Monday, 28 April 2008

Spam, Egg, Spam & Spam

24 tickets to Crazy Tasty Town (tm) for less than a dollar per ticket!

One of my students wrote (in Korean) on a shelf at school that I am crazy and stupid and have low IQ. I have a good idea of which class it was but I'm not sure which student (high likelihood that it's our arsonist). The more sensitive part of me is hurt for abstract hypersensitive reasons and part of me wants to put the smackdown on whoever wrote it (largely because I work so hard and I really hate graffiti in the school) but most of me knew that this was coming because I remember being an obnoxious teen and I just hope the turdlets grow out of it. I took a note on the graffiti and the students asked who wrote it and I told them I didn't know but that it was a bit repetitive, that the hallmark of good writing is variety and whoever wrote it should work on expanding their vocabulary.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Sunday Update

Last night I watched Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby with my coworker/friend. It is highly likely that it was an illegal Korean copy (they sell them everywhere on the streets). What struck me is that I don't understand why they would subtitle this movie in Korean. The majority of the humor is local to America. Maybe the slapstick and physical humor is enough. Towards the end when one character is behaving like Tawny Kitaen (Whitesnake music video sex symbol) they transliterate it in roman characters as "Tony Cage". A small but, I would argue, significant difference. Also, they simply transliterate "oh my God" into Korean characters rather than using (or perhaps having) a local equivalent. This country may have an obscenity shortage; I hope that our FTA with Korea will rectify this situation, reducing NTBs on vital commodities like cuss words.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Fire: The Absence of Comeuppance

The student who set fire to a quiz received no comeuppance whatsoever. How awesome is that? Because, clearly, punishing a child with discipline problems when he burns something at school would be absurd. I can only assume that if I had actually gotten an Ed. degree I would understand my ridiculous, naive, nay, childish belief that some measure of response from the administration was necessary.

It is a good thing that I'm self-motivated because work is totally failing to provide any measure of positive reinforcement (I know, I'm obsessed). I decided to spend the evening relaxing and am watching a borrowed copy of because [sic] I said so. I assumed it would be a brainless romantic comedy but it is focused very heavily on the search for a husband. So, yes, brainless; but how tiresome and simultaneously depressing.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008


One of my students committed arson at school today! The fuel: a vocabulary quiz I returned to him (he got a 6/16). I stepped out of the teacher's room to a buzz of activity. One coworker was waving a half-burned, soaking wet quiz while one of my students* continued to cement his unpopularity with his peers by tattling.

The arsonist is a topic of regular conversation. I had him hauled out of my class and actually began to call his mother myself a few weeks ago because he was being a prick to the nth degree. He was sent to the director's office and since then I have had little trouble with him. I'm not sure what she said but I played it cool with him and positively reinforce him when he is well behaved. He's still a raging turdlet in other classes but not mine.

At any rate, he apparently decided that the best possible use of his 5 minute class break would be to take the quiz into the john with the two other boy twits from that class and burn the quiz with his lighter then flush it down the commode. This is a remarkably stupid plan given that our toilets can't even handle toilet paper, much less A4 paper. When I saw him headed to the director's office he had a huge, shit-eating grin on his face.

Sandwich Saga Update
Today the ajima provided sandwiches (seemingly store bought) for dinner. Dinner at work is a source of regular aggravation as we have only 10 minutes to eat and there are times when dinner is not ready at the start of that window or dinner is entirely inadequate (she once left us only potato salad and bread). Sandwich ingredients for today:
a thin layer of egg
imitation crab

All in within the confines of a half a roll. Imitation crab. I don't understand why the God of Sammiches has not smote Asia as a whole or, minimally, Korea to serve as a warning to others.

*This mere child implies or states in almost every paper he writes that if you don't know exactly what he means you, dear reader, are a complete and utter idiot. Last semester I informed him that not everyone in the world has heard of Santa. You should have seen the look in his eyes when I stated that the majority of the world is not Christian. It was a look that told me: 1) I'm going to hell and 2) He was going to have a serious chat with his parents when he got home.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008


I just talked to a woman who works the support phone line for online tax software. Her birthday is tax day. I expressed my sympathies.

In other news: Middle and High School aged children all over Korea are preparing for mid-term exams. Most of our TOEFL students are not in this week and we won't be teaching any TOEFL classes next week. Because only two students have shown up to any given TOEFL course I scrapped the lessons scheduled for the week and spent more time talking to the students. Things I have been told by the students:

*That kid who was tied to a tree was probably receiving standard birthday abuse.

*Regardless of the laws of physics or limits of reality all students are held to the exact same standards in physical education. For example: Students must meet a distance/second standard and they take mandatory speed tests during the year. Regardless of such issues as illness or short legs students who do not meet the established value lose points and receive a lower grade.

*At at least one school students are required to learn to somersault backwards and are tested on this ability. Seriously, one of my students can't look to the left because she is a class leader and had to show each of 35 students how to somersault through one-on-one demonstration for their upcoming somersault test.

*Teachers hit students.

*Teachers will cut students' hair should they decide a student's hair is too long.

I have come to terms with the fact that I'm judgmental so I'll say it: grading children on their ability to somersault backwards is fucking stupid. Hitting children is stupid. Ignore issues of 'what is abuse' and just focus on the fact that positive reinforcement works better. Also, smacking a child in the head has an almost 0% chance of making your child smarter, faster, or better than ever. Proof that positive reinforcement works? I tell my students that if they all complete their computer based, self-directed quizzes I will give the whole class stickers (local currency for the hagwon). Coworker threatens them with extra homework. On any given day only 1 or 2 of my students miss their quizzes. In his class: about half. Anecdotal, I'll grant, but just one of many examples.

OK, off to dream about chasing down the Sutro Tower.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008


My grade 2 kids had to write a journal entry about what they would do if they could have a super power. One of my students wrote that she would have the power to be protected from flames and said that she would do things like save Namdaemun from fire. Quite a peek into the Korean psyche.

I'm going to plan a curriculum for our summer intensive courses. Right now I plan on proposing one based on Lynn Truss's Eats, Shoots & Leaves but if anyone can think of anything that would be great to run as a month-long English course based on a single novel or book please let me know.

PS: One of my TOEFL students presented me with a photo of a sausage on her cell phone in attempt to get credit for the "eat a ham" homework assignment. I reminded her that she needed to make a one page write-up for it to qualify.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Now Accepting Phone Calls

So...I only really get to talk to my parents and one friend on the phone. I'm going to make more effort to call people but I'd love to hear from people. Remember: It's free! I'm on Skype and I have a 202 phone number. There's noone here to talk to about Stuffy Doll or whether the Cylons really have a plan or anything. In fact, I had a super-nerd experience that was lost on the others in my Korean class and it reminded me how alone I am! The instructor was explaining particals in Korean. There's a partical in Korean (and Japanese) that demarcates time or location. As she was explaining it I had this flash and blurted out, "that makes perfect sense! Time is the fourth dimension!"

This weekend the cherry blossoms were out! It's pretty when the petals rain.

Happy Reenactor's Theatre Presents: This Guy.

Someone wonderful sent me Cadbury's!

While I was walking around in the Sinchon area I found the sight below. A student was tied to a tree and others were taking turns running up and kicking him. It ended shortly after I arrived so I couldn't get a picture of the kid's face, which was covered in whipped cream. The kicks looked pretty hard but the victim of the hazing did not appear too upset. It was a weird incident.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Here We Go Again

You can thank Microsoft for bringing the Pirates versus Ninjas meme to Korea:

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Eat a Ham

Did another breakdown of the microscope article today. I wish we had more ones like this because it's incredibly easy to measure understanding. Many of the articles we've read are more abstract and so checking understanding takes much longer. I can't draw a picture of the importance of metaphysical poets.

My TOEFL I students are all too thin:

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Strange Obligations

Don't you just hate those days where you realize that you'll have to buy a hamster and teach it to read a calendar?