Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Desk Warming

Many foreign English teachers that I've talked to do as much "desk warming" (sitting at a desk and appearing busy) as they do teaching.  Originally, I counted myself lucky, since I had enough classes to fill my days and make them fly by.  But, as the year progresses, Yoon's has fewer and fewer students.  This is true for my campuses, at least.  Ian seems to have a plenitude.  With fewer students comes fewer classes, so I am left to sit at my desk (as I've mentioned, Julia requires me to arrive at 1:30 and leave no later than 8, no matter when my classes are).  In fact, I am desk warming as I write this.  Sometimes, at Sinback, the other teachers will send me students so that I can help them with their pronunciation.  And, I usually have several mini essays to grade, so it's not too bad; but, I'd rather be at home where I also have things that need to be done.

Last week, I gave my students (Basic 1, 9 year olds) a homework assignment that asked them to practice using "What can we do at the ___?" by asking their parents questions and writing the answers in boxes.  I had them ask for the workplace, supermarket and home.  I made this assignment because it is what the book is covering, but also because it would give me a chance to see Korean gender roles from an internal standpoint.  I wondered if critics of the rigid roles were impeded by their outsider status.  I only received one sheet back today, but the answers were pretty cut and dry.

"What can you do at work?
(Mom) She's a housewife.
(Dad) He's a government official.

What can you do at the supermarket?
(Mom) She can buy groceries.
(Dad) He can buy beer.

What can you do at home?
(Mom) She can cook and clean.
(Dad) He can sleep."

The students at Sinback write English diary entries once or twice a week.  I grade them along with the mini essays.  Today, I checked one written by a 7 year old kid.  His first sentence was, "Today I got up at 4 a.m. and studied for the test."  His last sentence was, "Today was a very good day."  There are some things that I will never reconcile between my socialization and Korean culture.  One of those things is the education system and, along with it, the high expectations placed on very young children.

Another one of those things is the sewer system here.  At the corner next to our apartment complex there are three manhole covers.  I'm assuming there must be a large retaining tank (or something) below them.  The sewers are not very deep here, raw sewage can be as few as six inches under the street and there are grates allowing rain to drain into the same system (Korea's is the type that doesn't take toilet paper, so people don't flush it).  That corner always smells like waste.  Some days are worse than others (we have yet to figure out why, as the weather doesn't seem to factor as much as you'd think), but it always smells.  I wonder when Korea's sewer system will catch up with it's industrialization.

On that note, good night!

1 comment:

  1. Yep, it's 1950 something in the USA, as far as gender roles go.

    China's sewer systems are almost like that also, and they are way more industrialized than South Korea.