Kids here are really obsessed with a few things, some are very weird…
1. Shit – Yeah, shit. Whether it’s teaching lessons on the five senses, drawing a birthday cake or just in your everyday “make fun of the teacher who can’t speak Korean,” bringing up “ddong” (shit) happens quite often in school. The really weird thing is that every student draws shit the same way, looking like a volcano.
There is no other variety. I have seen AT LEAST 20 pictures of shit and they are always the same, meanwhile I can’t get a consistent answer from most kids when I ask them what their favorite animal is. Go figure. Is making students draw shit a part of the curriculum?
2. Poking people in the butt (especially teachers) – a day doesn’t go by where I have my back turned to the wall, or I’m walking down the hall and some kid doesn’t try sneaking behind me and poking me in the butt. It’s really weird.
3. Kai Bai Bo (aka rock, paper, scissor) – I played this about 20-30 times a day my first two months, now I’ve got the kids on other games or they just ask me to pick them up as high as I can in the air and fling them around. It really makes me wonder if kids in Korea ever heard of a shoulder/piggy back ride. Still, the students use rock, paper, scissor to settle important things like who will do their presentation first. I won’t lie, I’ve even used it a couple times with my friends or coworkers to decide who the person is who’s going to do something.
4. Sharp Razors – more of a weird thing than an obsession, but these are in EVERY kids pencil case and it is quite disturbing…
I see them used as a scissor, but some kids also sharpen their pencils with them. These things are EXTREMELY sharp and I don’t see how they are more useful than a pencil sharpener for a student. I was appalled when I first saw these in my students' pencil cases.
5. Saying an absent student is dead – This is me taking attendance on one of my first days here…
Ben – “William….”(silence)
Blaire – “William die…”
Ben – “What?”
Blaire – “William die…I kill” (class erupts in laughter)
Ben – “You killed William?” (just playing along, seeing where this goes)
Blaire – “Yes…Scissor (makes cutting gesture) cut head” (class laughs again)
(William walks in 10 minutes later)
Blaire – “ZOMBIE!”
Ben – “Martin…”
Martin – “Here”
Ben – “Martin how are you?”
Martin – “Terrible”
Ben – “Why terrible?”
Martin – “Teacher die!”
(class erupts in laughter)
Not only is it rude, but the grammar and structure of the sentence is off. What they are trying to imply is that they feel terrible because the teacher is alive, and they want me to die. “Teacher die” is the way of saying that in two short words.
This happens all the time as well. Now I know all my students’ names, but I still ask where they are if they are out and more often than not I hear “die”…“I kill”…“bus hit” etc. It’s disturbing but amusing.
6. Asking if you have a girlfriend – This was one of the first questions I heard from students upon introducing myself. I told them my name, and then they asked where I was from, my age, height (weird), weight (weird) and if I have a girlfriend. There’s almost a look of disappointment when I told them I don’t have one, and I think that has to do with the family values in Korea. Having a girlfriend/boyfriend makes you sort of…complete. Telling someone here you don’t have a girlfriend/boyfriend, will get you the same sort of response if you ask someone in the US what they do for work and they say they are unemployed, “oh…(looking down/changing subject quickly)”
7. Asking for your phone number – every class has asked for my phone number and/or email address. In general, it’s rude to say no to anyone over here. I get offered some weird snacks every day and the first time I said no thanks I got a very disappointed look from this girl and I felt bad. I ask people for directions and sometimes they want to BRING me to the place I ask them about, even if it means them jumping from behind their desk at work and going outside. No joke! Anyway, I can’t think of anything wrong about having their phone numbers (except texting someone when I’m drunk and clicking on their name instead, which hasn’t happened…yet….), but it is pretty weird. In America if kids had their teacher’s phone numbers they would be getting prank calls ALL the time. Here I just get random texts which say “hello Ben teacher, this is Mario. Have a nice day.” It’s cute, but I’m still concerned about the late night text finger slip. It’s done me in many times before (shaking my head thinking of past moments of feeling embarrassed).
8. Stickers and stamps – Kids here LOVE little stickers with cats, hearts or anything for that matter on them. They ask me all the time for stickers and I started putting them on their homework if they do a good job. I know this is done in the US with cheesy things like a gold star, but stationary stores here are FLOODED with sheets of stickers that kids buy and also hope they get from school.
Stamps are another thing. Same as stickers, they come in the shape of a pet, or say something like “very good!” When grading homework/classwork I have to circle their paper in red to confirm I looked at it. Recently I purchased a box of stamps and have been using that. On my first class using it, when I stamped a students page they freaked out, all the other students ran over to see and were amazed. I told them they only get it when their work is done and they all ran back to their desks and got cracking. I stood there and patted myself on the back. Remember, I only just started teaching, so I’m learning how to trick kids into doing their work.
Not sure if there’s any I missed, think I got it all…