Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Work has also changed a lot in the last two weeks. We had a supervisor, I guess you could call her a principal, who was driving everyone insane. For the last three months we have been trying to get her out of the picture. All of the teachers have been going to the boss with complaints. To make an extremely long story short, we were all on the verge of going on strike until she got fired. The boss didn't realize that the foreigners had complaints too. He doesn't speak English, so we hadn't gone to all the Korean meetings where they talked about their problems.

The biggest problem for our boss is that he considers us all family. He hasn't fired one person in 13 years! He said it was a fault of his, that he was having troubles coping with.

Andrew and I stayed up until 3 am one night constructing a list of all of our problems. I typed it up (4 pages long) and when he saw it, it must have tipped him over the edge. He fired her about an hour later. He didn't even get it translated into Korean!

Since her release, work has been a much calmer, happier place. And I guess all of the teachers are a little proud of ourselves for convincing our boss to fire someone when he has never done it before!

Last week was also the start of a new semester. New students. New classes. New. New. New. I now have 54 students (and counting, as new students are added daily). I have only taught 5 of these kids before. It is hard trying to learn all of their names at once, especially when they all have very similar names!

One of the biggest problems with their names is they are fake names that their teachers made for them. They don't have an English last name. They don't have a nickname. So when your class has three Sallys, it is hard to tell them apart. I can't say Sally B, Sally M, etc.

This semester I have three Bills, two Williams, four Sallys, two Johns, three Brians, two Steves, two Stevens, two Amys, an Ella and Elle... and the list goes on, with nothing to fall back on!

The kids also get really stressed out if you try to give them a nickname. Heaven forbid you call William Bill. Or call Bill Billy. There is no chance you get away with messing up and calling a Steven Steve. Some kids verge on tears if you get their name wrong, or else everyone in the class starts yelling back, "NOOOO IT'S STEVE!"

Every now and then, however, a kid comes along with a unique name. One of my girls is named Clover. She is as cute as a button. She is 6 years old and has little high lites in her hair. She has a very round face, and is brilliant. Whenever she answers something correctly, she smiles so big that her eyes completely disappear in her squinty face.

Feeling refreshed to have a unique name, I was informed I was having a new student. I asked her what her name was.


"Uh.. okay. Like this?" as I wrote "Julie" on the board, thinking there was no way I heard her correctly.


"Okay, like this?" I wrote "Jewelry" on the board.


All of the kids, understandably, kept calling her Julie. And it is hard not to laugh when you are repetitively telling a class, "No. Not Julie. Jewelry. Say it with me.. Jew-ler-y. Jew-ler-y. Bill, no, stop it, its not Julie. Say it with me... Jew-ler-y."

Koreans are also very prone to spelling mistakes (understandable, as it is their second language). So instead of having a Patrick, I have a Petrik. And instead of having Julie there is Jully. And I don't have a Joseph, I have Josep. If you spell the name "wrong" on the board, they stress out until you fix the "incorrect" spelling.

Most of my classes are near capacity (12) and I'm worried that if we keep getting new students we won't have anywhere to put them, nor teachers to teach them! However, I'm happy for our boss. We need 200 students to break even. Last semester we had 80. This semester we are in the 140 range... and climbing every day!

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