And throw eggs to me…!!!It’s really scary…I like all people and I want to meet people and smile to them. And say “Nice to meet you.”
There you have it. Youth still speaks volumes. We all want to love and be loved and precious few of us can handle what we wish for.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Spiders and Politics

First, sorry I didn't post yesterday. I ate some veggies1 I think I should've cooked first and pretty much just kept my bathroom company for a large percentage of the day. Bleh. But I'm all better today, so "ㅏ뇽하세ㅛ (hello)!" and here's a photo on top of a mountain from a hike I took w/friends about a month ago.
Last week we celebrated Halloween in an assortment of unique ways. We had a story telling contest and speaking presentations on Thursday which I judged--these kids are so smart! I'll include a video of what I helped one of my favorite small classes of girls prepared as soon as I get the copy I requested. Also, I wore the skeleton earrings and bat ring I brought with me and freaked out my students. Also, had them decorate construction paper ghosts and monsters, as well as draw faces with sharpies on persimmons instead of pumpkins. I have no photos right now bc. my camera's memory is full and I don't know how to clear it out yet. Sigh. The challenges of owning my brain. On Friday the school was packed with kids as they collected on good behavior points with a Halloween party. The only thing typical for the season were the decorations, which the other employees put up--I didn't know they were going to decorate! I worked at the food table for a few hours, serving chopped up fried chicken, tater tots and french fries into paper cups with chopsticks! The could also purchase ramen in various sizes and containers and some traditional fish/red sauce/rice pasta dish, but, there were no sweets! The kids didn't care. I served with others until I had to sit down and serve because my back ached and kids tried to crowd in front of each other to get what was there. Movies were shown in another room, I think, and cute stationary in another. I got some Hello Kitty (hugely popular here, despite the undercurrent of animosity toward Japan) post-its and Barbie stickers. :-)
Finally, in honor or Halloween, and the name of this blog, here's one big bad beastly spider that can capture and eat small birds! These webs weathered the horrible typhoons and I freed a tiny bird from one, which is how I know they capture the little things, so I hate these monsters! Its body is almost the size of my thumb.
This creepy crawly, though, is more colorful and spins an exquisitely gorgeous web. Since we've had frost for the last few mornings and the temperatures have dropped, shriveling up a lot of the plant life and felling leaves, the spiders have disappeared. But, they'll be back and spin their webs everywhere in the Spring. It's actually quite lovely to see how many webs there are when coated with morning dew and illuminated by the sunrise. With the Presidential election so close, I feel deeply invested and am going to include a couple of links for my candidate of choice. When I conduct my essay writing classes every Wednesday, I voice my opinion on the topic, but encourage them to do the same. They do! Often, they disagree with me and I applaud it, as long as they back up their reasoning in the essay. Those classes are among my favorites and encourage me to get a job teaching English literature in America too. So, in the spirit of voicing what I believe and encouraging others to do the same, I'm praying for Romney and Ryan. If you disagree with me, please don't be offended, and I won't judge you either! How the heck can we get anything done, ever, if we can't say what we think and hear each other? See you next week, after the voters have spoken!