Today I spent time with one of the teachers at my school. She’s not an English teacher but I’d say she’s the best English speaker at the school besides the vice-principal, who lived in America for many years. Anyway, she called me while I was on the bus coming home from school and wanted to know if I wanted to get dinner with her. “umm, duh!” I thought, but I managed to say a polite “Oh yes, that would be wonderful!” Five minutes after the phone call, she just happened to see me walking home from the bus (I had decided to skip my bus stop and get off with my students, which meant I was walking in an area no where near my house). She picked me up in her car and we went to her apartment, a beautiful new complex in the middle of nowhere (meaning at least a half mile walk to anywhere).
I met her 14-year-old son with just a quick glance in my direction: he was studying by the computer with headphones on, and clearly didn’t want to be disturbed. He actually yelled at his mom to be quiet a couple times. I thought we would maybe talk at dinner but he ate in his room. Apparently he’s really shy. He lived in New Zealand for a year and a half (with a homestay family) so being bad at English isn’t the problem, I don’t think. Maybe I’m just a scary person.
The teacher and I had a great conversation during dinner. Her son’s math book was on the table and I got stuck on a difficult problem. We had to solve for x, but I’m pretty sure there was no solution to the problem. If 8th graders are doing problems like these, it’s no wonder that Korea has the smartest kids in the world in math. The teacher told me that some people are trying to make math easier for students. She explained that the math level is too difficult for students. I’m not sure how this is bad. It seems that kids can accomplish whatever they are taught. Math is the U.S. isn’t as hard compared to math in Korea, but students still struggle with algebra. I think that there’s too much pressure on kids to be good at math. In the U.S. you can still be smart even if you’re not good at math, trying to make math easier, math is too difficult in korea, she was bad at math in school so she couldn’t go to a renowned college, and she couldn’t work in business, even though she thinks she would have been good at business.
After dinner we left to go drop her son off at Hagwan. Apparently he goes there to get someone else to make him study English vocabulary. I couldn’t tell if the teacher at the Hagwan actually taught him or not. We then drove downtown and looked around for a tea place, but it ended up being closed, so we went to one of downtown’s many coffee shops. We got jujube tea (a jujube is apparently a Chinese date). I spent a while on the dictionary trying to figure out how to translate the word date into Korean (since all the definitions that pop up have to do with other meanings of the word). We talked about a lot of things. It was really great to be able to have a conversation with one of my co-workers after feeling disconnected from my fellow teachers because of the language barrier.