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It's that time again...

Inch'on, South Korea

Report card time, that is. We issue report cards every two months here. I used to really detest them, but I've pared the whole thing down to a science so that it's now a fairly efficient, if still onerous, task. In the public school system back home, there's an option on progress reports to add a comment, and you can simply select "It is a pleasure to have your child in class" or "Your child frequently interrupts during instruction" and the like. It sounds a little unfeeling, but when a teacher has 160 students, it's a justifiable shortcut. While I have to actually handwrite my report cards, I have taken the same approach with these, and generally follow this template:

"XXXXXXX has a positive/negative attitude and participates willingly/infrequently in class. I'd like to see him/her practice reading/handwriting/vocabulary and try not to rely on the dictionary/be so talkative/throw so many spitballs in the future."

Copy, paste. Mentally, at least. As it is, I have about 85 to do all together. I'm a lot better at it now then when I started four terms ago, mostly because I've released the idea that what I write matters, because at a hagwon, it really doesn't. One of the more spirit-killing things about this job is that here, it's all about the Benjamins (or the mahn wons), with education a distant secondary concern. Additionally, that famous Asian indirectness comes into play when dealing with parents. You just can't tell too much truth. For instance, there's this one kid who has been plaguing my classroom for the last nine months ceaselessly. He clearly should have been kicked out of the academy long ago because the child makes it impossible for any sort of knowledge transaction to take place. But there's no discipline program at my school (!) and because his parents are rich, the kid is allowed run of the place, even though he is only 12. What to write on his report card?

"Your child is the bane of my existence. His behavior is so atrocious that I honestly have no idea as to the level of his English skills, because I've never had the opportunity to accurately assess them. He should stop kicking other students in class, I'd like to see him stop greeting all his classmates with "F*** you" each day. Additionally, he hasn't turned in any homework since April."

Alas, that won't do. The edited, Director-approved version turned out like so:
"Yun is an energetic boy, but he could channel it in a more positive way. He should practice reading every day to keep up with the class, and remember to keep his hands to himself."

So that's a battle. I do try and celebrate successes ("James has finally stopped shoving teacher's marker down his pants!") and to be fair, 85 per cent of the children aren't monsters, and most are even likable. Regardless, the whole process is undermined in the fact that three-quarters of the parents don't speak any English, so I could be writing in Spanish, or even teaching it in my classrooms, and no one would be much the wiser. It's not a complaint against them, just another indication that the system here is flawed. However, I take great joy in the knowledge that I only have one more set of report cards to do until I'm finished here, and I try and take this exercise as a reminder to never, ever give out pointless assignments.

Not related, the KIA Tigers just won the Korea Series with a walk-off homerun in Game Seven, and Tom is exceptionally pleased to see that we get the World Series on cable here. Go Phillies!

permalink written by  alli_ockinga on October 27, 2009 from Inch'on, South Korea
from the travel blog: I go Korea!
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Hey everyone! In February 2009 I left the Pac Northwest for South Korea to teach English for a year. This is what I'm up to! Keep in touch!

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