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HELLO! from jackie on Vimeo.

Correction: Rebel Hell is NOT 207, as described in the previous post, but ONE oh seven. That means these pubescent bags have two more years at the same school.



s one strays away from Seoul’s solid center, the less wealthy the area becomes. Take for example, the neighborhood around the school where I teach. My school is ranked amongst the lowest in academic achievement, if not, the lowest in the region.


When asked who is in their family during a speaking exam this past week, a number of the students memorized and recited to either having a grandparent at home, a parent or only siblings. For some, parents have suddenly left at one time in the past and never came back. For others, there is alcoholism or other familial problems that aren’t discussed amongst friends or at all during the school day. When asked what they do after school, the students enthusiastically respond with, “Playing! Playing soccer! Friends!” Very few attend academies or hogwans (private academic institutions) after school, which many of the wealthier students attend throughout Seoul. The students typically spend the rest of the day hanging out or “playing computer games” (Internet). Discipline? What?

What is remarkable, however, is how animated they are at just being themselves. Like myself, a foreigner to the neighborhood would not have guessed the situation they come from. As rowdy and hormonal teenagers, the students are unaware of society’s regulations and all of the other unapologetic Grown Up Stuff. Girls blush when I ask them if the stickers of boy bands and male actors on their pencils are their boyfriends, and boys get excited when I give them high fives or when I loudly reprimand them for texting their “yujah chingoo” (girlfriend) on their cell phones underneath their desks during class (“ANNI! OPSAH-YO!” “NO! I DON’T HAVE ONE!”). Although a lot of them want to engage in a simple dialogue with me, they either struggle and shy away, stare, laugh and talk slowly in Korean, to which I draw a huge dumb smile, or bully a friend into translating to Konglish what he or she wants to tell me.

MICHELLE PFEIFFER IS TEACHUHBecause I’ve long since given up on useless mass regulations and dry lessons regurgitated out of an outdated and impractical book (I gave up at 13. So…why am I wearing the Teach tag, again?!), I’ve decided to prevent these kids from getting their balls chewed out and their teeth knocked out. Nobody, to this day, walks up to another and says, “Hello, Sue. My name is Jane. Let me introduce myself. I like cats because they are handsome. My hobby is pickling with Grandmother. This is the end of my introduction. Thank you.” Even if it takes months to have students naturally understand, rather than memorize a dialogue asking each other, “What’s up? Are you free today? What was your opinion on the presidential election? Hey, did you sell your scooter yet, or what?” I think that merits major success. Or when that one beautiful moment unfolds when I have two hormonal 14 year olds candidly argue in English, I’ll kick back at my desk and pop open a cold Korean can of gold.


But for now, life will be more tolerable if only these loose hormones can understand what it means to repeat after me.




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