So, May was filled with all kinds of good stuff.
My classes successfully raised all of the money necessary for an amazing activity for KKOOM (Korean Kids and Orphanage Outreach Mission – http://www.kkoom.org) and also planned the event, marketing, publicity, fundraising, and research to accompany the project. (by threat of F, anyhow. I am discovering that a lot of parents paid for a passing grade, which makes me super uncomfortable, but since it wasn’t my intention, I have to let it go…) (SUPER SN: Also – I had to do a lot of stuff. It was stuff that would take me five minutes to do but would take me 15 minutes to teach. When I could, I tried to teach, but near the end, it was sort of not reasonable. I fed them pah-dalk (green onion fried chicken) instead…). I felt like SOME students in SOME classes learned something. I finished all of my classes in tact and with only one major change to the curriculum. I managed NOT to color my hair (but I did chop bangs and fix the layers). And as a whole, I only managed to make 4 students cry. WIN!
This weird thing also happened, where I realized my office became the place for students to spend downtime. Some of this was necessary for the students working on projects, but sometimes, there were just a helluva lot of students loitering. Now, I understand this is due to the snacks I keep lying around. Sometimes, if I am starving and you are just standing there, you get a free lunch. And sometimes, if you loiter long enough, I buy coffees for everyone loitering. And sometimes, I just yell at you for loitering. So, it’s really caveat emptor on reserving a seat in my office.
This might also be a super Korean thing, because if you develop a relationship with someone, the understanding is that this person will treat you with favor. Except, I do anonymous grading in my classes. And, if I learn your REAL name (your given Korean name vs. your randomly chosen English nickname), really WATCH OUT, I just call on you because I know your name. There is no real advantage, but my students are probably just testing my boundaries.
Then, I also realized I have only boys in my mentoring class. Not really sure how I ended up with 8 freshman boys just self-selecting into my little group, but there they were all bushy-tailed and eager to play Yahtzee and eat Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn. As I began having 1:1 sessions, I saw a pattern emerge. My mentees had selected me for 1 of 3 (or all) reasons: 1) They heard free food was usually in my office; 2) a sibling or elder had recommended my class; 3) they started their mentoring session by saying “I want to do _____, but my parents think I should do ____.” OR “I don’t know what my career passion is yet.”
I think I was supposed to be wise or sage or at least be a better “nuna.” Instead, I sat there baffled with the first young man. I wanted to tell him to try everything until he figured out what he liked. But I remembered I was in Korea and that was impossible. Instead, I told him that finding your career is like falling in love; you have a general sense of what you’re looking for, but you don’t feel it until you find it. I wanted to tell the kid today to fuck his parents’ desire and just follow his talent and passion, but then I remembered: I’m in Korea. So, instead, I told him he could develop a great career that combined his parents’ desire for stability and his want for a more creative path. I told him I’d help him figure out what he likes besides his creative passion.
All of these comments are UN-Korean, where hierarchy and parental deference is paramount to true satisfaction, and where it is subversive to plan for an alternative life. Happiness is about fitting in, belonging, agreeing. My heart aches slightly at advising these young gentlemen to try to conform, when I’m not sure conformity is right for everyone. But I’m in Korea. And I’m basically an epic-fail at managing the culture clash.
So, maybe I encourage a tiny bit of rebellion and subversion. Maybe I share my own truth and my own need for adventure too freely. Maybe, I’ll never be Korean…