Monday, October 18, 2010

Sports Day!

I have had a love/hate relationship with Sports Day from the moment I learned it was happening.  The reason to love it were clear...getting to watch my kids spend a day having fun and doing group performances in awesome costumes.  The negative, however, was the hours of practicing (not exaggerating when I say HOURS spread out of WEEKS) that not only screwed up my schedule royally by moving or cancelling my classes with students in various grads, but also distracted students (and me) during the classes I did have.  All of the practicing took place out on the field in the center of the school, so every moment of repetitive music and yelled directions in Korean came right in my window any time I opened it to get some fresh air.  Trying to keep 30 fourth graders on task in English class is hard enough, but add in a room that is either too hot (windows closed) or too loud (windows open) is just about impossible.

I was all excited two Fridays ago (Oct 8) because things were finally going to get back to some semblance of normal.  However when I arrived at school earlier in the week I was informed that the date had been changed to accommodate for our new principal. I am not sure if I previously mentioned it, but my school's principal, who was supposed to retire in March, decided to just quit this month.  The school was informed that the new principal would be starting some time last week, but they weren't sure when.  They decided that Thursday seemed pretty safe, so they scheduled Sports Day for Thursday, October 14.  Tuesday, October 12 was scheduled as a practice day, so basically I didn't teach anything that day either.  Two days off in a week?  Why not.  

I must say I was a little frustrated by my co-workers on Tuesday.  It started when we all arrived early, as instructed, and were waiting in our offices.  For some reason the internet was down so I was beyond bored, and falling asleep as I was reading my Kindle.  They all got up to leave and I got up to go with them.  They told me that I could stay, but I told them I would like to help if I could, and besides, the internet was down so I had absolutely nothing to do.  They begrudgingly said okay, and we all headed outside.  As soon as we got outside they ditched me.  So basically I just stood around for a half hour, abandoned by the only English speakers (and it is not like they were DOING something, they just went to talk in a different area).  Then we were all told to go back inside for a half an hour until an announcement was made that practice was starting.  We went back in and once again I fought to stay awake with nothing to distract me.  When it was time to go back out, once again they told me I could stay inside.  At this point I was a little peeved, but I assured them I'd rather be outside.  They told JinHee, my fourth grade co-teacher that only comes once a week, to stay inside too, and she listened. I have no idea what she did all day.  We went outside and I was standing around taking pictures near where the rest of the people from my office were working/arranging things.  Then Yeon Ah came over and said the VP felt bad I was standing and he wanted me to sit.  I said I was fine, as I was up and about taking photos, but she insisted and went inside to get me a chair.  She placed this chair on the opposite side of the stage/podium thing from everyone else I work with, and told me to sit there.  So once again I was all alone.  Obnoxious.  Watching the practice was hilarious and entertaining, so I was able to let go of everything until we got back inside and there was a delivery for our office.  Apparently everyone in my office (later I learned every teacher in the WHOLE SCHOOL) got matching poloar fleece hoodies.  Everyone but me.  So that blew.  I hate feeling left out here, but it happens all the time.  It is just frustrating.

Thursday was a beautiful day- a little overcast and cool in the morning, but getting increasingly sunny and warm as the day progressed.  It was just a gorgeous fall day.  I rolled up in my new purple zip up hoodie (thanks Mom) that totally clashed with all of the other teachers' new polar fleece jackets, but whatEVER.  Not bitter at all...

After helping set a few things up I found a chair and settled down for some quality photography and cinematography.  The day started, as almost all events do, with a speech from the Principal (she showed up!) and Vice Principal, followed by a performance of the Korean equivalent of the pledge of allegiance and the Korean National Anthem.  Then everyone did the stretching program they have here.  There is a choreographed stretching routine that everyone is taught from like...preschool on.  Everyone knows it and it comes with this crazy song that sounds like Darth Vader is stretching somewhere as well.  Check it out in the video.  After everyone was all limbered up and ready to go, it was time to start the events.
Program for the day.  Lots planned!

The school all gussied up.

The podium/stage decorated by my coteachers and I.

Littlest returners goofing off before the day starts.  This picture captures each of their personalities perfectly: adorable, goofy, nerdy and mischievous. 

Try and tell me that my twins David and Grace (bottom right) are not the cutest thing ever.  You'd be lying and you know it.  I want Grace in my pocket.

Ready for the warm up.

Warm Up from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

The events for Sports Day fall into two main categories: Races/Games and Performances.  Every single class does their own performance and at least one race where everyone participates.  Then there are multi-grade races that involve student representatives from each class. The whole school is split into two teams: blue and white. 50 points are awarded each time a side wins a game, and at the end the team with the most points wins.  It was all organized really well and everything ran back to back pretty effectively.  It was easily the most organized event I've seen since coming to Korea.  There were a ton of parents, grandparents, and younger siblings that showed up to watch the events, which was really nice.  The district also sent out a handful of gentlemen and ladies that were way overdressed in their three piece suits, but it was nice that they came anyway.  

The first performance of the day was the Kindergarteners doing a a bee dance in five big circles on the field.  They were each instructed to wear yellow shirts, and then they were given wings and little head bobber things.  I was cracking up during the warm up because as I looked down rows of exercising kids I kept seeing flashes of little bees run by.  Apparently the dance itself is a folk dance, but the bee part was added for the viewers' benefit.  It was pretty adorable, even if parents kept rushing the field to take pictures/videos of their little bees, careless of blocking everyone else's view.

So little!

Doing the twist.

Someone is a liiiittle off.

Bee Dance from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

After the dances there was a generic running race for the first grade, and then a hilarious relay.  For the relay, four tumbling mats were put out on the field in two pairs.  Next to each pair was a large cardboard die with only the numbers 1 and 2 on it.  The entire fourth grade was split in half, and then lined up in rows of four.  The first row of four on each side was given a baton, and (holding hands) they ran out to the mats, rolled the dice, and the number that they landed on indicated how many somersaults that team had to do before running back to their line and passing of the baton.  It was extremely funny to watch the kids fling themselves face first on the mat in attempt to complete speedy somersaults.

First graders running.

Somersault relay.

It was so funny to watch.

Next was a fifth grade race where groups of 4-5 students at a time ran, dove through the slats in a wooden ladder than had holes about two feet tall by two feet wide, run, do a somersault, run, leap over a hurdle, and then run to the finish line.  It was like some kind of crazy army training!  By the end the ladder was almost broken from kids running into it full force!




Three Part Race from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

Our second performance of the day came from the third grade.  The entire grade (roughly 150 students) participated in a choreographed routine using bedazzled hula hoops.  While they probably could have used just a tad more practice (or rhythm?), they did a great job and were very entertaining.  (Sidenote, I asked Ga Young to write down the Korean names of the dances we saw, and for this one she wrote down "훌라후프"...which literally translates to hool-la-hoo-puh...think that is the traditional name? Hahaha.)

Fourth graders on their way.

Ready for their performance.  They look like the Olympic rings.

Third Grade Dance from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

After the fourth graders were done the kindergarteners ran a very cute, very yellow little race before it was time for the first graders to take to the field for their game.  This was one of my favorites to watch.  The class was split in half and told to line up on either side of the field.  In the center, two pairs of sixth grade boys were stationed, holding two tall poles with paper mache baskets on top.  Strewn all around them were literally hundreds of hard little bean bags that were filled with rice.  When the whistle blew, the first graders all ran like hellions out to the center of the field, grabbed bean bags, and attempted to throw them into the baskets.  Now, I don't know when you last saw a first grader throw something, but their aim is hilariously bad.  On Tuesday during practice the boys holding up the baskets got the crap beaten out of them with beanbags, so on Thursday they were wearing bike helmets.  I told my coworkers that we should have been keeping track of the boys' behavior all year and sent the worst ones out to get attacked by first graders.  At the end of the allotted time the team with the most bean bags in their basket wins.

Kindergarten race...precious.

"They are like animals!" -Ga Young

Now you see why the sixth graders needed helmets!

Bean Bags Into Basket from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

The next race was for the fifth graders.  In groups of five, they ran out to a basket and chose a slip of paper from inside it.  Each piece of paper had a descriptor on it, like "wears glasses," "has stripes on their clothes," etc.  Then the student must find someone matching the description to pull into the race until the end of the lap. I had been warned this was going to occur and tried my best to hide, but to no avail.  I still don't know what the descriptor was, but at one point a boy came running up and said "MAGON TEACHER! YOU MUST RUN WITH ME!"  How could I refuse?  I just wish they hadn't announced my name (and only my name, mind you) over the loudspeaker as I ran.  Ugh.  Thankfully I was standing about 3/4 of the way to the finish line so it wasn't too embarrassingly big of a deal.

One of my coworkers got picked to run too.  What do he and the little girl have in common?  Your guess is as good as mine!

I may or may not have hidden in my office for part of the race and taken this picture.

Then it was time for the first graders to do their performance.  They did a traditional dance called "꼭두각시" or Ggokdogaksi.  Dressed in their adorable little traditional outfits their dance portrayed a couple just meeting each other on their wedding day.  It was pretty freaking cute.  The girls were supposed to act all shy and the boys just looked bored.  This time they had the kids perform it twice: once with the parents all held back to that people could actually see, and once when they were allowed to get close and photograph their child.


All the tiny engaged couples.

This pair was so cute.

The boy looks THRILLED to be getting married.

First Grade Dance from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

Next there was a running race for second grade, third grade, and moms.  Oh man, no kids fell while running the ENTIRE day, but you better believe at least 5 moms went down.  I think it was mostly due to inappropriate footwear.  Thankfully no one got badly hurt and most just brushed the dirt off and kept on running!

More races.

After the races it was time for another hilarious game to watch.  It was set up much like when the first graders threw their beanbags into the basket, only this time it was second graders trying use their beanbags to break open a large, oval, pinata-like thing that was being held up by those same unfortunate sixth grade boys.  They were like little bashees, screaming as they took the field and then going nuts.  You couldn't get too close or you had to dodge a stream of projectiles from tiny hands.  When the thing broke open a congratulatory message unrolled out of it and the kids went NUTS!

Boys battening down the hatches.


Duck and cover!


Bean Bags at Pinata from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

There was also a tug of war competition for kids AND parents.

Tug of War from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

Parents Tug of War from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

The last performance before lunch was the absolutely precious second graders doing their "밸리단스" or Belly Dance.  I don't even have the words to describe how cute it was, you'll have to look at the video. Hundreds of tiny Korean second graders dressed in genie outfits BELLY DANCING?  Who thinks of these things?!  Whoever they are...I love them.

All lined up (those are my twins in the front)!

Love love LOOOOVE the outfits.

Where did they even find 150 tiny bellydancing costumes?!

I DIE every time I look at David's hip action.

Second Grade Belly Dancers from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

After one last relay race with representatives from kindergarten, first grade and second grade, it was time to go inside and enjoy a delicious lunch.  Kids went home for lunch so we got to take over the cafeteria and we had very tasty food and fresh fruit.  Then we had a bit of time to relax in our office before the festivities began again.

Relay hand off.

Directly after lunch it was time for the sixth grade girls to perform their "부채춤", or Traditional Fan Dance.  They looked beautiful.  Each girl came out in flowy white pants and a pink hanbok top.  They each had these large, beautiful, bright fans that they danced with.  They all looked so lovely and graceful, which can be a hard feat for a group of gangly sixth graders! My absolute favorite part was when they all snapped their fans out at the same made such a satisfying sound!

A lovely sea of pink and white.

Their fans were beautiful, as were their costumes.

In formation.

Making waves.

Fifth Grade Fan Dance from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

After the girls performed it was fourth grade's turn to show their stuff in a race.  One kid literally ran out of both of his shoes!  The looks of determination on their faces was pretty funny to watch...they definitely gave it their all!

Fifth graders came out next to participate in a game that could NEVER EVER be played for American field day because it is wayyyy too dangerous.  The whole grade is split in two and forms two groups facing each other with students lined up in groups of four.  The outer members in the first group pick up a long pole made of hard, square wood that is covered with electrical tape.  On each end there is a rope and a handle.  The first pair takes the two handles and RUNS towards the back of the line, dragging the pole about four inches above the ground.  Each group of four has to jump over it in tandem...if you are just a little late the pole smashes into your ankle.  OUCH.  When they get to the back of the line, they lift the pole to shoulder level and run back towards the front of the line.  You better hope you crouched down after you jumped the pole or you'll get hit in the back of the head!  I tried to explain that this could never be played in the US because we live in fear that someone will get hurt, but I am not sure I really got it across to my co-teachers.  The whole thing made me nervous!

Jumping as it passes.

Jumping the Bar from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

After the fifth graders were done scaring the crap out of me, there was a relay where 할머니 and 할아버지 (grandmothers and grandfathers) came out and got to go "fishing" for prizes we had wrapped the previous day.  They were treated to such awesome gifts and toothpaste and ziploc containers.  Exciting!  

I think that lucky grandpa just caught some gift wrapped toothpaste!

Then it was time for the sixth grade boys to take to the field.  This was another game that made me extremely nervous!  Boys were grouped in sets of four.  One stood at the front, and two stood behind him.  The pair placed their inside arms on the shoulder of the boy in front of them, and held his hand with their outside hands.  Then the fourth boy climbed on top of them and sat on the arms of the two boys in the back, with his feet in the "saddles" made by their hands.  Two teams, made of multiple quartets of boys, ran out into the center of the field and tried to beat the other team by pulling off the boy on top's hat first.  It was just a total scramble that was asking for an injury, but everyone made it out alive.  Whew.  (This game is actually a version of that traditional harvest festival dance with the guys on the wooden floats that we saw at the Andong Mask Dance Festival!)

Saddled up and ready to go.

Sixth Grade Boys Battle from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

Fifth graders then came out to do their performance.  They performed a "탈춤", or Traditional Mask Dance.  Though they weren't wearing masks, they did each have these sleeve things that came off the ends of their hands to exaggerate their movements.  We saw people with costumes like this in ads for the Mask Dance Festival.  The song that they danced to is still stuck in my head.

Entering the stage.

Pretty well synchronized!

One of my favorite pictures from the day.

Fifth Grade Dance from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

Third graders came out for a quick tug of war in small groups, and then parents flooded the field to do a HUGE tug of war.  Again, I was nervous, but everyone survived.  I was standing there, watching and minding my own business, when my VP comes and motions me out on to the field.  Uh oh.  Apparently I was volunteered for some relay race with a bunch of other adults, including the brand new Principal, our VP, a random police officer, representatives from the district, etc.  Thankfully I was put at the end of the line because no one explained anything to me, so I just had to kind of wing it.  It was pretty simple: take the baton, use your foot to dribble the basketball (why not a soccer ball? not sure) around the cone, come back, hand off the ball and baton, you're done.  Sadly the brand new (literally just started that day) principal tripped over the ball and fell very dramatically in front of the entire school. I felt so bad for her.  The rest of us did alright but we couldn't make up for our lost time, so we came in second...out of two teams.  My consolation prize?  A tube of ginseng toothpaste.  It tastes like minty dirt.  It is exactly how I imagine it would taste if you put baking soda toothpaste on an actual dirty ginseng root and brushed your teeth with it.  Eech.

The last performance of the day was the fourth graders doing a "우산춤" or Umbrella Dance.  Dressed all in white, they came out with their little multi-colored umbrellas and did a synchronized dance.  I taped the beginning and then ran upstairs to my classroom to try and take pictures of the end, where they spelled out LOVE and a heart on the ground with their bodies.  I was pretty impressed with how quickly and clearly they spelled out the was evident that they practiced a lot!

Umbrella dance.

Fourth Grade Dance from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.


The last race of the day was a relay for representatives from third, fourth, and fifth grade.  When it came down to it the two overall teams for the day were only 50 points (one event) away from each other, so that was great.  It was also just a lot of fun to see kids outside of their normal study mode.  They had a great time and were (I'm sure) exhausted by the end of the day.

Running as quick as they can.

Yellow/White team wins!

Throughout the day a couple of parents came up and introduced themselves.  Each one said a variation of "My daughter is Im SuMin in third grade.  Do you know her?"  Instead of saying "Well, I have about 600 students each week, many with the same name, and most who use English names in my classroom," I said "Of course! She does a great job in class."  One mom pressed me further about how she is worried her daughter is too shy when speaking English so I had to go into a whole spiel about when kids get more practice they'll feel more comfortable and she didn't need to worry.  Aigh.  I did get to meet one of my returners' parents, so that was nice.  

Speaking of the returners, I found out today that after many complaints from parents in my Hallasan (third and fourth graders) returner class, the teacher has been removed!  This is the heinous bitch that yells at the kids all the time, calls them stupid, etc.  I am so happy she is gone from their class...even if it means that she was transferred to my office because she'll be teaching science now.  She drives me nuts, and is one of the more annoying and lazy people I've had to interact with here, but I'm glad she's away from my kids.  Na Mi, one of the women who was in my office before, was transferred into the Hallasan homeroom, so I hope that works out for everyone.  I am just really proud that the parents stood up for their kids...I can tell they were trained in the ways of American school systems because that would never happen here!