My wrist got so incredibly painful that I could not use it for about a week two weeks ago, meaning I couldn’t even type. Thus, I created a you tube video of myself talking for my blog post. I am not sure how successful it was, or even if anyone in America can even access it. But thank goodness the inflammation in my wrist has gone away, and I can type again. I don’t even have to wear my wrist brace anymore. Just one less thing for me to worry about.
Despite that, this last week was quite challenging because of quite a few reasons. Reason #1: both because of Korea being in the world cup and because finals are coming up, my host sisters had been awake and watching loud videos at all hours of the night. Ear plugs only help so much.
Reason #2: Rather than teaching my students, this past week I have only been testing them. When I teach I am very active. I walk around and move constantly. When I give these tests, I am sitting in a chair asking the same questions over and over. Under those conditions, it is hard to stay energetic. I have grown very lethargic in my classes, and have fallen asleep at my desk in the teachers office three times in one week.
Reason #3: My schedule this semester is very different than last semester. Last semester I taught all first years, second years, and third years throughout the semester. This semester, however, before midterms I taught half the second years, and after mid terms, I taught the other half. However, during these tests, I have to test them all. Meaning instead of 19 classes, I did 22. Actually 23 because of club class scheduling. Thursdays I usually have four classes. Last Thursday I had 6. It sucked.
Reason 4: The heat. The heat of Korea in summer is about the same as Dallas, but add all the humidity. So it’s kind of like Houston. That usually doesn’t affect how you teach… unless you inexplicably lose your air conditioning. Well guess what? I actually haven’t had my air conditioning all this semester, but it wasn’t a problem until summer started. Now when I go into my classroom I open all the windows, turn on all the fans on full blast, and I’m still sweating bullets. Every class my students come in and say, “Teacher, it’s so hot! Air cone!” Air cone is a Konglish word for air conditioning. In Korean I say “I know you are hot. I am very sorry, but there is no air conditioning.” I doubt the school is trying to give me heat stroke. But I would be lying if I said I hadn’t considered it.
Reason 5: All of the reasons I have listed before were mainly annoying frustrations. But something happened on Thursday that really made me sad, that I still haven’t really gotten past.
So the last time I did performance assessments it didn’t go so well. When they came around this semester, my co teachers gave me a lot of tips. And Mrs. Go was very clear on how I should grade. She told me that Canberra, my high level students should get a score between 90 and 100. London, my high intermediate classes should get between an 80 and a 90. Ottawa, my low intermediate classes should get a score between 70 and 80. Washington, my low level classes, should get a score between 60 and 70.
When I found out about this, I became almost as angry as when all the grades of my students were changed last semester. They gave all the Canberra students a 100, the London students a 90, and Washington a 80. It goes against everything I have learned about education. But, after what happened last semester, I smiled at Mrs. Go and said “Okay.” And I have been grading that way.
On Thursday, I did a 3rd year London class, and one of my students must have caught a glance at my grade book, because after class she came up to me and asked why no one in class had gotten a 100. I thought for a long time, just staring at her, and finally, all I could say was “I can’t tell you.”
And now I am kind of hating myself because I realize that agreeing to grade in this way was a move to protect myself. But I didn’t protect my students. Part of the role of an ETA is honoring your fellow teachers and doing what they tell you, but I did this unquestioningly. And when that student approached me, I had the inclination of explaining it by saying, “Because Mrs. Go told me to.” Which sounds so incredibly weak and cowardly. Because of my position, I know there is no way I could have graded completely the way I have been taught, but maybe if I had explained in a very diplomatic way my problems with what I had been asked, maybe we could have reached a middle ground. I am so ashamed of myself that I didn’t even try. And my students will be paying the price.
Maybe my mind just isn’t on the ball anymore, because school is winding down, and my head is pointed toward home. I return to America in three weeks. For two of those I will be teaching. Yesterday night Hemma and I had a good bye dinner. She is going to be one of the coordinators for the orientation that will train the new ETA’s, and thus she is required to leave Gyeongju two weeks before me. I will see her at the final dinner next weekend, but we will never have a meal just between me and Hemma. I’m really going to miss her. I can’t imagine what my grant year would have been like with out her.
This morning I went to a wedding. My principal’s daughter got married, and he invited me. In Korea “Western” style weddings are popular, so when you hear that, you think it is going to be similar to a wedding in America. And there were a few similarities, but it was very different.
First off, there were a lot of show techniques that belonged at a low budget beauty pagent. We were in a hotel hall. The aisle was raised a foot off the ground, and whenever someone was walking down it, a smoke machine went on. When the bride walked down the aisle, it was smoke and bubbles. And get this, at the end of the ceremony, when the bride and groom were walking back down the aisle, streamers shot over them. Making me yelp in surprise because I am startled very easily and it was loud.
The procession was different. The mothers of the bride and groom walked down first, followed by the groom, and then the bride toted by her father. While the bride and groom are standing at the front of the hall the man who was marrying them talked in Korean for a long time. They exchanged vows, then walked to the bride’s parents to bow to them, and then walked to the other side of the aisle to do the same to the groom’s parents. Then a young boy and girl ran up to give them bouquets of flowers. And then they walked down the aisle to have streamers shot over their heads.
The strangest things was the pressence of guests. In American weddings, usually the guest list is very thought out, and everyone is sent fancy invitations. Which is why I was surprised that my principal invited me two days ago when I was walking by his office. When Mrs. Go and I got to the wedding, the entryway area outside the hall was packed with people. Inside, there were tables and I looked at them with doubt, knowing that there would definitely not be enough seats for everyone. When the ceremony started I understood. The first people who came got seats. Ev eryone else squeezed in at the back. And I almost found this humorous: during the ceremony, many people were talking. I mean, I had no problem with it, because I couldn’t understand what was being said anyway, but it is so different than the atmosphere os an American wedding.
Not what I was expecting. Then again, very little in Korea is the way that you expect it.