Monday, August 21, 2006

The update of all updates...

I’ve given up on waiting for a magical chunk of time in the near future where I’m neither busy nor exhausted, so I figure now (when I’ve been at the school for 12 hours already today and still have to finish prepping for tomorrow’s classes) is as good a time as any to start unloading the cartloads of thoughts that are zipping around my brain. How’s this: I’ll write until I fall asleep.

Bear with me, folks. This will be the update of updates, but I’m going to do it in reverse chronological order.

Today was the first day of school and, much to my surprise, I’m still alive. Some students no doubt think I’m a moron and a flake, some think I’m ultra-cool because I did sports in college, and most are probably contemplating my enormous pit-stains. (First day jitters + hot humid classroom = copious amounts of sweat.)

I woke up at 5 am (or maybe it was 4 am?), which isn’t as bad as it sounds because it’s what my body wants to do right now. I prepped for Model UN all morning…while IM-ing people on my computer, of course. (To cut the suspense: it paid off, I think Model UN rocked…watch me eat my words tomorrow when I get their homework back…) After that I had breakfast, sadly took out my eyebrow ring (school dress code) and had a small crisis trying to determine what my most “teacherly” outfit was. It didn’t help that during our teacher orientation they gave us a guide to the “Your First 60 Days of Teaching” that emphasized the first seven seconds as the most important seven seconds of the entire year.

Once at school, I wrangled with the copy machine, took an hour and a half worth of deep breaths, and paced around the room wondering whether I should be sitting at my desk (in the back of my room), standing in front of the board (in the middle of the room), or standing by the door (in the front of the room) when my kids first arrived. Before I could come up with the best strategy, they started trickling in the door.

Commence…10th Grade Homeroom

Nothing happens in homeroom. At least…that’s what I’ve been told. I hate the standing-around-waiting-for-people-to-arrive game, so I think tomorrow I’m just going to have to come up with some frivolous activity (maybe have the kids guess how old I am?) to pass the time.

Lesson 1: Don’t ask the students whether we are supposed to do anything in Homeroom or not. Just do whatever I want to do. Right.

The 10th graders are a trip. They are very rambunctious and talkative and they have a ton of questions about everything. I think they’ll be a ton of fun as soon as I figure out how to keep them quiet while I’m talking. One of the other teachers recommended “boy/girl/boy/girl” seating, so I’m going to try that tomorrow.

After homeroom, I have the 10th graders for both Biology and Modern World History. To tell the truth, I don’t really remember much of this morning, even though it was only 12 hours ago. I think I was too flustered to possess a short-term memory. The jist of it, however, was that I felt like a complete moron and airhead. My kids are definitely interested in me (they “ooooh”-ed and “ahhhhhh”-ed when I read my introductory letter, especially the parts about college), but I’m not sure they think I’m competent yet. I definitely remember trying to throw together what I remembered from high school about the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire and mumbling about when Constantine converted to Christianity (“Uhhh…it was 100 something or…200 something…”). Tomorrow’s got to be better, right?

After that I had Algebra 2. No one in that class talks. Ever. They just stare at me blankly and occasionally mumble when I prod them. I think some of them were trying to point out an error I made when I was doing a problem on the board, but they couldn’t say it loud enough for me to hear. They also must think I’m a moron. I can’t tell from their silence if they already know everything I’m teaching them or if they are utterly lost. In this class I said, “This should be easy, right?” way too many times. This class will also be better tomorrow. You’ll see.

After that, I sat down at my desk and stared blankly at my computer for a few minutes before starting on some work I needed to finish for my afternoon classes. Lunch period was almost over before I remembered that it was lunch period, but I made it just in time for kimchee, some kind of sweet beef, and Korean grapes.

----------------- Side note: Korean grapes ----------------------------------

You don’t eat the skin of Korean grapes. It is very thick and leathery and sour and has a very dark purple color. However, you can usually suck the interior grape through the hole left where the grape attached to the stem. It comes out with a satisfyingly squishy slurp. I don’t know if this is ridiculously impolite or not. Korean grapes are fleshier and sourer than American grapes, and they always have humongous seeds.

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After that I had the boon of all boons: a free period. It consisted of much collating and stapling.

The afternoon went much much better than the morning. Or maybe I had lowered my expectations. I had 11th and 12th graders for Pre-Calc, 12th graders for Physics, and 11th and 12th graders for Model UN. There were a few awkward moments, like when I completely lost them while trying to explain how the space shuttle works (not because of the science, but because of the language) and ended up drawing an embarrassingly phallic diagram, but for the most part things went smoothly. It was during these classes where it really became apparent to me that the biggest challenge this year isn’t going to be subject material itself, but conveying the subject material without using words beyond the scope of my students’ vocabulary. They are, with a few exceptions, essentially ESL students who are learning from textbooks used by American students. I am in awe with how hard they must work to keep up with it. If anything, this may finally kill my bad habit of speed-talking.

Ooof, this blogging isn’t going well because my eyelids are getting droopy. But if I don’t write about what happened before the first day of school now, when will I do it? That’s a whole week’s worth of crazy new experiences!

A few more short notes from today:
- I handed out information notecards to call my students and some of them drew the craziest doodles on them. I thought they were still working on writing out their information, when they were really just drawing cartoons and little dog-bones and aliens and stuff.
- My kids all really really really want textbooks for some reason. As if textbooks ever taught anyone anything…
- In Korea, bathrooms are always red for women and blue for men. The symbol on the door is freely stylized: some are cartoons, some have stylish ladies and men in fedoras.
- It’s the little things that keep throwing me off, like that fact that in my apartment I have to push the handle on the faucet down to turn the water on.
- I handed out a sign-out sheet for the textbooks. In the “condition of book” column one student wrote “Sublime.”
- I made it all the way until 10 pm today! (That’s quite an accomplishment, because I went to bed at 8 pm yesterday, 6 pm the night before, 4 pm the night before that…oh man, that’s a linear relationship! I have to tell my Algebra 2 students…)

Oh yeah, when I finally got home from school (at about 7:30 pm) I tore into any and every food item I could find in my apartment. My dinner was:
- magical pre-cooked rice: it comes in a non-perishable container but it’s already fluffy…how do they do that?
- Mystery Chinese black curry thing (all the instructions were in Korean but luckily all I had to do was head it up)
- Choco patty cookie moon-pie type thing
- Corn chips (which are really really sweet)
- Maple soju (which tasted, to me, like vodka)

Ok…so with the blogging I only barely made it through the first day. I wrote down a lot of stuff in my journal from the first few days here, so I’ll try to transcribe that stuff tomorrow. My personal goal is to get better at being a teacher every single day, and part of that includes getting faster (and better) at preparing for lessons. We’ll see, she said…

1 comment:

Alice said...

Hey Jordan, thanks for writing this even though you were so tired. I really enjoyed reading this entry.