Teaching from the Bottom of the Totem Pole #3:Truths

2 Nov

With just over two months teaching English in Korea under my belt, I’ve come to realize certain truths about my place of employment. A couple are probably native only to my school, but I imagine a few are fairly general as well. Either way, I’m no stingy bastard. In an effort to preserve these truths forever. I’ve decided to share.

#1 TRUTH: “Maybe” means Absolutely.
This is someething I figured out right away. If your co-teacher says you should “maybe” do something. Your ass better get on it.  Maybe you have to wait for your paycheck? You can forget about getting your money that day. Maybe you’ll have extra lessons that week? Expect to work like a damn slave. Maybe one of your students is sick and brought an infectious disease with him to class? You get the idea.

#2 TRUTH: Any Korean I Speak Will Elicit Laughter from My Students
Rather it be a simple An-yeong-haseyo in the hallway or some classroom command, when it comes out of my mouth, my students crack up laughing–sometimes while rolling on the floor. Sometimes after lunch I’ll get students who come to my desk, slowly say a word in Korean, then wait patiently for me to repeat it. I haven’t the slightest clue what I’m saying but I do it nonetheless and sit there while they laugh hysterically at my shitty accent. My feelings suffer, but I do it for the kids.

#3 TRUTH: The School Janitor is My Pal
The man speaks almost no english, yet everyday he greets me at the door and and we have our daily thirty-second conversation. Because of he language barrier, it’s strictly delegated to one of three topics: How beautiful Korean weather is (regardless of the season), How beautiful my co-teacher and her twin sister are (yes, I said the “T” word), and how beautiful I am while wearing my sunglasses. Anything other than those three topics usually comes in the form of some classic song that I’m sure the poor fella rehearsed the night before. He only sings the chorus though. The latest was “I Did It My Way” by Frank Sinatra. After our morning routine we say “have a nice day” and go about our business.

#4 TRUTH: Come Lunch Time, I Either Have to put Up With the Slurping and Loud chewing, or Simply Starve
There’s no getting around it. It’s the Korean way. Soup and noodles will be slurped. Food will be chewed with an open mouth.Particles will be shot across the table. I just have to sit there and bare with it. I’ve written about this before. It kills me a little everyday.

#5 TRUTH: Get Caught Dropping a Deuce, and the Whole School Will Find Out
This is the latest an most important truth to date.

I’m sitting at my desk two hours or so before work is over when suddenly I need to go drop a deuce. Normally I maintain a strict no-pooping-at-school policy. Why?  I’m still scarred from my elementary years. Then, a child could be pushed to drop out of school in grade five if some heartless bully recognized his sneakers underneath the stall door and ran back to spread the news. Believe it or not fifth graders can be quite evil in this regard. It’s a fear that still plagues me as an adult.

At first, I think I can hold out until I get home, then I look at the clock and am faced with the reality that I’m not going to make it. My school only has one teacher’s bathroom but it’s on the first floor and something tells me it’s really only reserved for the principal and vice principal (plus I’m lazy and don’t really want to make the trip). Most teachers use the same bathroom as the students and my office is right across the hall from one. I look at the clock and notice I have 10 min before the next class lets out and all the students come pouring into the hallway. No problem right? Just hurry in, do my deed and get the fuck out of there. Only I didn’t expect it to take as long as it did.

Before I’m able to finish the bell rings and I can hear some of the boys filing into the bathroom. Suddenly I’m back in the fifth grade, only the stall door goes all the way to the floor so I think I’m in the clear to just wait it out. Then one of the kids knocks on the door and says something in Korean. Shit. What do I say? If I say anything They’ll know it’s me.

I mumble a “just a sec” and they immediatly know who I am. I hear him run out of the bathroom saying my name. Surely he’s going to find his friends and broadcast the fact that Dreadlock teacher was just going number two in the fifth floor bathroom. I return to my desk hoping I will hear nothing about it.

The next morning some of my students stop me in the hallway and one of them gestures like their sitting on a toilet trying to poop. They all burst into laughter. I tell them to go to their homerooms then I head to my office desk to cry a bit. Why didn’t I just go to the downstairs bathroom? You live and you learn.

Ciao,

Kimchi Dreadlocks

P.S. Feel free to share your TRUTHs as well. Comments feed my desire to feel important.

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9 Responses to “Teaching from the Bottom of the Totem Pole #3:Truths”

  1. blackchild November 2, 2010 at 1:54 AM #

    truth #4 save yourself a lot of time and energy by writing all your evaluations in monosyllabic words, all caps and smiley faces. Remember stickers aren’t just for children in Korea

  2. Kickerjean November 2, 2010 at 7:50 AM #

    I really hope my poop-post inspired yours. I was truly horrified for you when I was reading Truth #5. This is seriously one of my biggest fears in any public bathroom. I would hope if I was in the same situation the girls would be a little more sympathetic.

    • Kimchi Dreadlocks November 2, 2010 at 8:56 AM #

      You’d like to think girls would e more sympathetic wouldn’t you? My guess is that they’re just as evil, maybe even worst. And yes I was inspired by your post.

  3. 3gyupsal November 2, 2010 at 9:47 AM #

    Do they let you leave your school during the day? I get by 4 with off site lunches or by brown bagging it. The slurping doesn’t bother me that much, just getting outside and having some fresh air really clears my head. I also have a nice grocery store bathroom that I hit up for number 2s no squatting, and they are pretty good about stocking toilet paper and soap next to the sink. The best ones are department store bathrooms, they are rarely disastrous.

    Hopefully you can stumble upon your own truth number 6: Nobody cares or notices if you just get up and walk out of the school for about a half hour and come back with a cup of coffee, they might say, “Oh delicious,” but if you do it a few times they just get used to it.

    • 3gyupsal November 2, 2010 at 9:56 AM #

      Oh, and about the kid laughing when you speak Korean, some kids are genuinely surprised when other people try to speak Korean. I was walking on the road last week and a kid came up to me and said ahnyong haseyo. After that the kid said, “Wow you’re a foreigner, how can you speak our language.”

      A lot of Koreans really can’t separate biological traits from cultural or environmental influences. So don’t be surprised if you shatter a few paradigms.

  4. Gollywog November 2, 2010 at 12:56 PM #

    I have had #5 happen to me a few times.

    The bathroom is across from my favorite class and sometimes the kids would find out I am in there and then start running up and down the hallway yelling Kroo Golly (I work in Thailand, Kroo means teacher) is having a shit! Yes, shit is the word used!

    Another time I walked into the girls bathroom, I didn’t realise the 5th floor was only for girls and 6th floor for boys. The girls let me off nicely though, with only a few giggles.

    • Kimchi Dreadlocks November 2, 2010 at 1:51 PM #

      Your girls seem much more forgiving than my fifth grade boys. I’ll never make that mistake again.

  5. Geraldine November 3, 2010 at 2:44 PM #

    Haha, #5 had me in stitches laughing!

  6. mycolorfulchaos November 4, 2010 at 12:23 AM #

    I literally just sat here crying from laughter at this! I love your blog! Keep it coming!

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