Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Frustration Stage!

Well, life has pretty much settled down back into my regular school routine again.  In some ways its good, in others bad.  This school year has (as previously stated) been significantly more exhausting, busy and frustrating than last school year, but I'm making it work.  First a quick update about the returner student drama I've been having. As I have explained before, the returner student classes are for kids who have spend so much time living abroad that they don't speak Korean well enough to be in a regular class.  Think ESOL classes in the US.  Not all those kids speak Spanish, they speak different languages.  In my returner classes, everyone speaks English.  Except for 2 kids.  The sixth grader is Chinese and the third grader is Japanese.  They are soooo lost.  Since they combined my classes (giving me four grades of returners at once) it was impossible for me to work with them one-on-one and they weren't really getting any English instruction...and probably losing their minds.  So I began a campaign to have those two attend the regular, low-level  English classes with their Korean same-aged peers.  Yeon Ah called the "charge teachers" (I THINK this means the teachers in charge of each class) and they said the boys "didn't want to" join the other classes because they would be "lonely."  Um...seriously?  Are you kidding me?  First of all, I'm all for kids getting to play a part in making their own educational choices, but this isn't an elective.  You can't opt out (hahah, that just makes me remember Andrea talking about Mason opting out of Spanish class in preschool).  You go where we tell you to go.  And REALLY, you think they'll be lonely in the English class because they don't speak Korean?  How do you think they feel CONSTANTLY being left out by not speaking English in their returner classroom?  Aigh.  Last Monday I left school so frustrated because basically my coworkers were saying that I was right, and the way it was set up was dumb, but they couldn't (wouldn't?) fix it.  

Tuesday I get to school and Yeon Ah says she talked to the Vice Principal the day before and he agreed with me.  Teaching four grades at once was dumb, so I'd only teach each returner class once a week (they probably don't need more English anyway because they are basically native speakers).  This would free me up to sometimes work one-on-one with the struggling kids.  And the two non-English speakers are now joining regular English classes.  So...why couldn't we have done this A MONTH AGO?!  Why have I been struggling and getting so frustrated all this time if it was such an easy fix?  But whatever, so I am psyched that I have so much more flexibility in my classes now and it will be so much easier to plan.  I have a lesson ready to go for the first and second grade class that I teach Tuesday afternoons and since the VP had said that's how it would be from Monday on, I didn't plan anything for the third and fourth graders.  I go through the day, teaching as per usual and at lunch it dawns on me that I'm not sure the decisions made by the VP have been shared with all the affected parties.  So I ask Yeon Ah whether the "charge teachers" have been informed about the changes.  She looks thoughtful for a moment and says "I will call them."  By this time its like 12:35pm.  Fifth period starts at 12:50pm.  By the time Yeon Ah gets upstairs and speaks to the teacher on the phone we're looking at 12:45pm.  She gets off the phone and tells me that the third and fourth grade teacher has had the AUDACITY to say that I have to teach them as well because I was sick last Tuesday.  I was soooooooo livid. I despise that woman and how god damn lazy she is.  She was the one who said that she had to send the kids twice a week to English because she needed more time away from them.  SERIOUSLY?  WHY ARE YOU A TEACHER?  Ugh.  She makes me so angry.  And I made my displeasure known in the office.  So the teacher sends the kids (late, as always) and I have to throw together some game for them to play independently.  And of course they are loud and annoying and distracting my three little girls (who have the attention span of a fly in the best case scenario) so it was a total mess.  I got back to the office and Yeon Ah says "So, how was your lesson?"  "Thrown together at the last minute." was my answer.  Lack of timely information really kills me here.  I mean I know I sometimes do stuff at the last minute (a fact to which my mother can attest) but usually the things I procrastinate about don't affect anyone else (except my mom, haha) so they aren't really an issue.  I hate feeling like I'm the last to know everything (like Mike in our family, lol).

I have to take a moment to say that those of you who have been reading my blog from the beginning are probably like "What happened to that positive girl who loved life in Korea?!"  Well, folks, it has taken me nearly seven months, but the total honeymoon period is over.  And that's ok.  Overall, I am still happy with life here and definitely thinking its the right choice to stay another year.  However I'm not exactly wearing rose colored glasses anymore.  Those little hiccups and communication barriers that I was able to so blithely overlook earlier in my stay have definitely been having a much bigger effect on me lately.  I'm able to let go of a lot of frustrations and anger, I don't hate Korea, and my good days generally outweigh my bad, so I'm still in a good place. I have traveled enough to know that there are stages to living in a new place and that it is okay that I'm in the Frustration Stage...as long as I eventually get out of it!  And, hey, a six month honeymoon wasn't half bad!  (http://www.diversityabroad.com/cultural-shock)  

Classes went pretty much as expected last week.  Thursday was especially chill as I taught sixth grade all day and we spent most of the day coloring.  BUT it was part of a legitimate educational activity.  Last semester I'd had the third graders make snowflakes to decorate the windows for winter.  The day we put them up it started to snow.  With that kind of power over the weather, I wanted them DOWN so we could get some warmer temperatures out here. Since the sixth graders were doing a lesson on seasons I decided that we would use flowers as graphic organizers.  Each kid got three connected flowers and wrote a season in the middle of each.  Then on the petals around the season they wrote words that had to do with the season.  Then they colored them and cut them out so I could hang them on the windows.  Overall, they did a great job.  The kids thought up some really creative words and (as usual) most were crazy about coloring them juuuust perfectly.  I will take pictures tomorrow of the final result and post them.  They really bring some color and spring to my room.

Friday night I started watching Lost, from the beginning, as I've never watched it.  I blame Renee.  I started watching on NinjaVideo, but it was annoying me so I ended up BitTorrenting the whole season.  Aaaaaaand I finished the first season this weekend.  I know, crazy.  It was 25 episodes.  And I'm already five episodes into season two.  My two major thoughts are as follows (no spoilers):

1. I have flown a heck of a lot in my life, and I've never, EVER seen a plane with that many attractive people on it.  That is the most suspicious part of the whole show.  They should have looked around the plane and thought "Oh crap, too many hotties.  This can't be good." and gotten off.

2. I think the reason why people are so obsessed with this show is pretty unique.  As far as I can tell, its not because you develop any deep attachment to characters or feel you have an emotional stake in their stories.  Everyone just watches because they have NO IDEA WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING.  Seriously, I've watched more than thirty episodes and I still have no idea what is going on.  People keep tuning in with a vague (and futile) hope that questions will be answered.  How many seasons is it before I feel like I have some inkling of what is going down?

Saturday was mostly taken up by doing lots of house cleaning (spring cleaning mode I suppose) and laundry that has been piling up.  My goal is to have my apartment spotless by this weekend so that was quite a lot of work.  Tonight's goal: washing the towels, doing the dishes, and cleaning out the fridge.  And watching some Lost.  Haha.

Sunday was Easter and I met up with Laura, Dana and Julia at Suji's, a restaurant in Itaewon for brunch.  Holy crap it was delicious.  I had a HUUUUGE omelet with potatoes, onions, bacon and cheese in it.  And a Dr. Pepper!  I was so full...but we followed breakfast with apple crumble a la mode.  Perfection.  And then we sat around for a while just talking, bitching, sharing stories, etc.  It was pretty therapeutic, haha.  After brunch Dana and I walked up to What The Book, a foreign bookstore in Itaewon (where I picked up a copy of Holes for one of my students) and then we checked out a foreign grocery store (where I bought some Campbell's New England clam chowder which I will be enjoying tonight).  It was just a really nice day weather wise so we wanted to walk around for a bit.  Then I headed home for more laundry and cleaning.  And Lost.

My gigantic, delicious omelet.

Dana striking an oh-so-Asian pose with her sandwich.

Julia rocking out with a breakfast burrito.

Laura classing it up (note the raised pinky) with her fish and chips.

Getting ready to dive into my delicious vacation from Korean food.

Yesterday I got to school and found out that (for a still undetermined reason) my second period was cancelled, so I had an easy first period with the fifth and sixth grade returners, then a break before my last two classes.  I was in a pretty Easter-y mood and my Yeon Ah gave me a wrapped up egg that I assumed was chocolate, so I had that to look forward to after lunch.  The fifth grade lesson was on prepositions of place and we did an Easter Egg Hunt which was pretty sweet and the kids were super into it.  Cindy and I hid 20 uniquely decorated eggs around the room and the teams had to find them and fill in a list telling what they looked like and where they were.  It killed about 20 minutes of class, everyone was engaged, and the best team only found 16 of the eggs, so that was awesome.  I did get super pissed because the third period class told the fourth period class where some of the eggs were hidden as they passed in the hall, so I am going to give them HELL next week.  And no prizes for them.  Punks.  After class I headed to lunch.

You could not have made a more horrific lunch for me if you tried.  Going down the line we had white rice with corn mixed in (I hate the corn here...it doesn't taste good and its just a weird texture that should not be hanging out in my rice!), the bean curd/mushroom soup that smells like vomit and burns your throat going down just like vomit does coming up, radish kimchi (I really hate radish...the texture, the taste, everything), little whole shrimp with their tail and shell still on that were dried and covered in a red sauce that you had to eat whole, and an empty bowl.  Cindy said the woman was going to get more of what was in the bowl and I could just wait.  So I sat down and started in on everything else.  The shrimp were what I imagine soft shall crab is like...I had to just keep chasing it with rice to keep from gagging.  The soup was bad as usual (luckily we don't have that soup often).  I didn't take any radish.  So I'm cruising right along and the once empty bowl appears.  This time it is filled with entire fish that are about 6 inches long.  Head, fins, tails, all still there.  Their gaping mouths were frozen in shock, and their unseeing eyes bulged out.  "Um...I think I'm okay" was all I could say.  Suffice it to say, no fish for me.  BUT my one shining savior was upstairs.  That beautifully wrapped chocolate egg.  I race upstairs only to find...IT IS A REAL, HARDBOILED EGG DRESSED AS A CHOCOLATE EGG (all glittered up for Easter?).  Heartbreak ensued.  And the Arrested Development jokes flied as I told my sob story to Renee.  ("Do they have packets of mayo in the cafe? You could squirt it in your mouth and then pop the egg in there."  "I was JUST thinking about making a mayonegg.")

Cannot believe I found this.  The internet is a wondrous thing.

Yesterday afternoon I finished planning early and ended up watching this week's episode of Amazing Race and The Pacific before school ended.  I went home and had some Paris Baguette for dinner while enjoying some Lost.  This morning when I got to school I found out that fourth and fifth grade went on a field trip today so I didn't have any classes for periods 1-3.  Of course no one told me this ahead of time...but why would they?  I am supposed to be psychic here, obviously.  So basically I relaxed this morning and taught two classes in the afternoon (spaced out by a meal that was leaps and bounds better than yesterday, but still far from my favorite Korean lunch).    

This afternoon I found out that SMOE will no longer be hiring teachers for public schools in Seoul.  EPIK is taking over and will be doing all the hiring.  I don't know what this will mean for those of us trying to renew, but I do know that it annoys me to no end that we found out about it from Dave's ESL Cafe and bloggers before SMOE.  As Brigid said "need to know basis strikes again."

On the way home from school today I took some pictures.  Spring wants soooo badly to be sprung here in Seoul, but its still a little too cold for most of the flowers to come out.  But they're getting there!

Finally warm enough for kids to hang out and play soccer after school.

These trees have huge white flowers...they are going to be so pretty when they open.

Cherry branches.

Little buds raring to go.

Ready to pop.

Tiny leaves are pushing out of all the trees.

These little guys just couldn't wait.

When the rest open this tree will be lovely.

More white trees by the tennis courts.

Can't wait for it to look more springy!


  1. "2. I think the reason why people are so obsessed with this show is pretty unique. As far as I can tell, its not because you develop any deep attachment to characters or feel you have an emotional stake in their stories."

    it must be painful, being so, so wrong, meaghan.

    yes, you DO become attached. and yes, the writing/storyline gets better with each season. just wait until the 5th.


    ps: I expected better from you. jin and sun are from south korea. you share a common bond (sortof).

  2. by the way, that first comment was from me (obv).

    <3 shannon

  3. **They should have looked around the plane and thought "Oh crap, too many hotties. This can't be good." and gotten off.**

    hahahahaha. If it's to good to be true, it probably is? CRASH. (I know next-to-nothing about LOST, but there is a plane crash... right?)