Thursday, November 2, 2006

Damn Hard Work

I am almost too exhausted to be typing this travelogue! This week I was asked if I would be a teacher for the "Special Intensive Program", this new thing YBM is doing to make more money for themselves. The program has three sections: conversation, reading comprehension, and creative writing. There are three levels of students: low, intermediate, and high. And it is a big commitment for the teachers, because it's 6 classes a day, while the regular teachers will likely have maybe 4 or fewer classes a day. But, I was told that I could pick the subject and level of students, so I said yes to high level creative writing. Unfortunately, when it came down to it, all teachers had to teach all levels. And the low level kids are REALLY LOW. Team 1, the lowest, can barely write their own names. I was assigned to teams 2, 5, 7, 10, 13, and 15 (the next to highest).

I was terrified for the first day of teaching, because I knew that team 2 was going to be a real challenge (our special classes didn't start until Tuesday, so I had already heard from teachers on Monday about what a nightmare some of the low teams were). I could hardly sleep the night before; I just kept dreaming of how horrible it would be. The theme for the day's writing lesson was description. I was supposed to open the class by having a student come up and everyone has to describe them. Then, they had to look at these densely drawn pictures of different "worlds" (think "Where is Waldo"-type drawings), and describe them in terms of people, animals, plants, and things.

Fortunately, it didn't go nearly as badly as I thought it would. Team 2 was able to understand the basics of description, like color and size, etc... So, the day was not as scary as I had imagined. Wednesday was Poetry day, which could have been a horror, but surprisingly was not. I managed to get them all to write a simple poem. Here is the poem I wrote along with them:

I have a cat.
He wears a hat.
He likes to cook
And read a book.
His tongue is cherry.
His nose is very

After I wrote that poem with one of my morning classes, I read it to all of my subsequent classes as an example. Every time I read it, I would laugh at the end, and they would look at me like I was eating my own boogers. No one appreciates real art anymore... :-(

Anyway, today is "Write Your Own Harry Potter Story" day, and it's proving to be a real bitch. As much as the kids here are obsessed with Harry Potter, they seem to care less about writing a new story about him. I'm on break right now, and I'm not looking forward to next period, when I'll have to cajole team 10 into giving a damn. But, my last two classes of the day are high level kids, and it should be fun with them.

Tomorrow is "Writing from Memory" day, and I have a bad feeling about it. I mean, the high level kids will do whatever you tell them to, but these low level kids need something else entirely. I know they're planning on doing a program similar to this once a month starting after Christmas, so they're going to be coming up with adaptations for super-low kids. I think that's a good idea! Far less stressful for the teachers...

Anyway, I suppose I should announce that I have actually decided to call it a day at Seoul English Village. I turned in my resignation yesterday, and I'm feeling really good about it. I have just decided that Korea, in general, is not the place I really want to be. I am tired of "fat" comments from students (which I haven't *really* gone into here, but believe me, it's humiliating and never-fucking-ending because we get new kids every week) and the open-mouthed (literally) stares from grown adults as I walk around town. Also, I'm concerned about my health. I've never been evaluated here to my satisfaction in regards to my stomach issues. This is enough of a serious problem for me that it makes me very nervous to sit here twiddling my thumbs about it.

So, I will be flying home on December 11th, with a swing through San Francisco to see Stephan for a week, and then into Des Moines on the 15th. I'll be home for the holidays, time enough to be evaluated by some *real* doctors and submit my Italian citizenship paperwork, and then be back out into the world hopefully by the end of February at the very latest. I've decided that my next adventure will be in Turkey, which is as close to Europe as an American English teacher can get right now. I'm really excited about going there, since Europe is where I've always wanted to be.

Anyway, I hope all is well with everyone! Take care and I'll talk to you soon!

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