This week’s adventure is an ongoing adventure that started at the beginning of March, but this past week has been full of particularly good moments. For those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, you are probably familiar with my infamous Co-Teacher who I refer to simply as “CoT.” Many people have suggested that I start a Twitter or Tumblr or Instagram that is just for #stuffmycotsays. I’m open to the idea.
For those of you who wonder how I teach English to Korean elementary school students without speaking Korean, the answer is 1) lots of gesturing and using very simple words and 2) coteachers. In every class I teach I have a Korean coteacher. The coteacher’s role varies from class to class and person to person – in my 20 months of teaching in Korea I have had ten separate coteachers. Some have split teaching time with me, some have refused to let me do anything, some have refused to come to class and had me do everything, and some have more or less been in the room for classroom management purposes only. They have had different levels of English proficiency, different levels of interest in teaching English, and different levels of friendliness towards me.
Having experienced a wide variety of coteachers I feel qualified to say that current CoT is one of the weirdest people I’ve ever met, and it isn’t just because of language barriers or cultural differences or anything like that. I have been working with CoT since I started teaching in Korea, so we’ve known each other for 1 1/2 years. In the past, she was a homeroom teacher and I only taught 1 or 2 classes a week with her to her own homeroom class. This school year (which started in March) she became the head English teacher and I now teach all of the 3rd and 6th grade English classes with her. She also shares my office space with me and we sit next to each other any time that we aren’t teaching.
Some specifics about her: She is in her early 40’s and has been teaching for about 15 years. She begged for the English teacher position because she claims to very passionate about English education. Although some of our weird interactions could be attributed to the language barrier, I have worked with many Koreans with both higher and lower English levels than hers (hers is on the higher end, honestly) and have never had these kinds of interactions.
Now that you know where this is coming from, allow me to share some of my most favorite bits of conversation from the past few weeks:
I think CoT is actually a toddler:
I feel like if I look away for even one second she will destroy something. This morning I tried to show her how to use the Smart TV. As it was trying to warm up she pushed all of the buttons and promptly broke it. Then, I turn my back for on second while I was trying to figure out what she’d done and she takes the special pens that are designed to write electronically on the smart TV and tries to use them as erasers on the white board. I said, “Oh! Don’t do that. Those are special pens for the TV.” Then she picks up a dry erase marker and writes on the TV screen and uses the special pen to try and erase that. It’s 9 am and I am already exhausted.
No Time to Prepare:
CoT: I have cancelled the first week of classes because I had no time to prepare.
Me: Ok. Cool.
CoT; (finds ping pong paddles in giant mound of crap she has just moved into our office) Let’s play ping-pong together!
Me: Now? I thought you needed time to prepare?
CoT: Ok, not now. How about 20 minutes?
After cancelling classes the entire first week of school so that she could prepare:
Me: What is your plan for class today? (It starts in 20 minutes)
CoT: I have no plan
Me: Ok, well…it’s the first class of the year so I thought we should introduce ourselves. I prepared a ppt. Do you want to introduce yourself and explain the class rules?
CoT: I have no class rules.
Me: Ok, well do you want to introduce yourself and then I’ll just do the rest.
CoT: Good idea.
CoT Gets Up in my Biz
CoT: Are you sick? You look sick today.
Me: No, I feel fine.
CoT: I think maybe you’re not feeling well?
Me: No, I’m fine. Maybe I’m a little tired. I’ve been tired this week.
CoT: Oh. Are you pregnant? (hopefully)
CoT: Are you sure? (with knowing smile)
Me: Yes, I’m positive.
CoT; Hmmm…. (smiling to herself like she thinks I’m lying)
Are you taking Vitamin C powder?
Me: No, but I take it when I’m sick. Right now I take a multivitamin
CoT: Is it a capsule?
CoT: Mmmm…capsule is not good for your body
I’m not pregnant, woman. I just gained weight. Mind your own biz.
CoT Gets Up in my Biz pt. 2
CoT: Oh, Li-lee. Oh Li-Lee. I think you have a lot of clothes.
Me: Oh. Ok. (Maybe I do, but I have 8 – 10 combinations that I wear to school on a rotating basis. So I wear the same thing once a week to once every two weeks).
CoT: Every day, a new color. I do like all of your colors.
(90% of my work wardrobe is black, white, or gray)
Now every day when she comes in in the morning she looks at me and simply says, “Oh. White. White, white, white, white, white. You are wearing white.”
I Don’t Think That Means What You Think It Means
We discuss what we will do in class and I write it on the board.
1. Review 2. Dictation quiz 3. Textbook page 16, etc.
The first class arrives 5 minutes early.
CoT, with no preamble, runs to the front of the room and says. “Number One: What grade are you in?”
The children look like they have no idea what is happening. Some students aren’t even there because class has not officially started yet. I figure she changed her mind about the order of things.
As she dictates, I erase the first two things on the board and switched them so it said 1. Dictation quiz 2. Review
CoT: No no! Change it back. Review first and then dictation.
Me: But you are doing the dictation first. Like, you are in the middle of it right now.
CoT: No, just REVIEW first and then we will do dictation. (Big smile)
(Turns around to the class) Number Three – I’m in the sixth grade.
CoT Decides Depression is Not Serious
(Out of nowhere) CoT: How do you feel when you’re depressed?
Me: When I’m depressed I just feel sad and like I don’t want to do anything and like my life has no meaning or purpose.
CoT (huge grin): Oh, I am glad to hear that! That doesn’t sound very serious!
CoT Discovers Spring, Apparently for the First Time
I am trying to prepare for a class that begins in 5 minutes and which CoT has prepared nothing for.
CoT: Lily (in sing-songy voice where my name suddenly has four syllables), please come look out the window. Me: At what?
CoT: The flowers are blooming. Please come look at them.
They weren’t blooming. The trees barely have buds on them.
Me (nicely): Well, they are almost blooming. That will be pretty (I try to go back to prepping for class)
CoT (whiniest voice ever): Oh, Why won’t you look out the window? They ARE blooming. They ARE blooming. And repeated that like 6 times.
The Wonders of Spring, Continued
Arriving back after teaching with a different teacher all morning. CoT seems to have been waiting for me.
CoT: Oh, you are here! (Immediately goes to the window, opens it and looks out) Oh look, The flowers are blooming. They ARE blooming. Look at them bloom. I can count the blooms. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. There are many flowers. Do you see them. Wow. Oh Wow. They are moving me. Do they touch you?
I Am a Poet and I Don’t Know It
CoT: Wow! We had a fresh spring rain yesterday. So nice. So fresh. So many flowers.
Me: The rain was heavy last night. I don’t know why the flowers didn’t break off and fall to the ground.
CoT: Wow. Your words. They are so poetic. What you said just now. So poetic.
CoT: Say again what you said earlier. I want to write it down.
Me: (I don’t even remember what i said) Umm…I don’t know why the flowers didn’t break off and fall to the ground?
CoT: (Repeats this over and over then says) Wow, you are a poet. I am with another poet.
Be Poetic! Do It Now!
CoT: Oh, Lily, please say something beautiful. Like before. What you said. Like poetry.
Me: Well, I’m not really sure what would be beautiful to you. The things I said before were just normal things to say.
CoT: Say something. A sensitive, emotional thing. Like yesterday, you said there was a bee and a butterfly in the classroom and you said it was “like a zoo.” The “like a zoo” part. That was so impressive. I have never experienced this before.
A few hours later…
CoT: The flowers are pink. Light pink.
Me: Yep, baby pink.
CoT: (Chuckles delightedly.) Oh yes! Baby pink! It is so cute. Today’s word is baby pink! Baby pink with Lily!
Then she sat at her desk and repeated “Baby pink” 30 – 40 times.
CoT Gives Me Prompts
I begin to suspect that CoT is feeding me prompts in the hopes that I will say something poetic.
CoT: What do you think of human beings?
CoT: Remember the time your friend came to visit almost two years ago?
Me: Yes, I remember.
CoT: Can you tell me about that?
There are more stories, but they involve more strange personal details about my CoT’s life that I’m not going to share publicly. From this sampling, I think you can see how every day is an adventure with CoT.
I started sharing some of my conversations with CoT as a way to help myself laugh at what can sometimes be annoying and difficult to deal with all day long. Many of our interactions are the kind of things that can be frustrating or difficult in the moment, but become very funny in the retelling. And seeing these interactions in a humorous way has really helped me let go of some of the frustrations I feel towards her and to honestly see her with a lot more compassion than I did before. Never knowing what to expect from her had been bringing me a lot of stress – I had come to dread being at work and was beginning to get snappy and short with her in our interactions and had gotten to the point where I really dreaded going to school. Like so many other aspects of life in a foreign culture, learning to look at things with humor and let the weirdness be funny instead of frustrating has been so helpful for my peace and sanity.
If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.