Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Student Profile: Lina

Now that I have the time in my life again (I won NaNoWriMo, by the way), I decided to bring back student profiles.  There's a colorful bunch of students at this school and I like having these sorts of entries to go look on and think, "Oh yeah!  I remember her!" after my job is finished.  Also, my dad complained to me over Skype that I "never write in your blog about teaching anymore."  So, here you go, Pops.  Enjoy.

I'll start with one of my favorite girl students, Lina.  She's in probably the most advanced class at the school, and is pretty much the "leader of the pack," as far as the girls go. Which, since it's a class of three girls and one boy, is most of the class. Lina's very willful and very frank, things which may later make her more frustrating than amusing.  At the moment, though, I like her.

The textbook for this class is a series of essays on more or less random topics, accompanied by writing prompts and a few short answer questions: identity theft, India's economy, artificial intelligence, and most recently, the well-intentioned, if problematic, One Laptop Per Child project.  I started off the class by asking them what they thought was important for a good education:

"Good books."
"Good teachers."

And then Lina chimed in with a firm: "Good educational policy.  Changing Lee Myung-bak."

I always like when my students have firm enough political opinions to rag on presidents.

Sometimes the book is pretty dry, though; it gets pretty repetitive and so a lot of times I'll try to find a salient tangent to what we're talking about.  When discussing India's economy, for example, one of the textbook questions asked what problems poor countries face, and a student said, "Crime."

Ah-hah, says I.

"What about crime in Korea? Do you think there's a lot of crime here?"

"There's a lot of..." Pause to consult her phone dictionary.  The phrase that came out made perfect sense, but it was something we'd never actually say in English.  "Sexual violence," I think it was.

"Ah.  Rape."  Second of week of teaching and we're talking about rape!  None of the girls seem particularly fazed by it so I decided to let this one play itself out.

"Yes."  She nodded her head vigorously.  "There's a lot in Korea."

"How can we fix that?  What can we do so that rape happens less?"

"Teach women how to fight." "Stronger punishment."

"What about the American soldier in Dongducheon? Do you think his punishment was strong enough?"

"What was it?"

"Jail, for ten years."

Lina looked like she was going to punch someone.  "Ten years?!  No, that's not enough.  He should have thirty!"

"Some Americans think that ten years is too strong."

"What?! Really? 헐~."

"I think he should get punched in the face every morning while he's in jail," I declared.  Which I do.

Or, while they were copying down some work from the board: "Teacher, your tee is very...uncommon." (This in response to a Ben Folds concert shirt.)  I'm still not entirely sure what she meant by that.  Either I wear it less often than my other clothes, or it's not the kind of shirt you see in South Korea (but by that logic, all of my shirts you don't really see in South Korea, so why this one in particular?).

There's a note from her to the teacher I replaced that he kept on the fridge, apologizing for being a poor student and promising to work harder.  I'm not surprised that she had been a bad student for him; she chatters a lot in Korean as soon as she's bored and will simply not do pages, but I can't exactly blame her.  The book's extremely repetitive and about as engaging as watching paint dry, especially with this class that's so far above it.  The one benefit is that it provides a whole spectrum of topics to talk about—I've just come to realize that to make it at all engaging, I'm going to have to ignore the book a lot.  I spend a lot of time looking for videos to download from YouTube, or extra reading material, or whatever.

There are moments when the limitations of the student-teacher relationship (and my own low level of Korean) make me sad.  I'm sure if Lina were older, she'd be exactly the kind of woman (Korean or otherwise) I like hanging out with: outspoken and passionate and a take-no-shit attitude.  She has a feisty attitude that I hope will get her far instead of holding her back.

1 comment:

  1. ok -- so, just a couple of questions --- you "won" NaNo?? what does that mean?

    and -- how old is Lina? she reminds me of you (in the limited way I know anything about her ... or you ...) --- Ben Folds is an unknown??