Monday, December 11, 2006


There is officially a head lice outbreak at Gongju Gyodong Elementary School. The teachers are wicked freaked out, and many won't let students come near them. My coteacher went so far as to put a bag over her hair at lunchtime today. I didn't realize head lice could flourish in the wintertime...particularly in a subarctic Korean school environment.
All the head lice fuss makes me nostalgic for Wesleyan...

Attempting to teach long division with big numbers through the language barrier is not a good idea. This evening has been wicky uncomfortable in the apartment--my host mom has been yelling at/hitting one or both of the boys for the past 3 hours straight. I know she's mad at Kiyeong for getting almost all of his math problems completely wrong, but I have no idea why she could possibly mad at Kibeom, the world's most perfect Korean student (Seriously, the child is a machine). At one point, she had finished whacking Kiyeong and was in the bedroom with Kibeom (she always goes behind closed doors to hit her children, which I guess I appreciate), and Kiyeong just looked so sad and hopeless, looking at his little math notebook with his head down on his arm...I had to try and help him even though I knew it probably wouldn't work. The problems were hard for a nine year-old (27 into 188 was the first one)...and Kiyeong had absolutely no idea what he was doing. I don't think he even understood the goal of the problems, so my mixed Korean-and-English explanations were not very helpful. Poor little guy. I hate that I can't help him out.
...Update an hour later: my host mom just came in my room to apologize for being mad at the boys and to explain herself to me. I understood maybe a tenth of what she said (somehow, magically, in the last week or so my host mom has forgotten that I don't understand her language and just speaks to me like I'm Korean. When I tell her I don't understand a word, she'll repeat it, I'll repeat it, and then she's satisfied that I've somehow learned its meaning. I don't get it but I've just started playing along), but she's really concerned I won't realize she has the boys' best interests at heart and she's just worried about their educational futures. She feels really guilty because she started taking her "college-y" classes last year when Kiyeong was in second grade, and she thinks her resulting busy-ness has crucially stunted his educational development. She told me that it makes her want to cry when she has to get mad at the boys, but if they don't study and do well enough in math and English, things will be really bad for them when they're older.
I'm really glad she just did that, because it's easy for me just to condemn her as a terrible lady (I mean, she's beating her kids), and I think it's really important to remember that from her perspective it's a really difficult but absolutely necessary way of protecting them.
The downside to our conversation is that I totally got busted for plugging in my rock mat loooong before bedtime and cranking it to the highest setting. I don't like to have it plugged in when I'm actually asleep, but having my legs, butt, and feet warm in the evenings is absolutely necessary to my survival. Until today my actions have gone undetected, but now my image as an energy-guzzling American is complete.

In more positive news: the sweet nongmin-of-all-work at our school fixed my space heater today. The quality of my life just improved more than I can possibly convey. On top of that, the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders are going skiing all day tomorrow, and since on Tuesdays I teach only 4th and 5th grade, I have a day off! And I was told a whole day in's a Christmas miracle!

No comments: