Apr 13, 2007

pseudo-satisfyingly mindnumbing task at hand

Ok, yes, I'm teaching. Me. Essentially, I'm working with children (those of you who need to settle bets about this can take a moment to do so).

But it's only teaching if you really want to call it that.

Teaching English classes over here is basic and takes very little actual brain activity. I'm either teaching from manuals, playing old cassettes that were definitely recorded in the States somewhere (since when do two kids named 'Mateo' and 'Paulo' talk about joining the football team so enthusiastically?), or I'm making up my own lesson plans - a task that takes all of about five minutes once a week and barely any imagination. Take my 'lesson plan' for week 1 - hangman, and all the words are about me. 'Girl', 'tall', 'brown eyes', 'short hair'.. any questions? They want to know if I have a boyfriend, where I'm living, how cold Canada is, how old I am and whether I like Korean food. The youngest ones want me to sign an autograph.

I have to admit, lesson plans are horribly easy to come up with, and are becoming more and more self-serving. I'm already planning lessons on 'how to give directions' (so I can ask them where the good restaurants are), 'the weather' (I can't seem to find a local forecast for the area on the net), and 'what is this in English?' (and what is it in Korean, by the way?).

Classes run 40 to 50 minutes, and the time moves quickly as my mind wanders aimlessly throughout. My mouth stays permanently twisted into my camera-pose smile as I tune out the chit-chatter of the ones who just don't care enough to pay attention (discipline is not my bag). I'm staring at them and blankly going through the work, glancing at the clock, but my mind is back here on the computer, or just outside the window feeling out the temperature ('sweater or light jacket tomorrow...?'). Already, it can be frustrating. It's just not challenging work. And I'm not sure I care whether they learn anything from me, since it's they themselves who will choose whether to learn or not. Some people are obviously more meant to teach than others, and I'm awkwardly aware that I'm 'others'. I'm sure people come to Korea to put experience behind them for a career teaching. I came to get away from Toronto, and pay off an exorbitant credit card bill and some bulky student loans (stupid girl, you're not even wearing those shoes or using that degree!). But teaching here can be satisfying too in its calming way.

It can be like methodical meditation on the mundanities and travails of my daily personal life (hangman words, 'smiling', 'thoughtful', 'pleasant', 'Canadian'...).

I teach 13 regular classes at the middle school plus two special classes for the gifted ones (they tell me these ones volunteered for the extra class, but I think it's the parents forcing attendance in most cases, since not a single student acts like he/she wants to be there, although that could be because the thing goes down late on Friday afternoon) and two classes for the teachers. I teach six classes at a small elementary school (two of those are also 'extras') and have been asked to teach their teachers as well, and two more classes at an even smaller elementary school where I have to entertain seven fifth-graders for two hours (this is actually the hardest shit on the list). I also teach three hour-long classes at a local 'high school' where, confusingly, the kids' English levels are lower than the elementary classes'. One of the high school classes is actually just 12 students - all seventeen-year-old boys. I don't want you to have to imagine what the hell that's like, but I will say I feel like I'm back in high school trying to handle them, and those high school memories really do not need to come back. On top of all that, I'm teaching two extra classes for the employees at the provincial education office.

Phew. I'm exhausted just writing all that out.

Upsides: they pay big $$ for the extra classes plus I get rural and travel allowances, so I'll be pulling about $3000 take home cash every month. And there's not really a single other recurring activity I could fill my time with (and I have loads of it to fill).

Downsides: see above where I say that bit about not being a teacher.

Will I last the whole year? Money is a powerful motivator.

Now that I've finally talked about the job, I am officially dubbing the actual 'teaching' bit of being in Korea a subject not fit to blog about beyond what's already been said. Oh 'kids say the darndest things,' or 'I hate walking up and down five flights of middle school' topics will probably still be fair game. But from this moment, 'teaching' topic posts on this blog will be the equivalent to posting the cat. So if you have any more questions, now's your chance, please raise your hand...

If I blog about teaching, I'm coming home.

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