Thursday, 29 September 2011

Feeling a Bit Under the Weather

But alas, that won't stop me from writing!

This week has definitely been interesting. I haven't decided whether it's good or bad, really. Currently, I am sitting in my favourite coffee shop where a kind fellow always makes mine and Ryan's day. It's called Tombola, and it's right outside our apartment complex. Every time we come here, he manages to turn my frowns into smiles. I don't think I've ever met anyone quite like that other than Ryan, my brother, and my dad. (Oh, and my Uncle Bob, Uncle Aaron, and cousins Evan and Adam.) He doesn't know a thing about mine or Ryan's day, and he just makes us feel like the black cloud never hovered over our heads to begin with. Although there is a language barrier, he tries to speak English, apologizes when he can't translate when we should be the ones apologizing... everything he does is so wholehearted and sincere. He just might be the most humble stranger I've ever met. Ryan and I always talk about how sweet he is and how he just melts our hearts to pieces, and we've never met anyone quite like him. I personally can't wait for Christmas because we both want to give him something in return just for being him. We talk about how if we were rich, we'd buy him a plane ticket to anywhere in the world he'd want to go and he can bring a friend. Just a few moments ago, Ryan joked about how he wouldn't be surprised if he followed us all the way back to our apartment complex yelling, "Thank you! Kamsahamnida! Annyonghi kaseyo!" I can't help but laugh because I kind of believe it could happen, and it wouldn't bother me, either. Or Ryan for that matter.

To give you an example of just how amiable this guy is:
Ryan handed me a cup with water he poured into it. I asked him if his water tasted like smoke and he tasted mine. We both made a grossed out face and realized it was only mine; someone probably was a smoker when they drank out of it. Well, we handed it to this man just to let him know it was dirty (not because we were trying to be picky-- we thought it would be out of interest for other people, too). He humbly bowed his head several times, fussed with his hair as if embarrassed, and as we rounded back to our seats, he came around the corner with bigger cups filled with ice. Ryan and I felt so bad... this guy was just the most generous guy we've ever encountered. This guy seriously makes you gravitate towards his contagious personality. This is getting sappy, but if you met this guy, you would just keel over at his gentle and welcoming disposition.

I digress. He cheered us up from what was becoming a stressful week. As I mentioned in the previous post, the younger supervisor who helped us settle into work finished her time last week. The older woman they were going to hire decided this past Monday that she didn't want the job, thus leaving us supervisor-less. This is a problem because the supervisor is supposed to be the bridge for us to the Korean staff as she speaks both English and Korean. Also, she plans the lessons for our classes. Well, the problem became apparent yesterday when one Korean staff member approached me with a worried look.

The kids we have come from rich families and so take education seriously-- hence, expensive hagwon school, right? Well, some kids' mothers watch the lesson plans with a careful eye and interrogate their children right after class on what they did in class. Then they check off each thing on the schedule to make sure we are doing our jobs. I had no idea about this, but luckily I take my job seriously and follow the plan religiously. I sometimes even throw in extra things to push their learning curve. Anyway, she tells me about the moms and that I now have to plan a week's worth of schedules for five classes and 9 hours a day worth of material. I was pretty unprepared for that just because it came all at once, and Ryan and I hardly have time to prepare anything before/in between classes already.

Ryan and I quickly strategized how we were going to do this in one day: today. Because we teach kindergarten from 9- 2 together, we figured we could take turns for an hour teaching while one person made lesson plans for the respective classes we teach. This worked out pretty well, but it was very stressful as well since there was a lot of technical changes that needed to be done (more so on my part) and also some other nit-picky things that needed to be altered to the parents' wishes (which I know nothing about). It's a lot of pressure to say the least: I want to make sure I am meeting the parents' demands but at the same time, no one prepared us for this the right way. To be fair, we are thankful that the Korean staff teacher is understanding and as helpful as she can be to us. I do feel a little paranoid that I am not planning the lesson plans how she would like them. All I can say is I put a lot into the time I was given, so I can feel confident that I did everything to the best of my abilities and in the children's best interests.

Some other stressful things: 1) A kid running into a door. One of our kindergarteners had to go to the doctor's during lunch because the wooden door he ran into caused his eyelid to bleed, on the outside mind you. We were informed that the mother had a moment of rage and that she was taking him to a plastic surgeon. Our reaction to this was ".................................." because really, it was just a cut... I don't think the mother's anger was directed at us, but whether it was to us or the Korean staff, or even both of us, it was a little ridiculous. Everyone agreed. She later calmed down, which was good, because it was still pretty stressful to deal with. 2) A kid who is incredibly sick coughs deliberately in your face and general direction more than 7 times. He does not hold back, either. It is with all his might... almost hoping you might catch his illness. So I am now coming down with a cold-- I am starting to lose my voice and am in the stage of what I like to call a man-voice. 3) How in the world do you teach kids that don't know "What is_____?" They don't know "read" "spell" or "write" even if I do motions. It's one thing to legitimately not understand things if you are trying but these kids don't even try. I guess I should have more sympathy. I just don't see how these kids can have no motivation to learn a simple word when I can remember being their age and paying attention like the world would end if I didn't. Then again, I didn't have to learn a second language at a later age. I lost my fluency in Chinese at the age of six as I was immersed completely in English both at home and at school.

Sometimes, writing in this blog makes me realize mid-blog or mid-sentence that I need to be more lenient. I am trying to assume the most adult role I can possibly assume at my age and sometimes forget my natural tendency to be a kid that I naturally I am. As cheesy as this sounds, I suppose I am trying to find balance with the 6 year old I naturally am and in being an adult in the real world. When I act like a grown up, I really act like a grown up. And when I'm myself naturally, I forget the rules of the world and am at play with everything and everyone around me. I find that I take after my mom's "whip-you-into-shape-into-no-time"attitude when it comes to education with kids aged 7-10. I remember not liking it, but at the same time I appreciate it. I knew then (and even now), though, that there are better ways that are conducive to learning faster. I know because my dad used to balance my mother's education techniques, which I also appreciated very much. Patience, even with mistakes, gentle encouragement, and firm pushing. It was a good balance. In all honesty, growing up, I preferred the latter and today, I still do. It's just my upbringing that brings out the stereotypical Asian mom characteristics. Oy vey. In any case, that's the thing I am trying to figure out: balance. I have it half way figured out in terms of discipline. Oh well, it's a learning experience, right?

On the plus side, we gained another kindergartener this week and hopefully, another little princess if her mother decides she wants her to keep attending. This week is a test trial, I think. It would be good for the only girl in this class to have her best friend back in class. Ryan and I absolutely adore the only girl in this class-- she's incredibly smart. We were joking about how her brain is too advanced for her body. She knows too much but her brain has to process and figure out how to convey what she's trying to say, sometimes. It's too cute for us to handle. We glance at each other from across the room and giggle. Everyday, she just says or does the darndest things-- sweet, smart, or comedic, and we just want to squish the cute out of her. It's good to hear from her mother that she adores me. :)))) I just want to take her home with me, haha. And Ryan admits his heart melts when she hugs/sits on his lap/kisses him.

These kids-- hard and good times-- make everything here and back at home worth it. Hopefully I can jot down some funny things Ryan's told me about his classes. Or maybe I can get him to write on here, too, because he has more interesting things happen in his classes in my opinion.

Anyway, that's all for now. Zoom zoom!


  1. Margaret! Sounds like you and Ryan are doing a great job with your kindergarteners. What an exciting adventure for you both! And your friend at the coffee shop sounds wonderful. Like an angel! It's nice that you and Ruan want to get him something for Christmas. I'm sure he'll be very surprised and appreciative of it. :)) thanks for the posts!

  2. Thanks, Michele! Glad to have gained another reader. :) Keeps my motivation up for posting. I wasn't sure there was a purpose in me blogging anymore after England... but knowing that people read it definitely changes that!