Friday, June 16, 2017

Year 2: Residence Life 끝

While some people might have thought I was a bit crazy saying yes to a second year of working in residence, I have no regrets (Click for Year 1 Reflection). Throughout my time, I did make many good memories and I've met some really cool people, but... I am so happy that it is now done. 끝냈다!

There are many aspects of the job, that I will not miss. Ever. If they appear in my dreams, those must be nightmares. ㅎㅎ

Done are the overnights--of wondering if it's worth getting out of bed when you hear the clutter of the garbage can, the fridge suction as its pulled open and then shut with a bump, or the ping of the microwave. By the time you get there, will the student still be there? Gone too are the worries that tonight would be the night where we'll need to rush a sick student to the hospital or deal with some other emergency.

No more will I knock and say, "Are you awake? It's time to wake up" or "Are you alone? It's time for bed" or, the even more dreaded, "Grab your gear, it's time for detention."

Goodbye breakfast, dinner, and study duties. Let another watch the clock and count the minutes.

Room checks? Shotty not. If their room's a pigsty, someone else can get on their case. ㅎ

In essence, good riddance to the tedious tasks!

Still, there are many aspects about Residence that I will miss.

As much as the girls didn't always like the weekly family meetings, I really liked bringing them together. Some weeks were so crazy busy that family meetings were the only time that I really got to sit down with most of my students. They are such funky people and it was a treat joking together. Plus whether they realized it or not, laughing produces good chemicals that help combat stress and pain in the brain (I love psychological research! For a more detailed scientific explanation, look it up).

I will miss mini-trips during the evenings and weekends. I absolutely loved taking students away from the school. From zip-lining, going to the movies, dinners out, strolls along the beach and playing card games in cafes, I've really enjoyed showing the girls more about this island and encouraging them to take a well-needed brain break to re-energize. It was sometimes a battle to make students agree to anything, but it was always worth it. I only wish I could have done more this past year...

Overall, I enjoyed helping students with their papers and homework one-on-one. I preface this with "overall" because when a student would come to me with a long paper at 9:30 at night, I couldn't help but groan inside. Going through grammar and content takes a fair amount of brain power and when I was nearing the end of my shift, I didn't always have a lot in reserve. Still, over the course of the past couple of years I have read some pretty cool papers and have learned many things from the students as they were conducting research and fine tuning their ideas.

And last: there were evenings when I would be sitting at my station, working on a form or two, when a student would slide into the chair beside me just to say hi, to ask a question, to tell me about their day or the latest drama that has them hooked. I will really miss the chill atmosphere of those conversations and the way the students would slowly open up if you gave them enough time. Residence is, in a lot of ways, all about patience, and you cannot force students to connect with you. When a student would choose to share something important with me or even a few minutes when they could have been with a friend, I knew that what I was doing was worth it.

So here's to the end of a job that while I felt eternally tired, was both rewarding and fun at times. And now to my own classroom next year--and what's more my own apartment!

Love and Hugs.
Pretty much all moved out of my don room~~

Sunday, June 11, 2017

What Students Say - Year 2

We'll I've made it to the end of year two with only a couple days left before the students leave for summer break. I'm a little older, maybe more than a little tired, and hopefully a lot wiser than I was before.

Like last year, I wasn't always as good at recording what my students said when they said it, but here are a few of the quotes that I managed to capture. I love that out of context some make no sense (although I'd argue that they didn't always make much sense in context ㅎㅎ). Others show a different perspective on things I've never questioned or thought about. And of course, some are just funny.

~*~*~

After asking me to figure out the meaning of a Korean text:
"Ms. Briard, you sound like google translate." Gr. 12, September

When the force of a students sneeze makes her bang her head into a table. Gr. 7, September

"[Do] you want to use my finger?" Gr. 12, October 7th

"I don't know whose phone that is but I touched it." Gr. 12, Oct 19th

"I don't like cucumbers."
"Why?" (me)
"They smell fishy." Gr 12, Nov 8th

"Can South Korea import jawbreakers?" Gr 12, Nov 18th

"Oh I like it."(Same student as above, about jawbreakers)
"It tastes like nothing." (2nd student)
"That's why I like it." Gr 12, Nov 18th

About finding a boyfriend:
"Try harder Ms. B. Or just kidnap one from Canada." Gr 12, Dec 16th

"I want to have some friends... someday. So that I can say hi, and talk, and show my chicken." Gr 12, Feb 26 (following she bursts into laughter)

Taking some students out for dinner, we round the corner and they see the ocean and palm trees:
In unison: "OOOOOOWAHHHHH!"
"THIS IS JEJU?!" Gr 10, Apr

When I knock on a student's door, instead of saying hello she ask, "Can mute people whistle?" Gr 12, Mar 5th

Me: "I'm Ms. B and you?"
Student: "I'm Fine, thank you." Then realizing I had not asked How are you? like she expected, she bursts into laughter. Gr 12, Date Un-recorded.

Student: "When I have English class in the morning, I take coffee." Grade 7, May 23rd
Me: "Really?"
Student: "But I still fall asleep."

"Ms. B these are my husbands." She looks at pictures of BTS and swoons. Grade 7, June 8th

Love and Hugs
A night out at with my Grade 10s at Hyeopjae Beach; April

Sunday, June 04, 2017

From Tourist to Local and Back Again

I've lived in Toronto's shadow for 23 years and I would say that I hardly know the city. I can't even count the number of times I've hopped on the GO down to Union or some other destination, or visited a museum/theatre for some sort of school trip. And yet my mental grasp of Toronto feels like less than a skeleton. Maybe an arm and a leg, but no more. Queen's Park? China Town? The MEC? These are places I know but how they relate to each other... I'm not sure.

This past weekend, I travelled up to Seoul for a last weekend with some friends before summer break in a couple weeks. Friday afternoon, I set out from near Yonsei University and decided to walk through Hongik University down to the Han River and then along and across to Yeouido Han River Park. As I passed familiar and unfamiliar landmarks, I couldn't help but wonder how this city has become so much more familiar to me than Toronto despite my current gap with the Korean language and my limited number of trips. From taking a couple tours, making friends and just exploring the city on foot, my mental map of Seoul and the distance I've physically travelled within city limits is so much more than Toronto. I'm perfectly comfortable gliding from bus to subway and back again to get anywhere. Definitely at least a completed skeleton, if not a bit of meat on those bones as well. ;)

How could I live so close to the most populated city in Canada and hardly know anything about it aside from the Rogers Center, CN Tower and of course, the lake? Even thinking about the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) in general, I only really know my small town and I wouldn't be the first to say there's not much to do in Whitby (eh, friends?).

As I sought to make plans with friends in Seoul, I ran into the common problem of "distance" and "time." When I told people where I might be staying, their immediate reaction was, "That's so far from where I am." (Considering I had come all the way from Jeju = 40 mins bus ride + 45 mins at airport + 1 h flight + at least 45 mins on the subway, their reasoning did not move me, but I digress). However, through these responses I think I started to see the difference between my tourist mindset and a local's perspective.

When I think like a tourist, I just want to see things and spend time with people. I know that I'll have to travel greater distances and that that will take time and so I go in prepared. 45 minutes to an hour is then nothing when reaching a destination. Plus, the journey to the destination is part of the fun and the excitement. How will the adventure end? Not sure, let's just start it and see later!

But when I'm in my "local" mindset, it's all about routine and how long it will take to come back to my home base and my travel radius drastically decreases. Time travelling is wasted time. Or I'll think, we can always go next time, why not wait until I have multiple reasons to go to that side of the city or that area. There are a number of times where someone has said, "Let's meet up in Jeju-si or Seogwipo-si" and I hesitate. Or, "Do you want to meet for dinner in Toronto?" What else can I do in the city? I think. How can I make this trip more productive? If I go, what time can I catch the train back? I'm planning my exit before I even arrive.

I wonder how much we miss in our own neighbourhoods and cities when we succumb to the "it's too far" or the "time wasted" mindset. Do we stop looking for new places to try? Do we get stuck travelling between the same points on a map without veering off the beaten path? Worse, do we start thinking its not worth it to go beyond the edges of the familiar and into the unknown?

(I know that sometimes money is a factor as well, but I think for many of us, it's the last block in the wall. After we consider the time and distance we think about how much it would have cost.)

I hope that I take this lesson with me as I travel back home this summer and as I continue to live here on Jeju. I want to remember to be a local tourist in my own town and I hope that I can encourage others to do step out of their comfort zones as well.

Over the Han River; Translation: Do you want to take a walk?
Love and Hugs