Racism and Developing A Multi-Cultural Mindset

I’ve seen a classroom activity floating around the internet where kids start with a blank,fresh sheet of paper and they are told it is their heart/mind.  The teacher/facilitator instructs the students to crumple up the paper and smash it.  To make it as wrinkly and broken looking as possible.  The students do this and then the teacher explains that this is now their heart (or the heart of another) after something mean is said to them.
The teacher instructs the students to say sorry to the heart and to try and make it flat and as it was before.
The students do this as best as they are able and the teacher explains that the heart is no longer able to go back to the way it was.
Moral of the lesson: be careful with your words because often once you say them, the damage has been done and the words are there forever.

Anyway, not sure if I got all the fine details of that lesson spot on as I’m doing it from memory, but you get the idea.

I’m writing about this mainly out of frustration because it’s just so…odd to me that this behavior is still happening.  I mean this in a general sense, not necessarily only with my students (back to that in a moment).  I mean, that people can still be so hateful toward another human being just because they look differently.

In my classes, I try and incorporate as many races as I can to increase their level of exposure.  I know you might be saying, especially if you’re a teacher in a bigger city like Seoul, that “Oh that can’t possibly still be happening!  You’re exaggerating!”…and yada yada yada.
Sorry, no.  I wish that was the case, and I’m happy for you that you get to experience life without that added hurdle.

More specifically, most of my students don’t bat an eyelash when I put up things that have people from other races because it’s such a part of our class, but I’m working to break their habits of joining in when others are laughing.
I had another girl come back from a few month long break and we watched a little video clip of a guy zip-lining (vocab word, along with “harness” and “clip”).  The guy was from Nepal.  The girl started laughing and said “Teacher, dirty!”  Then a few other kids started laughing and then several more were shouting about how “dirty” he was.
Cue immediate pause of the video and explanation about not being mean and that there are many people in the world and some people look different, and how that’s OK.  etc.  I turned the situation on them and asked how they would feel and the whole time they were very quiet.
Anyway, we continued the video and not another word was said.

I just get so tired of this.  Tired of explaining that it’s not OK to talk about people like that.  Not in the way that I’ll stop talking about it, but more that this still needs to be addressed.  I think I’m going to find an activity to do with them so I can get it to sink in a bit more.
Granted, it’s not all of the classes and it’s not all of the students.  That’s usually never the case.  I just need to find a way to have this get a bit further into their heads.  It’s just weird because even our reading books have people off all different colors and sizes in them.

Ugh.  Anyway.

This was the video in case you’re curious:

In better news, all the lyric booklets are put together and the CDs are all burnt.  I just need to get bags, stuff them and then distribute them.

I’m also thinking about making some scones tonight for my older class because that was a spelling word for them and I think it’d be fun to eat scones while learning about them.  🙂
And because they’re delicious.  🙂

I was browsing the interwebs and found this gem:

There are a bunch of lessons plans for teaching tolerance just in case someone else is having the same issue.

It’s a bit rough since my weeks are already basically planned for me, but I’m going to try and squeeze something in there.

“You’re in ‘Merica! You need to speak English!”


I’ve heard a bit of this in my lifetime and it’s always struck a nerve with me.   Especially now that I’ve lived overseas for a length of time.
“Just speak English.”
“You live in America, so you should speak English.”

Really now?  And how long would it take for said person to become fluent?  I’m VERY curious as to how many of these people that say such things have actually tried to learn another language.  It’s HARD!  It’s easier when you’re a kid, but it’s A LOT of work and practice to become fluent.  Sheesh.  Cut the people some slack.
Actually, one of the first things I noticed when I came back to America (“The Melting Pot”) was that in the INTERNATIONAL (Chicago-O’hare) airport, how little there was of any other language besides English.
Every other airport I’ve been in in other countries has at least one other language.  I would have thought there would at least be Spanish…maybe Chinese.  It would be crazy hard to get around…even in the airport if you had little English skills.

Anyway, that’s a new topic altogether, but I just needed to vent about how much that bothers me.
Also, assuming these people that come to the US have a little English already–It does take a lot of patience and practice for these people to become anywhere near fluent.
The kids I’m teaching now are younger (so it’s easier for them than it would be for an adult), but they are in an IMMERSION English school for about 5 hours from M-F.
And now…if we had an adult, they’d also have to work (assuming they’re working) and have general family duties…oh, and of course now they need to also squeeze in some sort of English school.
Honestly, I think it’d be best if it was required for all students to learn a second language starting in Kindergarten/Elementary school, and have it required all the way through high school.  That might help us as a country and give people a little more compassion and understanding.


One more thing…how come we aren’t taking out some of that frustration on improving our own education system OR on all those NATIVE SPEAKERS that can’t even use your/you’re or to/two/too properly.  They can’t even speak their own native language correctly and we’re getting all fussy about people not speaking their SECOND language perfectly.

//Ok, I’m finished now.  Really.

But thanks to the people/country of Korea for letting me experience the joy of teaching in your country without first being fluent in Korean. 😉

Need to Re-Group

I never thought I’d be at this point as a person.  I need to work on controlling my temper.  I know I can be stubborn and want things a certain way, but I’m feeling sort of mixed on this.

In Korea, especially working at a hagwon (the private schools that are independently owned  and are a dime a dozen), it’s fairly common knowledge that schools can (doesn’t mean they all do…just have to be very cautious.  Many are in this just to make money, not because they care about actually educating children) just close up overnight or you might have a director that doesn’t pay you on time, etc.
We have a new director and he seems nice and is investing money in our school (which our last owners didn’t), so that’s all good.  But…
Ok, I was going to try and make a long story short, but I think some backstory is necessary.

I (along with previous employees) got 5% taken out of my check by the school–they said for tax purposes, but we all assumed it was actually to keep the foreigners from doing a midnight run (to the airport and going home), because it was written into the contract that you’d get the money back at the end.  Uh…which is also not legal.  They aren’t supposed to take things out that aren’t allowed by the government).
But anyway, I resigned a new contract when the new owner got here (new owner, new contract), and insisted it was removed.
The other foreigners get paid on the 10th of each month (1st for me–apparently because of that 5% clause…which doesn’t make sense to me)–and I wanted to still be paid on the same day and have the clause removed.  I can’t just not get paid for an extra two weeks because of that.  Sorry.
Anyway, fast forward to now–last month I had issues getting paid and had to ask about it 3 times but it was apparently something with the accountant.  “The accountant hadn’t sent them the paper showing how much money to take out for taxes”.  Um..ok..even if that’s the case, then you should have been working on that well before my payday.  That payday also happened to be the day I was supposed to be leaving for Seoul so I could leave the next morning for the Philippines.  Without a paycheck.
They said they could just put the full amount into my check and I could wire back the money from the taxes…which…whatever, but they should have been getting the information from the accountant BEFORE payday happens….not just “Oh sorry!  Please understand the situation….”

Btw… “Please understand”  is the most common thing you hear here when there’s some sort of dilemma.  And there’s never a solution attached to it.  Just “Please understand”…it’s more of a “Please understand what I’m saying”…not a “please understand the situation.”
It’s one of my biggest pet peeves.  Ugh.  There’s no way of SOLVING anything…just “understand”.  And if you say “I understand”, then it’s your way of agreeing with them and saying that whatever is happening is completely ok with you.

Anyway, so my payday rolls around this month (yesterday), and I was already going into it with my expectations very low because of the previous month’s issues.
I got another schpeal about the accountant (IMO, get a new accountant).  Apparently “she’s lazy” and hadn’t sent over the form again (HOUND HER..paying your employees is important).   I was pissed off inside and just really annoyed.  The head-teacher and director said I would “definitely” get paid Monday after they talked with the accountant.  I left and was basically like “Right.  Monday for sure.”
Which, in my contract it says the 1st of each month, and I was talking with a co-worker after I left and she reminded me that I shouldn’t have to put up with their crap and feel extra stressed because of their laziness/mistakes/etc.  If I get paid on the 1st, I should be paid on the 1st.  End of discussion.
So, I went back up to the school after our conversation, hoping to see someone who could fix the situation and our director was sitting at the front desk working on some paperwork.

I talked with him and said that I needed to get paid today (yesterday).  That I have bills to pay and I needed to get paid.  He asked if I was angry and I said that I was a little angry and frustrated.  He apologized for the situation and brought more of the “Please understand” crap into the conversation, but wired the money over right then and there.
I also mentioned that the other teachers were nervous about getting paid on time (because they are—there’s a bit of tension running through the school–which I suppose is normal because we have a new owner.  Another girl had issues getting paid last month too, except she got too much, and they never got back with her when she was trying to right the situation.)

Anyway, he seemed worried when I mentioned that people were worried about getting paid on time.  (Which is true, because there’s a lot of tension around the school due to having a new director, and not being sure what kind of person he is).
I’m a bit worried whether I said too much, but I also feel more confident that it won’t happen again.
I feel that I also need to stand up for my rights, because here especially, you need to look out for yourself because there aren’t many others that will.  Especially when it comes to the workplace.
I think it’s the lingering part of my western mindset that makes me feel like I may have overstepped a boundary line, but when I take into account the experience I have here so far, I feel like I did what’s right.  A bold move, but a necessary one.

It isn’t unheard of here for hagwon owners here not to pay on-time or to just leave in the middle of the night (and no one notices for a few days) while taking the money and leaving.
It’s not super common from what I’ve heard, but it’s still an issue either way, and I still feel like I need to look out for myself.
Another thing is that I have bills at home set for automatic withdrawal back home and if I don’t have any money in my account because I’m not paid on time (and it takes a bit of time for the money to clear once I make a transfer) then it’s my own neck on the chopping block when loans or other bills are late.  Not theirs.  And they won’t give a damn about it either.  Not that I expect them to, but yeah, I also don’t want the new owner to think he can just push me around.
He seems nice, but that’s common here too.  Everything is for show.  Look nice, get a fancy degree, but there’s a whole different something beneath the exterior.

(Note:  I’ve met a lot of great people OUTSIDE of the business/work/school world here that are great, but that is the general mentality.)

Anyway, I think it’ll be better once I get home to a bit of normalcy.  It’s also supposed to be easier the second year because you already know the culture and are familiar with things.  So, here’s to that.

Oh, and 7 days!!

Le Sigh…

I need to sort of vent or think out loud (except on a blog…which is somehow less weird than talking to myself, lol)

So, I was originally supposed to be going home at the end of my contract for 3 weeks (because I asked and they were gracious enough to grant me that request.  To see my family after not seeing them for a year.  Anyway, I digress.  
That was surprisingly moved up (yay!) and I’m now supposed to go home at the beginning of February instead of the end, so I’m back in time for the new semester.
Ok…sounds good.

However, I’m now about 3 weeks away from my departure time and I still don’t have a signed contract for the upcoming year. Which means that I don’t have a plane ticket yet because I’m not booking anything until I’m sure that I will still be with them.
I’ve asked at least 3-4 times now to see this new contract (and so I can book my flights before prices reach the point of being outrageous), but there’s always something that comes up.  “Oh yeah!  We’ll do that later!” or
“Oh, it’s not ready yet, but we can do it on Friday this week!”…then Friday comes and “Oh!  We are completely out of time…we can do it Monday.”  “Ok, so…Monday then?”  “Yeah yeah, Monday.”  *enter Monday*  “When can we discuss my contract?” “Oh, when the director comes”….director doesn’t come or I’m working a 5 class in a row stretch and have only 5 minutes between classes….ie: barely time for a bathroom break, much less time to discuss contracts.

Just getting very annoyed and frustrated.
I’m also a bit irked because it’s in my contract that I should have a paid flight home….but I’m getting $500 (going to get it in Won because the Won is stronger right now, heh) toward that flight.  They said it’s because I’m taking a break between contracts.
Which…granted, I don’t know many people able to take a break between contracts…much less having their school help them with the flight…but…I would THINK that it only makes SENSE (which is nonexistent here) that I would have it paid for.  BECAUSE…it’s supposed to be paid for when I go home (the main point), and then they’d have to pay for someone else to come over anyway.
The director says he wants to recruit people from within the country rather than using recruiters to pull people in from abroad anyway (to save money)….makes sense, but not sure how truthful that is.
He also says since he’s worked in this business for 7+ years (which he has), that he knows “a lot” of foreigners in Korea that would be interested in the job.
Pretty sure THAT’s a stretch because most foreigners that are here are already employed, or they wouldn’t be here very long without some sort of employment due to visa requirements and that sort of thing.

Anyway, I don’t really know what to think.
I don’t REALLY want to leave the school because I like the structure I have with the classes but then there’s also the flexibility there too.  I also really like my students and I LOVE my apartment and the location that I’m in.  I also have a sort of base built here.  I have friends here and finally feel comfortable with where I am.  I have language exchanges and favorite places and that tango class..and just…to start all over again is just…ugh.
I feel like I could get over their ridiculous antics were they were to stop giving me the runaround on this flight and contract business.  SERIOUSLY…about 3 weeks to go.  

Not sure what I’m supposed to do.  I was talking to my grandma, and she said (and I agreed) that it’s probably a power thing.  They’re pushing it off to the last minute so I have no choice but to agree to the terms of the contract.  
A bit shitty (excuse my French) if you ask me, and not a great way to start off a new year with an employee (and one that you (and the students and parents) like), by pushing them into a corner so that they’re forced (or made to feel that way) to agree.

But again..that’s logic speaking.

So, I started actually looking at other jobs tonight.  I still don’t really WANT to leave (reasons above), but I’m trying to keep my options open.  I don’t want to end up feeling like I have no choice in what I do next year.  
I started looking at positions in Seoul (bigger city, lots of options for jobs)–not really a fan of how crowded and congested (and polluted…) it is up there, but here are some of the positives I thought of.

*definite paid for flights–because it’s in the first contract, and the new school usually (99.9% of the time) pays for your RT flights to and from your country.
*I’d get to stay and see the kindergarten graduation (because I’d likely be leaving at my original date)
*More opportunities for foreigners (because the city is bigger)–According to Google, as of 2010, Seoul had 10 million people
*Closer to Incheon airport (less travel time when departing the country, lol)

I dunno, just an option.  Trying not to limit myself, or to let myself feel limited just because they want me to feel that way.  
I have to keep in mind (and it’s true, thankfully for me) that as a female from the Midwest (no/plain accent) of the US that already has a year of experience under her belt…I can get damn near any job I want.
They should be the ones that are nervous and anxious about the future, not me.
And maybe they are…and that could be why they’re doing this.

And to that I say, karma is a bitch,  
How inconsiderate.  

Anyway, it’s late, so goodnight!

Ankle Update

Just a heads up–This is kind of a whiny/vent-y post.

If you aren’t aware, I messed up my ankle a bit ago while ziplining (go read the original post for more info), and I’ve had my leg wrapped up in a splint for not-even a week. A week on Thursday.  (And I’m pretty much counting down the hours til it is removed this Thursday.  Uh.  I hope.  More on that in a bit.)

This is what is basically going on:
and I think a bit of this too:

Fun times.
It doesn’t really hurt or anything…just swollen and purple.  And a bit tender if you push on my calf or ankle region too much.
Aside from that, I feel (with my overwhelming amount of knowledge on the subject, haha) that it’s healing well.  Aside from the massive bruising and swelling, my ankle feels a lot stronger than last week.
Last week, I couldn’t put much pressure on my right leg, and had a pretty nice limp.
However, now I can put full standing pressure on my leg.  I don’t overdo it or anything, it’s just something I’ve noticed.
I can also use my toes and wriggle my foot to the point where if the splint were loose enough that I could pull my foot out (with no hands).  Again, if it were loose enough.  That was definitely not the case last week.

I’ve been trying to elevate it as much as I can, and pretty much have been lounging around for hours at a time after work, just watching movies with my foot propped up on a bunch of pillows.  Also applying ice for 20 minutes at a time every few hours (as able).

I’m honestly just really nervous (too much reading stuff online) that I’ve messed up my ankle for good.  I’ve read a lot from people who have permanently swollen ankles (or sore) because their foot didn’t heal right after something similar to what I have, or sprained ankles, etc.
I’m a runner, dancer and a generally fairly active person…and the thought of messing up an ankle at age 25, which would keep me from doing a lot of those things…is beyond horrifying.
Especially because this injury was just a split-second decision.  Granted, I had a fun time while I was ziplining, and would have gone again, definitely….but after this mess, now I feel like I’m scarred from the experience.

Anyway, I just needed to get a lot of that off my chest.  I feel like I talk a lot about it with people and I don’t want it to wear on them.  It’s just on my mind a lot.
I really, really hope I didn’t mess up my ankle for good.  😦 😦

I also really hope I get cleared to have this darn thing off my foot on Thursday.  My leg feels dirty with it on.  A wrapped foot..from the ball of the foot to about 3 inches below my knee…during summertime is really sucky.
AND Mudfest is coming!  😦

I’ll continue to be really careful with my foot after it’s out of the splint…I just feel like it’s gotten a lot stronger and is ready to move around on its own now.
And because I want to shave my leg.  And not have my foot feel all sweaty and gross.  haha 😀

//end whine-fest.

Ooohh!!! and….

No current plans for tomorrow or anything.  I know of some BBQs happening this weekend though.  Probably be attending something like that assuming the leg thing pans out accordingly.  😀

Happy 4th of July!!
Thank you to all of our past and present servicemen and women for all of your sacrifices that you’ve made toward ensuring our freedom.  It’s appreciated more than words can say.

Breakdowns + Media Posts

Had a bit of a rough day today.  I can tell it’s been kind of a long time coming, but I had a bit of a homesickness//I-HATE-THIS-SO-MUCH kind of breakdown.
Our head-teacher is well…an interesting type of person.  Again, she’s the one that would rather us lie to the parents to save face.  Actually, I’m learning quickly that A LOT of Korea (granted, not everyone is like that) is about saving face.  Saving the reputation and making things look all cheery and wonderful.  Even if it’s not.
Not sure if I updated on the little comment book situation, but to recap–we have little comment books for each kindergartener that float back and forth between their teachers and the parents.  Good idea in theory, because the parents can be informed of what their kid is doing in class.
Anyway, one of my girls was having a hard time paying attention in class…which is fine and completely understandable…because she’s like 5 years old (western age) and it’s kindergarten…whatever.  We’re working on it.
Anyway, her mom had asked me directly (in English) how her daughter was doing in class and with the other students because she wasn’t speaking English at home.  I proceeded to use the OREO (taught that in school..heh) method (also what they use–not called OREO though) to tell the mom.  The only thing that wasn’t strictly positive in the whole entry was when I said “______ can be easily distracted in class, but she’s a very friendly and energetic young girl, and we’re working on paying attention in class.”
Which…TO ME…sound fine.  It’s constructive and tells about what’s holding her back.  The rest just said that she was young and that this all takes time and that we’re working together on also building her confidence.
Anyway-I was told to white-out that bit and write a bit of fluff about how wonderful she was.
Teacher said she “didn’t have time to hand back the books to the parents, so not to worry”–on Tuesday.  Then, today, when I was given her book back, I check to see what they had done about the white-out bit in the book….AND…they gave her a completely new book.  The old one is nowhere to be seen..completely new book and not a word about it.

YEAH.  I know.

Anyway, there’s that and just…crap from school mostly and I just lost it.  I could feel it sort of coming through most of the morning…a sort of heaviness in my chest and it felt harder to breathe.  I just kept telling myself to fight it back…don’t cry…it’s ok…it’s just a cultural thing…just focus on the class.
Lunch time came and I left with the other foreigners and we were talking about work as we left the building (we’re on an upper floor) and I just completely lost it.  Right there in the middle of the hallway leading out of the building.  The other two teachers both gave me a giant group hug and sympathized with me and gave plenty of kind and supportive words.
The homesickness just hits hard and fast, completely when you least expect it.
That’s one of the best, BEST parts about working with other foreigners.  You’re like a tight little family away from your own family.  They know exactly what I’m going through…because they’ve been there.  One of them just went through it this past winter.  It’s all part of the process, and you learn to adapt and adjust, and you help eachother along in the process.  Celebrating during the best of times and picking eachother up and supporting eachother when times get rough.
I can’t even begin to express my gratitude.  But, it’s one of those unspoken truths around here.  We’re all here for eachother.  And it’s wonderful.
As nice as it is to communicate pretty frequent contact with my family…it feels as if there’s a glass wall there.  I can see them and hear about what’s going on, but I can’t actually feel or be present in it all.  And that can be very hard.  I’m enjoying myself here though.  I’ve met great people and the money is fantastic.  And I get to travel.  It’s great.  I love, LOVE my kids and teaching…it’s just the politics of it all.

One of my co-teachers was talking with me during lunch today and she really wanted to stress to me that she thinks I’m fantastic with the kids and at teaching because I’m enthusiastic and “have the right personality for working with kids”, and she said she doesn’t want this experience (because all the schools are different…some are worse and some are better.  It’s very hit and miss) to ruin my outlook on becoming a teacher.
Look out for Number One.  (Me).
You are your first priority.
Don’t let this get to you, because it can, and they don’t give a damn if it does.  (Again, not all Koreans are like this…but as the foreigner…and as a female, you’re pretty much considered a second-class citizen.)
She also said that she thinks that there’s a bigger reason for as to why we were “chosen” to come here.  She thinks that we’re acting a bit as ambassadors and can help shape the next generation of citizens here…so that they can be prepared for living with diversity and how to treat other people.  Treat them to show respect and to have integrity so that in the future, they’ll have a chance to change the way things are.

Anyway, after lunch, I went to Zara (:-D) and did some retail therapy.  One of the few times in my life I’ve been able to do that, ha.  If you’re living check to check, retail therapy isn’t an option, unless you don’t want to eat that week.
Also, I didn’t have a lot of time because it was only a lunch break, so when I say I did some “retail therapy”, I mean that I bought 1 shirt.  haha 🙂
I also use the Jango.com app for music on my phone and took out my anger and frustration on the pavement as I walked the 15 minutes to the store and then back again.  I felt refreshed when I got back, and then finished off my day.
I was tired at the end of the day, but not feeling nearly as terrible as I did at lunch.  (BTW, I’m not sick anymore, in  case you were curious.)

THEN…I went back to my apartment and saw I had a note on the door about having a package downstairs.  (They leave a note if you’re not there and then leave it with security for you to pick up).
😀 😀 😀
I got a surprise care package from my grandma…full of Easter goodies and some pretty (fake :-P) flowers.  What amazing timing.  Lots of Easter candy and a wonderful card that just made me smile from ear to ear.
Also, the envelope said “Stacey Teacher” on the front 🙂  ie: my name at school.–It’s not Miss Stacey or anything similar.  Just your first name and “Teacher” after that.  Or just “TEACHERRRRRRRRRR!!!”
heh.  I like the first one better. 🙂

Anyway, it’s been a roller coaster of a day, and it’s time for bed.

TGIF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  (x4000)
Fun weekend planned.  More on that later.  Goodnight!!
And thank you for the care package Grandma!!! Love you!!! Thank you! Thank you!!!!! 🙂

Care Package pics and pics from my “shopping spree” 🙂 haha.

Classroom footage–working on our ABCs during Phonics Class on 4.11.12

Um…it’s not the third week yet…

From what I’ve heard about culture shock, is that you typically switch over from the ‘honeymoon’ (everything is awesome and fun and cute) to the next stage around week three.
The next stage is where you start getting a bit homesick and being more aware of all the differences.

I think I’m there already.  I hope this isn’t a bad sign.

I want to like it here…but I feel like my mood is going up and down in waves.  I’ll be alright for a bit and then I’ll be like this.
I want to be able to communicate with people and to be understood.  I want to be able to read what the hell it says on all the buildings and signs.  I don’t want people staring at me all the damn time.
I honestly feel kind of like I’m losing myself.  I feel like I don’t even recognize myself in the mirror anymore and that my confidence is definitely wavering.  And I don’t like this.

I miss my friends and family and I heard that my grandma was actually admitted into the hospital a few days ago (apparently she’s been released also) and my grandpa was put into a nursing home.  And that car guy (mentioned on and off throughout the last month) is back and sending me antagonizing emails.

Culture Shock 101:

Pretty sure I mentioned it (but maybe not–I’ve been updating here and on FB, so I sort of lose track) but I found a few trips that I want to do coming up.
The first one is this coming weekend and it’s a snowboarding/skiing trip.  I haven’t been skiing since I was..10?
Anyway, I think it’ll be really fun and hopefully it’ll be something that can pull me out of this weird funk.

Also.  I wish I could fit my American-sized feet into the shoes over here.  Really cute shoes but all too small for me.  😦
Clothes are also kind of strange.
I think I might end up with a scarf addiction while I’m here.  (And hot chocolate).
Speaking of scarves…I just bought one today 🙂

Maybe I’ll be able to find scarves when I make it out to Seoul.  Or another country nearby.  Perhaps Thailand?