Friday, September 25, 2009

Episode 17: In Which DFM Gets Invited To A Party With Lots Of Cute Girls, And Later Gets Punched In The Stomach

Friday morning was a tough one. I had to struggle to get out of my bed, and when Namhee phoned me from Canada (it was Thursday night there), I discovered my voice was missing (refer to Episode 16).

I had big plans for my lessons today, and had showed up to school a half-hour early to prepare and set all of my equipment and materials up. However, no one told me that the last Friday of every month is when the school holds a giant birthday party in my classroom for all the children who have had birthdays in the past month.

With my classroom occupied (the only classroom with a large enough space and computer and projector I use for my classes), I had to quickly come up with three separate half-hour lessons with no art equipment, and no space. (Before I continue I should mention this is a different school than the one about which I usually write.)

Considering the circumstances I feel my classes were a great success. However, by the end of the day my throat felt like I had swallowed sandpaper. The children were quite concerned, and when one of them asked if I had a "really sore throat" in Korean. When I responded, "yes, a really sore throat" back (in Korean), the class when crazy ("DFM Teacher can speak Korean!"). They seem to forget that just two days earlier I sang the entire Tomi the Baby Squirrel song in Korean. Oh well, I never get tired of their surprise and joy over my effort to learn Korean.

In the past week I have been getting more and more confident in my ability to hold the attention of the children, and today I tried to teach the children the song John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. I attempted to teach this song to the children the first week, but I quickly lost their attention and the class descended into chaos.

Now though, I am respected enough as a teacher, and am liked enough as a person, that the children (somewhat reluctantly perhaps) repeated the nonsensical lyrics for me enough times to develop a minor appreciation of the song. Later, in my art class I actually heard one of the girls (incredibly smart) from an earlier class actually attempting to sing the song. It was a proud moment.

Another memorable moment was when one of the girls invited me to her birthday party on the weekend. I told her that if she got her parents to invite me I would come, but that if I couldn't make it she should save me a cupcake (the girl lived for a year and a half in Australia, so her English language abilities are much better than those of the other students). This is the same girl who, on the first day, told me that my class was boring, that I "was no genious at drawing," and that she would "never listen to me."

Speaking of birthdays, one of the five-year-old boys (Canadian age), who was one of the children having a birthday party in my classroom, wanted to show me his presents. When he told me in Korean that today was his birthday, the same girl who tried to sing John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt got mad at him, and told him he had to speak English or else I couldn't understand (I actually knew what birthday was in Korean though). It was funny, but some of the girls get pretty protective of me, and I have to stop them from screaming at the other students if they talk during my class, or if the boys use my stomach for taekwondo practice.

Every teacher has one student for whom it seems like all of his or her lessons are planned. In my one-hour afternoon "special art class," that student is a boy named Seon-gyu. Seon-gyu always wears his taekwondo uniform to class (I assume he has lessons after school), and he rushes through every assignment in twenty minutes, gets bored, and then gets into fights with a younger boy who is also in taekwondo. It took me a couple weeks, but I eventually figured out that when Seon-gyu is happy and occupied, life is easier for everyone (especially me). This usually involves finding an activity that has multiple pictures to colour/draw, something to cut and/or fold, and a lot of taping and/or gluing.

On Monday I had found a paper-doll template for Jack and Jill dolls. I used them today, and it was a big success. The cutting and gluing were easy enough that most of the students could do them on their own, and Seon-gyu's doll stood up on its own (as it was supposed to do), and so he was happy. Even better, it took Seon-gyu the whole class to finish his assignment so no one got hit.

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