Yesterday, Chusamma came to school in a smashingly tasteful charcoal silk suit. I asked him what the special occassion was, and he said he had some private matter to take care of in the afternoon.
Today, he stopped by my desk and told me he passed the TEPS English test! Yayy! So that means he’ll not only get a pay raise, but can move on towards getting his phd.
So I wrote a little card for him on the stationary I bought to write Kim Sook Ja a letter, asking him to do the honor of allowing me to take him out to dinner. For some reason, he kept saying he owes it all to me – and I didn’t help him AT ALL. Maybe just forcing himself to speak to me in English helped his listening skills or something, I’m not sure. He and Young-a are tight and she’s excellent at English, so I don’t think he really needed me that much…funny, I looked his name up in the school directory and it’s really Chil Sang, so I don’t know how that becomes Chusamma, but that’s how it sounds.
Went to another open classroom demonstration, this time at a nearby public high school. Omg – their facilities are sooo much better than ours! I think every school on the planet is nicer than ours: it reminds me of military buildings back when my husband was in the Navy, but they were cleaner. Can you say drab?
On the way there, In-Kyung informed me that our school got the highest English test scores in Anyang, a city twice the size of Seattle, (something like 87 high schools) and she had to take that opportunity to remind me we have some of the highest caliber students, and that it could be much, much worse. I let her know I was enjoying teaching lately, and that I was going to sign for another year had it not been for that incident with the student where I got no support from the school. I also told her that maybe if the school would pay for my trip home, allow me to move, and guarantee me grading privileges and more support, that I might reconsider. So we’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, I will continue to explore neighborhoods in Seoul and get a feel for the job market. I asked her to broach the Vice Principal about this, since my formal letter of about four months asking for changes came across as too direct…
At the school, I was surprised to see Mr. Mullet there. He did a pretty good job – kept his lesson focused, had an easy-going style, and utilized multi-media in a creative way. BUT like ALL THE OTHER open classrooms I have sat in on, he kept tossing candy to the children who answered questions. In-Kyung and I had a hard time suppressing our comments about this, as she too feels this isn’t something teachers should resort to – I mean, it’s just uncomfortable to watch and really looks like training dogs for stupid pet tricks. I kept oohing and aahing that he actually had large art paper and markers for the kids to draw with, which cracked In-Kyung up, because I couldn’t even get pencils for the soon-to-open English Zone for my students when I asked for it. But I’m really excited I got narrow, movable desks and stools vs. comfy chairs with arms on them.
She did ask him later about the candy thing, and he said that he’d only recently started to use it since he was leaving soon and really wanted to get some cooperation and progress before he left. He said he was spending a fortune on candy, but that it was necessary because the students were so low level and because he only saw them twice a month. I think In-Kyung was the only Korean teacher there who did not preface her comments with a long formal preamble thanking them for the time and effort and welcoming them and providing the snacks and…Asian culture. It’s a wonder any business gets done!
So if I stay here, I think I’d choose to live at Anyang Station, which is more vibrant than here. Where I’m staying reminds me of Bellevue. Like living in downtown Bellevue – only much worse, because there’s no single family housing as far as the eye can see. And you know how much I hated Bellevue…how much most people that live in Seattle hate Bellevue. How all history has been erased, most of the buildings are the same age, operable windows are rare, details to facades are lacking, how corporate and anonymous it all looks, how even the street trees are lacking in character.
I might also consider commuting hell. It might be worth it, not having to adjust to a new school but to live in a real neighborhood with regular characters and a sense of place.