Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Now Introducing: Kristen Teacha!

After three days of observing Angele and various other teachers conduct classes, I was let loose—and Lordy, was I sweating it. Summer session ended yesterday, and so a new schedule was handed out. Everybody was stressed. Everybody was bustling. I had no idea how to read the schedule. Daniel, a foreign teacher from New Zealand, was leaving, and so I was re-colonizing his desk, and a few of his classes. But I didn’t know which ones. And he didn’t seem to know which ones. And I couldn’t figure out how to tell who had previously taught my other classes (very important; some classes were transferred in the middle of their session, so they might be on lesson 17 on my first day with them) even though somebody had already explained it. I couldn’t ask again—stupid people aren’t allowed to be teachers, right?—and so I spent two hours trying to reference one schedule alongside a second schedule alongside a list of class rosters. Impossible. And even then, I doubted if I had done it correctly. Finally, close to tears, I asked Angele is there were simply an easier way. Flash the rosters around, she said. See if anybody recognizes old classes. I did that, but still three mystery classes—no paper trail at all. Turns out, they were brand new classes. No paper trail to find.

Any new job is rather stressful, as anyone knows, because not only are there so many new things you must bother busy people to explain to you, but there are also those questions you don’t know to ask. These, to me, are more stressful than anything. They’re like phantom limbs, right? Itching, itching, itching, while they may not really be there at all. That was a horrific simile—phantom limbs? Truly horrific. Am I seriously still harboring these dreams of writing?

But it ended up working out. My first class was at 3:30 this afternoon, and I showed up at the school at 11:30—only Mr. Kim and a cleaning woman were there—to hash out my lesson plans and familiarize myself with the books. The other teachers were super supportive and offered lots of help. Angele showed me how to use the copy machine—very important. As 3:30 approached, I was strangely calm. I felt like I should be nervous, but I couldn’t talk myself into it. Class wouldn’t be perfect. I wouldn’t be perfect. And it would all be okay. I spent the last minutes leading up to class convincing myself of this.

And then the bell was ringing, and I was gathering my supply basket and books, and eight faces made that “Huh?” look as a short blonde American walked into the classroom instead of Daniel, their old teacher. I introduced myself, and asked their names, and started talking about I don’t remember what, and they all stared at me with wide eys, and then began chattering to each other in Korean. Some of them laughed. I asked what was funny, and Newt (yes, Newt; they each pick an English “name” as they begin classes at Reading Town) said to me, “Teacha, you talk too fast!” My dad says this to me nearly every conversation we have, and my rejoinder is typically: “You listen too slowly,” but I thought this might confuse the children. So I told them that the next time I lost control of my jaw, they should raise both hands and yell: “Slow down, teacha!”

But the class went very well, and we were joking around as far as the language barrier would allow, and mid-way through, one of the boys told me I looked funny. I laughed, and told him that was not very nice, and he and another boy looked at each other with confused expressions, and then laughed themselves. “No, teacha!” the other boy said. “You funny!” I’m tellin’ ya: Made. My. Day.

I’m sitting here at my apartment trying to remember the funny things that they all said today, because there were so, so many funny things, and in such cute little Asian accents, but my mind is drawing a blank. One day while I was sitting in on one of Angele’s book library classes, the class had to write a book report together, and she asked the children what a “summary” was. They all thought a moment, and then one boy began to fan his face and said, “Very hot.” Many have tremendous difficulty pronouncing the letter L. The letters R and L are basically interchangeable in Korean, and so when they’re reading the word “small,” they pronounce it “smarll.” Hilarious. Call? Carl. People? Peorple. Definitive articles do not exist in Korean grammar, so I’m told, and so to them, I am new English teacher. And Newt is loudest boy in class. Many Korean words end in a vowel sound, and so the children often add “ee” or “uh” to the ends of consonant-ending words. Handa-me-downs. Kristen Teacha. So very cute, and it sometimes takes all you have not to laugh in the middle of class. During my last class today, I was walking around with a red pen checking sentences they were writing, and Steven had his grammar a bit mixed up—and they HATE getting red marks on their papers, because Mom will see them later—and he yelled, “Shit!” I was very startled, and expected the class to erupt in titters, but nobody said anything, and I thought maybe I had heard him wrong, and so I said, “What did you say, Steven?” and he looked up at me through is glasses and smiled. “Uh, shit!” he repeated. I couldn’t help but laugh, and I said, “Bad word. Don’t say.” Heard it at least twice more before the end of class.

I’m going to start carrying my little writing notebook with me everywhere, and recording the hilarious things they say, because they’re too good to pass up. Wish I had done it today.

Hey, here are some pictures of my apartment:

View from the front door

Ahh, the kitchen, in which lives the pot in which I boil every ounce of tap water I drink, in which--apparently--live some real bad things.

Nice big living room

The "office." It houses only a desk. Rather depressing.

The bathroom. That corner is where I point my shower nozzle when I hose myself down.

The right half of my bedroom...

And the left. Spacious, no?

The funny park across the street from my place

And the sad converter box that I somehow melted. Lucky I didn't kill myself, really.

And possibly the coolest front door I've ever seen. Yup, it's mine.

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