Ah, Wednesdays. The day on which every other class is 8 and 9 year olds. It's not so bad, really, just very, very exhausting. Plus, it's difficult to command a classroom with your voice fading in and out. At least the Zicam did it's job and I'm just about over this thing. I had a good run today, even.
I did a lot of work with pencil cases today. My Beginner 2 students (the class I repeat thrice today) are working on singulars and plurals using "It is a(n) ___." and "They are ___." We also focused on how the questions change when nouns are plural ("What's this?" vs. "What are these?"). When a little girl pulled an exacto knife out of her pencil case to ask her partner "What's this?" I was reminded of a cultural difference I haven't mentioned much.
Children carry so much general responsibility here, it's amazing how naive and immature they remain into adulthood. It's completely normal for kids to have knives in their pencil cases. They use them to trim their erasers when they get too dirty. They're expected not to hurt themselves or anyone else with them.
On a larger scale, most kids are in charge of their own schedules. Kids as young as 8 (Korean age, which means they could be as young as 6 American depending on when their birthday is) know which hagwon they have to get to at a certain time, how long it takes to walk (run, usually, it seems) there or where they catch the company's van or bus. Don't get me wrong, I do see parents walking their kids places, but there are just as many, if not more, going it alone down the street. Korea is a very safe place, indeed.
It seems that at least one of my students (he's about 11) carries his own cold medication. I know this because he asked me if I had a cold and then offered me half a pill. Naturally, I rejected it.
Kids are also largely responsible for feeding themselves throughout the day. Public schools provide lunches (most of the kids say they are terrible, probably like in American schools), but as they run from study session to study session, they have to find time and food to eat until dinner. You don't see bento lunches or snacks the way I'd imagine in Japan. Instead, Family Mart is filled with school age kids eating ramen at the window. Ddeokbokki (rice cake, eggs and fish cake in a spicy sauce) is super popular with my Haso students because there is a stall right downstairs from the hagwon. There is no shortage of ice cream, candy and fried snacks, either. Ian and I talk a lot about the health of the next generation of Koreans. And while it's easy to point to Western food influences (like hamburgers, sandwiches, pizza and bakery goods in Korea's case), the lack of nutritional supervision plays an even bigger part. Korean food culture focuses more on the homeopathic properties of foods and less on concrete nutrition (fat and calories). Some of my students are already heavy. It will be very interesting to watch Korea in the coming years and see what this generation looks like.