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Parent Trap

7 Jun

Pardon my absence.  I become completely worthless when stressed – I’m not one of those proactive, solve-the-problem type people…instead I have reoccurring anxiety nightmares (where all my ex boyfriends and high school nemeses try to ruin my prom night – as if, bitches!), and I watch a lot of the Real Housewives of Orange County, which always soothes me.

The main source of my recent stress-induced worry lines, has been the parents at my job.  What began as a small thing, went around and around and around, and circled into a big thing.  And I felt attacked.  And I panicked.

And then it all sort of ended up as nothing, something brushed under the rug as a “misunderstanding,” one in which I think I’m the only one still thinking about it, and still feeling hurt.

The thing about, well everything, and especially teachers here is that there are two groups:  the ones that care, and the ones that don’t.  In all honesty, it’s not the most difficult job to coast through – many of the people here just want to travel, or didn’t study to be teachers (both me)But in January, in the midst of feeling like I couldn’t do this job, or simply didn’t want to, I made the decision to care – to really go all-in, and see what happened. 

And it only took until April to see results. (hence the wrinkles and stress-shopping)

And I’m really happy I did it.  And I’m proud of myself.

But the thing about caring is…you care about everything.  So when a “parent complaint/ misunderstanding/personal attack happens – it really feels like shit, and it really feels personal. 

As Monica and I discussed (and baby bro was there too, but he just pretended to text the whole time – hi Eric, get a haircut!) I will never be the kind of person who is indifferent…about anything except Carrie Underwood, who is so damn boring.  That’s just not my personality, and I can’t spend my time that way – I’m just not that cool, despite my new hipster haircut.  And so…stuff like this is going to happen, and I’m not going to be able to laugh it off.

…so thank god there’s bad TV to download, and an endless supply of cropped blazers to buy.

Crisis: averted.  Blogging: resumed.

Today’s quote:

Sometimes when we were in Dublin, Dad would just wander off and get lost, and I would just stop and scream ‘ THIS IS MY NIGHTMARE.’

This is what my little brother said when I asked him how his recent Ireland trip with the parents went.  And then I laughed for days.

….

Today I”m thankful for perspective, which I admittedly don’t have much of. A lot of friends tried to put this mess into perspective for me…and I realized that did nothing for me.  I then reasoned that my only source of perspective is Tator Tot – if that baby is healthy and happy, then things are good, and most of the other stuff doesn’t matter.  And ironically Tator had to have little baby surgery this week, but happily wheeled his tiny suitcase outta there today.  While wearing Elmo pants.

Because he’s baller.

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But how do you know…?

11 May

...if you’re good at your job?

With some jobs it may be easier to measure general proficiency and/or success*:  doctors whose patients live, lawyers who win their cases, Taco Bell employees who make delicious tacos, or Forever 21 assholes employees who won’t let you take more than 7 items in the dressing room NO MATTER WHAT.

*I just spelled success wrong. Not one shred of this irony is lost on me.

And I think certain teaching jobs at certain schools can yield impressive results, but let’s get real because we aren’t all that white lady from Freedom Writers.  My students are from wealthy families, whose parents are committed to their education. They began studying English around age 4, and when I met them 3 years later, they all had a ridiculously advanced grip on the language.

So of course I can improve their vocabulary, grammar, and dance social skills…but so much of their progress and success happened before me.  And with the parents they have, I’m pretty sure they would find a way to improve their English in any circumstance.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty sure I’m adequate amazing at my job.  Or at least, I hope I am…because I’m really trying.  I joke about this job and everything else A LOT, but when I’m actually in front of my classes teaching a lesson, I’m trying.  I also like teaching more than I ever thought I would.  I really just wanted to travel around after college…but lately I’ve been tossing around the idea of making a serious go at this.

…but I keep coming back to the same question – how do you know if you’re good at your job?

Some things I am sure about.

……………..

Today’s quote, courtesy of Phoebe from Friends (and further proof that 90s sitcoms were and are awesome):

“I may play the fool at times, but I’m a little more than just a pretty blonde girl with an ass that won’t quit.”

 

……………..

Today I’m thankful that I have any job at all, because I do love spending making money. I also enjoy not sitting at a desk, the general hilarity of children, and working in a foreign country.  And I may or may not enjoy song time, Play-doh time, and freeze dance time….a lot.

Overheard In My Classroom

9 May

I imagine every job requires one to say ridiculous things. (examples off the top of my head: bikini-waxers, TSA agents, therapists)  But  naturally, I like to think that teaching kindergarten trumps them all.  Below are various comments and absurd things I’ve said in the last month.  Please keep in mind that I get paid for this.

-“You can’t play with the magnets until you wipe the cake off your feet.”

-“…and that’s why we don’t stand on the chairs.  Hold on, I’ll get you a band-aid.”

-“How many times have I told you not to practice taekwondo in class?”

-“Hands out of your pants/fingers out of your nose/crayons out of your mouth.”

-“If one more person falls out of their chair today, I’m taking a sticker.”

-“If we can’t do the Hokey Pokey without kicking each other, then we just aren’t going to do it anymore.”

-“Please stop cheating. It’s musical chairs.”

-“You guys our classroom smells like feet again.”

-“Did you forget to bring your ears to show-and-tell? Because that question has been asked three times already.”

-“OK raise your hand if you did not get a turn during Duck, Duck, Goose.”

-“No, I will not give you some of my coffee.”

-“Please stop trying to take my earrings out.”

-“You’re right, if a person breaks their neck, they can’t move their arms or legs, but they can still think…..Yes, that means they can still think about stars and stuff.”

-“The Easter Bunny is as real as Santa Claus.”

-“Girl spiders lay eggs after they get married.”

-“You brought your pet turtles for show-and-tell?!”

-“If you pop your balloon, I’m not giving you another one.”

-“I’m wearing my Hello Kitty socks too!”

-“Stop speaking Korean…no, that doesn’t mean you can speak Chinese instead.”

-“Please stop crawling. We walk in the classroom.”

-“Oh really? Someone in your class was eaten by a crocodile at the zoo today?”

-“That’s it. Go sit in the Thinking Chair.”

And let’s not forget this little gem that one of my students said to me today:

“I really like your face. But your hair looks like my mom’s.”

Then she walked away.

Image

…………..

Today I’m thankful for the cheap, clean, safe, and reliable public transportation in Korea. Because us poor people have places to go too. And because it’s really nice to listen to music while someone else does all the work.

I Can’t Quit You

7 May

What started as a fun travel blog, later became a chore.  So I took a break; I felt like I was too focused on writing about my experiences instead of actually experiencing them…but after another fab conversation with Monica, and a writer’s-dilemma post from my friend Jenna, I realized it was time to get back to it.

Writers write.  So if I’m not writing, I’m not a writer.  And that made me uncomfortable.  So in the hope that motivation will win out over my penchant for self-indulgence, I’ve decided to make myself write every day.  Even if it’s just a paragraph.  Or a quote.  Or a picture with a caption. Something. Anything.

But, let’s quickly catch up.  During the last 8 months, I…

-met and fell in love with my nephew. I happily wear the crazy aunt hat.

Image

-got my TEFL certification, despite my best efforts to avoid scholarly pursuits outside of Jeopardy

-left Korea, amid a flurry of parties and tears.   3 months later I came back, amid a flurry of parties and tears.

-Dated someone I thought was really amazing, but we broke up because he wasn’t.

-Went to Malaysia for New Year’s Eve.  And Taiwan for a 3-day weekend. (pics of Taiwan to come- Malaysia will not be mentioned on the blog again due to aforementioned break up and my self-respect.)

-Became a kindergarten teacher.

-Got violently ill à la Bridesmaids at the Incheon Airport.

…and today I cut all my hair off, which was much needed.  I am metaphorically and literally lighter.  The last 4 months have been a challenge, and now that I’m finally coming out on the other side of it, it’s time to write again.  You’re so welcome, friends.

Image

Today’s quote:

“And in the spring I shed my skin
And it blows away with the changing wind”     
  –Florence and the Machine, “Rabbit Heart”

And lastly, to stop the constant self-deprecating humor, and for my own spoiled peace of mind, I’m going to write something I’m thankful for everyday – which is cheesy, but significant nonetheless.  Like a good episode of Gilmore Girls.

Today I’m thankful for how utterly humbling the last 4 months have been. (please see public food poisoning in above list) And I’m thankful they’re over.

Intens(ives)

15 Aug

Due to my constant desire to buy things I don’t need, I voluntarily decided to teach summer intensive classes at work in order to make some extra money.  Summer intensives are for children whose mothers don’t want to take them to the pool signed them up for what is essentially English camp, during their one-month break from public school.  The students come every day for a million years 24 days, BUT WHO’S COUNTING, while still attending their regular English classes.

So I’m now essentially working from 9 am – 8:30 pm everyday.  Le sigh. 

Now I have never, ever, claimed to be “highly ambitious.”  Hardworking, sure, but never a “come early, leave late” kind of gal.  And this is just downright exhausting.  It’s not difficult, and I actually like the classes, it’s just such.a.long.day.  By the time I start my normal classes at 1 pm, I’m ready to go home.  And by 8 pm every night, I can’t stand the sound of my own, hoarse voice. Or the English language. Or people.

Then I like to come home, stare at my computer for 30 minutes, and fall asleep by 9:30 pm without ever actually accomplishing anything like showering, blogging, actually talking to my friends, etc.  I’ve basically shut down in order to preserve all my energy for work (and spin class – post coming soon!)

Today was the third day in a 3-day weekend.  It was also the third day I’ve worn this shirt.

While my friends did some fun stuff in Seoul this weekend, I did what I like to call Claire Bear Hibernation. (copyright)

In case any of you would also like to live like Drew Barrymore in “Grey Gardens” hibernate, here’s how:

1) Do not shower or apply makeup.  However, manicures and pedicures are encouraged, as are experimental face masks.

2) Watch as many TV series and movies as possible. I watched Cleopatra this weekend.  It was 4 HOURS LONG. But for real, Elizabeth Taylor’s wardrobe was to die for.

3) Only leave the apartment for food runs.  Bonus points if you can grab lunch & dinner in one run, therefore eliminating the need to go out again.

4) While texting and Facebooking are OK, avoid actually speaking on the phone. (everyone knows I do this normally)

5) Nap between movies.  Also, fall asleep while reading a book.

6) Channel all random bursts of energy into stupid Facebook posts and solo dance parties.

 

Good luck, I honestly think you’ll find a weekend of hibernation relaxing.  It’s like a really poor person’s spa.  (but you have to provide your own robe) But please note, if you start hibernating for more than one weekend in a row, you’re probably depressed.  Or you have mono.  Either way, go see a doctor.

Oh, and just to really solidify my nosedive into lame-balls adulthood, I went to the dentist on Saturday.

Fret not friends, there are only 7 more days of intensives – because I’m counting.  By the minute.

Tell me about it

4th O’July

8 Jul

For the first time in my life, I celebrated the Fourth of July outside the US. . . which was fine by me.  As most of my friends at home know, I do not like this holiday. I never have.  I like America, but it’s special day has always seemed more like a pain in the ass than an excuse to party.

But that doesn’t mean I downplayed it here in Korea.  On the contrary, I went on the offensive – when in foreign lands, you have to represent. (write that down)

Sunday, July 3rd the foreign teachers and I enjoyed LOTS of US-only food and Korean drinks at a bbq/party.  Unfortunately the torrential downpour forced our would-be balcony party to become an apartment party, but the food made up for it.  Sadly, I did not get pics of Diane squatting under 2 umbrellas while grilling hotdogs and hamburgers.  That was true patriotism.

Monday the 4th. . . was a normal work day.  But I tried to represent by wearing a red & white skirt, and with my AWESOME nails.  (cracked nail polish has changed my life.  I’m a one-woman manicuring machine right now):

Awesome nails + striped skirt = Happy Fourth of July from Korea

And Tuesday the 5th, we celebrated once again on a friend’s rooftop.  His parents were visiting from the US so they brought a ton of US candy with them.  I nearly went into a diabetic coma upon tasting my first Skittle  and M&M in nearly a year.  Worth  it.

So while it was definitely a different kind of Independence Day (and while I unabashedly celebrated  Canada Day much harder), it was not without its highlights:

Cla Teacha Tries to Explain Independence Day to Korean 8 year-olds:

Me: “Today is a very special day.  It’s my country’s birthday.”  (ps: history buffs, don’t go getting all technical on me until you’ve spent an hour teaching ESL)

Boy: “Teacha, it’s your birthday?!”

Me: “No, it’s not my birthday, it’s America’s.”

Another boy: “It’s Erica’s birthday?!”  (looking at Erica, a student in our class)

Me: “Noooo, it’s not Erica’s birthday, it’s the United States’ birthday.  My home country.”

Girl: “Your home?  It’s your sister’s birthday?”

Me: “Nope. Nevermind, let’s take out our books.”

 

Can’t say I didn’t try.  Sorry ‘merica.

The Problem With Being the World’s Best Teacher. . .

3 Jul

. . . is that your students will become so smart and so comfortable with speaking English, that they will morph into total smartasses.  AKA I’m reaping what I sow:

Repressed Teenage Angst

Q: What would you ask your mom, if you could ask anything and not get in trouble?

A: “Why are you not good at cooking?”

Q: Okaaaay, what would you ask your middle school teacher if you wouldn’t get in trouble for it?

A: “Why are you not good at teaching?”

When an 8-year-old troublemaker turns into a creepy Frenchmen:

Q: Okay, make the sentence “You are walking” into a question.

A: “. . . you are walkiiiinnnnggg??”

Dammit Kenneth, the answer was “Are you walking?”

While preparing for open class, in which their parents observe my class and scare the shit out of me:

Q: “Okay, why is this story so important?”

A: “Uh, because it’s for our open class.”

Yes, smartass that is why it’s important, but just for that remark I will shame you in front of your mother.

 

Q: What can you see at the Korean Folk Village?

A: “What can’t you see at the Korean Folk Village?”

 

Honest mistakes by not-yet-jaded children:

Vocab word: fluttered

“My work shit fluttered in the wind.”

While that sounds like quite the predicament, I’m fairly certain you meant shirt there, Tara.

Vocab word: snuggle

“I snuggle with the Earth.”

Prove it.  Somebody has an early God-complex.

Vocab word: gasped

“I gasped! Oh my god, it’s an ugly person!”

Well sorry to say Jina, but you’re going to have quite the rude awakening if you ever leave Korea. Rude.

 

You just got Sanduped: The Test Heard Round the World

Sandy is a very young student in my friend Ashley’s class.  Her latest test has provided nearly a month’s worth of jokes.  It all started when she wrote her name as Sandu on the test, leading to the now infamous phrase, “You’ve just been Sanduped.” A few gems from her answers:

Q: “Are you a boy?”

A: “No, I’m a yes.”

Q: “Is this an umbrella?”

A: “Friend, it is.”

When shown a picture of a chair:

A: “He is a student.”

 

A mad-libs enhanced first try at poetry:

Venus flytraps are green,

Cobras are blue,

You are very normal,

And I love you.

 

A very wise, and mysterious kindergartener:

Q: “What do you think is in a pyramid?”

A: “What’s in a pyramid? Power.

Well-played Charlie, well-played.

 

And now back to the smartasses, who can’t stop talking about poop, despite my repeated threats of lasting psychological harm:

Vocab word: Place

A: “Please don’t poo in this place.  I’m eating dinner.”

Vocab word: Position

A: “I position Claire Teacher in the toilet.”

Q: “What’s one problem with having pets?”

A: “They could poo on your face?”

 

Things I may or may not have been overheard saying in my classroom:

“My last class was a ZOO, and now you’ve just become the CIRCUS.  What a TREAT for me.”

When discussing making difficult decisions, and the class erupts into a flurry of Korean:

“My next decision is going to be which one of you to hit first, and trust me, it won’t be that difficult.”  (then they just laughed at me for about 5 minutes – which is why I actually love this class)

Common class responses to the question, “What does Claire Teacher always say?”:

“Don’t be a lazybones!”

“I don’t caaaaarrrrrreeeeee.”

“Really?!  REALLY?!”

“You’re killing me (insert student’s name here).  You.Are.Killing.Me.”

 

Sigh.