Sunday, April 25, 2010

Play it COOLish, Keith Teacher

The weeks really fly by and life in this routine would be fairly boring if not for the students. I've had a lot of laughs with them and getting to know them better has kept things interesting and fun. We can't always communicate well, but I can sense the personalities of even the youngest. Many of my anecdotes are probably of the "you had to be there" type, especially the ones that involve the peculiarities of Korea I can't explain in words. There have been some good ones though.

In one of my classes, there were two students with the English names John and George. One day they brought up America (it didn't come up in passing conversation, out of nowhere they said: "teacha, teacha, mee-gook, USA!" while pointing). I wrote "USA" on the board and this developed into a bubble chart of things they associate with the U.S. The product of this free-association session that I copied afterward:
My favorites are definitely "economy good," "crazy cow" (they made cow noises and made circles next to their head before saying 'crazy cow!' I've never found mad cow disease so funny), and the "Statue of Liberty," which they acted out by pretending to hold an ice cream high above their head. Once I recovered, I explained that this was no ice cream, but the torch of liberty. They found this very disappointing.

Later, another student joined the class, so I took it upon myself to name him "Paul." We now had 75% of the Korean Beatles, but I'm not sure if Mr. Lee would approve of me naming a fourth kid Ringo...

Clothing vocabulary is something that comes up in the books. I never really considered how similar "shirts," "shorts," "skirts," and "socks" are in spelling. For young learners, they can be difficult to pronounce and distinguish from each other. Thus, we have many boys claiming that they wear skirts and ties and people refusing to wear socks unless it is summertime.

The funniest I've seen involved a fill-in-the blank model dialogue that the students could fill in with different clothing words. A choice "r" missing led to this:

"This shit is too small. Do you have any shits that are larger?"

One lesson I had was about amusement parks with vocabulary of nouns (cotton candy, roller coaster, ticket) and related verbs (win a prize, buy a pass, ride a ferris wheel). I asked them about their favorite amusement parks. There are some classy parks up around Seoul, but we have a small theme park in Daegu. Trying to be nice "Keith-ahh-tee-chaa," I asked if they would like to go as a class and I'd buy them cotton candy. The sweetest little girl in the class responded in Korean and the class laughed. I asked the Korean teacher, Ms. Na, who was sitting in the back, what she had said, but Ms. Na didn't know the English word. I just gathered that she had called me a name. Ms. Na then took out her electronic English dictionary, punched in the Korean and held it up. It read: "KIDNAPPER."

Oh dear was I taken aback. I mean, sweet little Emily, everything she owns is pink, accusing me of being a kidnapper that lures young children with cotton candy - unbelievable. That's the last time I offer...

In the more advanced classes, we sometimes just have "free talking" where I ask different questions, sometimes putting them in pairs to talk before speaking together as a class. The other night, I asked what the last movie was that they had seen and one girl responded "Strange Country Alice." At first, my mind started humming a mash up of "Black Country Woman" and "Alice's Restaurant," so I was really curious. I asked her if this was an American movie (I haven't seen a movie in theaters since October) before I noticed a few other students asked her in Korean and began laughing. She meant "Alice in Wonderland," but through double translation (English to Korean back to English) came up with "Strange Country." I was laughing with the class until I felt a little lightheaded...
One of the beginner books we use teaches "can" and "can't" along with basic activities (fly a kite, draw a picture, hit a ball, ride a bike). "Ride a pony" is one of the activities, and I doubt many Korean kids have ever ridden a pony, but I still ask. Towards the end of a lesson, I asked little Matthew "can you ride a pony?" He responded in Korean and everyone laughed pretty hard (sensing the trend yet?) but there was no Korean teacher around to clarify for me. I was really curious to know what he said so I asked him again.

I could tell he was trying to describe something and the class was getting a real kick out of it, but my questions weren't really getting me anywhere, so I just handed him the white board marker and told him to draw what he meant on the board. So little Matthew marched up to the board and proceeded to draw a horse with an enormous erection. I could hardly believe my eyes.

Goodness, I couldn't have reached for the eraser any faster.