Monday, December 20, 2010

My Tonsillitis Week

So on Wednesday morning I'm collapsed on the floor of my kitchenette, having made a mess of myself with my breakfast of canned peaches.  I lack the strength to stand up, despite the peaches, and I start feeling I've reached a serious nadir of health and personal dignity here.  I'd spent Tuesday in a similar, if less profound stupor, but at least then I'd been in bed and not all sticky with canned peach syrup.  Monday had arguably been worse.

Let me tell you about Monday.  My fever began Sunday afternoon.  I ate some kimchi, took some ibuprofen and went to bed early.  I made all the right moves.  Even so, I was roused deadly early Monday morning by serious chills.  This was bad news for me because the heat was already on and I couldn't get any warmer in bed.  So, after due deliberation, I made for the shower.

Soon I discovered that even the shower's maximum hotness was insufficiently hot for my needs.  There wasn't enough water or heat to stop my convulsing.  It was maddening, trying to spread what there was as evenly as possible over my surface area, struggling to maintain a constant level of misery.  And I was committed to the shower:  it was bad, but once I was naked and wet, every other place was worse.

I made a high-risk, naked dash to turn up the power on the water heater.  This was dangerous and really unpleasant but it worked, turning my shower into a shamefully inefficient jacuzzi.  I stayed in there long enough to get pruney hands.  Once I'd toweled off, I spent the rest of the day lying on the floor in a stupor.   

Thursday, December 9, 2010

An example of what I'm working with.

The level of English ability at my school is low. I can think of four students (out of the 700+ I teach) who have demonstrated an ability to speak in phrases. This is after they've had 5.5 years of English class. Half of those phrasers, maybe, can manage complete sentences. From the rest of my students I receive blank incomprehension, single word responses or incomprehensible weirdness.

Last week I wrote down an exchange I had in a high-level class so I could give you an example of what I'm working with.  Read in horror as I attempt to explain what "sure enough" means (it came up in a story I was using to teach about articles):

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The gym.

I'm in the gym 3 or 4 times a week because even in Korea I hate feeling flabby and weak.  I've established a rapport with one of the gym employees.  I exclaim "fighting!" and "hail-suh!" at him every now and again.  "Fighting!" is Konglish for "I/we/you can do it!"  "Hail-suh" is a transliteration of health (Korean has no th sound) and I think it probably means "gym."

Last week the gym guy tried to have a conversation with me about my preceding weekend, which was sweet of him, but not when I'm doing a quad extension with 200 something pounds, dude:  a man needs to focus.  Still, I feel we're well on our way to becoming bosom buddies.

My gym is on the fifth floor of the Grand Convention Wedding Hall, a good example of weird Hangeulization of English.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

They won't do it if they find out it isn't on the exam.

My students lack intrinsic motivation and their education is structured to provide a narrowly-focused extrinsic motivation.  Second-grade students have their final exams of the year next week.  Their scores don’t matter much—if you’re in the second grade today, you’re going to be in the third come March—but it’s one of two big tests that determine their overall scores for the year.   Korean public education is all about big tests.  

I was teaching a lesson about articles to an advanced second-grade class.  “Advanced” means they performed well on the English midterm, which is a bit of a joke if you’ve seen the test.  Advanced classes are still a mixed bag.  They include the kids of greatest fluency who have studied English privately for years alongside kids who are good at multiple-choice tests or just lucky.  And the test includes no speaking or listening component, so students’ scores don’t reflect their ability to communicate in English or understand what I’m saying.  But I’m digressing here.