(A Late) Sunday Post: Back to School

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The Sunday Post is a meme hosted by Kimba at Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week, and showcase books (and, for me, music) every Sunday.

What’s new?

The new school year started: A batch of fresh-faced 1st graders arrived, staff were moved around to different offices, and the old students returned looking quite grown up. As everyone piled into the gymnasium for the school’s opening ceremony, I actually got quite teary-eyed (surprise surprise!): I’ve been teaching the 3rd graders for 2 years now but won’t be around to see them graduate; My 2nd graders have finally shrugged off last year’s wild beginnings and have returned with a long-awaited maturity; And the little ones? I won’t get to know them at all.

Seeing all of the kids together in one place finally made me realise that I’m really going to miss them. I love them all and worry about their future. They deserve an English teacher who loves what she/he does and puts 110% into teaching them. I’m not saying I’m the world’s greatest but, for the last 2 years, I’ve put my heart and soul into what I do because my kids deserve it. I can only hope that whoever replaces me doesn’t come here just to waste time and earn a bit of money (because, believe me, there are plenty of those). My kids won’t go to college so their English classes aren’t a priority. That doesn’t mean they only deserve minimum effort from their teacher.

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Anyway, the schedules are still being sorted out so I’ve only managed to teach one class so far. These new 1st graders are definitely at a higher level than I’m used to which was a pleasant surprise.

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Some things never change though.

I’d love to believe that this is because I made a good impression on them. The reality is that students will do anything cutesy to get a good grade. Hilarious.

Tuesday was a holiday here so on Monday night I went out with a couple of friends for dinner and drinks. If there’s one thing you can count on in Korea it’s that Konglish is everywhere and it’s always fantastic:

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One bottle of peach-flavoured soju turned into two … which then turned into three … and then I lost count. So, needless to say, most of Tuesday was spent in bed nursing a belter of a hangover and watching films.

One of them happened to be one of my favourites, Some Like It Hot. I hadn’t watched it for a while but every time I put it on, there’s always one nagging question that comes to mind:

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How in the hell did they actually get away with putting Marilyn into this dress in 1959? Don’t get me wrong – I love it. But I think we can all agree that even by today’s standards, it would be considered “revealing”. How did they do it in 1959?

Books Read This Week

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Yes I Can ended up being one of those books that you enjoy so much you don’t want it to end. Who knew that Sammy Davis Jr. could produce a book that is so full of raw and inspiring lessons about history, race, and culture?

I could sit here all day and go on and on about why I loved this book. Instead, I’m going to quote one of my favourite passages:

Charley Joke-teller doesn’t understand that violence is the smallest part of prejudice. He’s standing in the middle of a social revolution, telling his little jokes, thoughtlessly assuring people that we all carry knives and steal and lie, until it’s hardly any wonder that when we try going to school with you, some guy who’s been convinced is ready to crack open our skulls to prevent it.

As awful as violence is, at least it’s out in the open where it can be recognised and handled and eventually it’s ended. But the jokes keep on, quietly, subversively, like a cancer, rotting away the foundations of hope for the N***o, stealing the dignity on which we can build respected lives.

And as bad as the jokes, are the words – the put-down words like ‘n*****,’ ‘k***,’ ‘c****,’ ‘w**,’ ‘s****.’ I hear them used between buddies, good-naturedly, but anyone who thinks he’s above prejudice, so he can use them affectionately or humorously is missing the point: If a person sincerely desires to stamp out a sickness he can’t keep a few of its germs alive just for laughs. Before we can reach a Utopia in human relations those jokes and those words and the legends which they perpetuate must die.

You can pass legislation for desegregation, but you can’t legislate people’s minds and that’s where the progress must finally be made, in people’s minds and in their hearts. Opening school doors and job opportunities is the first step, but it’s like hacking off the top of a weed: After we do it we’ve got to get down and pull out the roots so that it won’t keep growing. We’ve got to get to the source of racial intolerance, of prejudice – the ignorance, the clinging to long outdated legends which continue to distort the picture of the American N***o. When people reach the point at which they examine the facts then there’ll be little or no need for laws that say colored kids can go to school with white kids because I really believe there won’t be anybody suggesting that they shouldn’t.

I loved Sammy’s voice: Whether he was examining the human condition, Judaism, race, society, or his own fame, I couldn’t get enough of his story. As soon as I finished the book, I downloaded the sequel Why Me? onto my Kindle but am trying to force myself to take a break and read something else before I dive back into his world.

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Right now I have my nose buried deep in this gem. This is the sequel to Webster’s Daddy Long Legs, a book I picked up in India and ended up loving just as much as the film adaptation with Fred Astaire.

Currently Listening to:

There was no focus on one particular musician/band this week. Instead, I just left my iPod on shuffle. Here were a few songs I ended up putting on repeat though:

(Nothing like a bit of 60s slut-shaming, eh? Maybe Sue went out with other guys because you are nothing but a ‘Wanderer‘, Dion.)

(The world’s most depressing song and yet I can’t stop listening to it.)

(If I could make love to a singing voice right now, it would be this one.)

Links to things I loved this week:

Is the Kesha Case a Hangover from the 1970s? @ The Guardian

Institutional Racism Was the Funniest Joke at the Oscars @ Vice

How to Be a Mindful Traveler @ Willful and Wildhearted

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15 thoughts on “(A Late) Sunday Post: Back to School

  1. I know exactly what you mean about some people just wasting time to earn a bit of money out there.. fortunately I think (hope??) the majority of people do care enough. I was actually teaching in a hagwon when I was there (well two actually as Justin and I went back for a second time after travelling in South America). I liked it because I loved kindergarten (that was why I ended up doing my PGCE in Early Years when I went back to the UK)- so what does it mean that the kids won’t go to college? How do they already know? I know when I was there some of the older kids in the hagwon told me they went to specific high schools for what they were supposed to “do” later in life. Is it already like that for them in 3rd grade?? Or is it 3rd grade in high school, not US 3rd grade like I’m thinking of? 🙂

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    • Oooh, Joella, I might end up sending you a bunch of questions about the PGCE. I’m about to teach literacy rather than ESL in Singapore and am using that to work out whether I’d like to do the PGCE (in secondary school rather than primary school). I still have so many questions about it though.

      I teach at high schools at the moment so the 1st graders are 16, 2nd graders are 17, and 3rd graders are 18. They’re vocational high schools and they sound just like what your older hagwon kids were talking about. 🙂 One of my high schools is a beauty school so the students are training how to be hairdressers/nail technicians/make-up artists, etc. and the other high school is a horticulture school so those students are learning how to be farmers/bakers/mechanics. etc. The school helps place them in a job during their final year here. 🙂 Usually these are the kids who either didn’t do well academically in middle/elementary school or they had a lot of social/behavioural issues so the schools help to make sure they’re not completely left alone with no qualifications or skills when they graduate.

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      • Ahh yes, that makes sense- I was wondering how 8 year olds would know if they were going to uni or not haha! Now I think about it, I think the kids at my hagwon were the kids that were going to the academic high schools, but they were always afraid of being sent to these more vocational high schools because they would get in trouble with their family or something.. oh dear..so much pressure. I’m really glad those kids at the vocational high schools still get English classes. Oh yes, please do feel free to email me about the PGCE or anything like that. I think using your job in Singapore to see if you like it is a good idea. I had been thinking of being a secondary school English teacher but realised I loved Kindergarten when I was in Korea.

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  2. Reminds me of when I had to say goodbye to my kids in Korea, who I thought I didn’t like so much, but when it came to saying goodbye in assembly, it was suddenly unexpected tears. I think I was a lot more attached to them than I think.

    I’m a secondary teacher now though, I much prefer it!

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    • I think even though they drive you nuts, you can’t help but kind of love them, can you? Ooh, I’m doing the exact opposite to you – Going from secondary to primary school. Very nervous about teaching the little ones.

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      • I’m sure you’ll be fine! I’m in no way a primary teacher. I just don’t have the patience, good luck though!

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  3. I loved this post and have just added Yes I Can to my to be read list!! I am more than positive you have impacted your students more than you know. I was definitely a teacher who came more for money, but that never stopped me from trying my best even if my situation was a bit unique but I hear what you are saying, far too many people in Korea that really shouldn’t be, but I digress. I think you were such a great source of inspiration to them, especially in your one school where they really lacked encouragement from the faculty. I truly believe they will remember you and take the lessons they learned with you as they move forward. I can’t wait to read more Sunday Posts and to hear about your new adventures in Singapore. xo

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    • Thanks, hun. Sometimes I like to think I’ve made a positive impact but it’s so easy to get discouraged here. 😛 Looking forward to seeing new posts from you too. I still don’t even know what you’re up to lately. X

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  4. Your question about Marilyn in Some Like It Hot cracks me up, but you are absolutely correct. Maybe they could get away with it because it is Marilyn? (BTW, I seriously love that movie. I made my kids watch it with me more than once because Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in drag is just too awesome NOT to watch multiple times!)

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