Things are very nearly settled into their summer gear here at SUF HQ, which, as you may recall, is the dining chair in front of my laptop where I eat ice cream in my underpants. The sun is shining, the air is thicker than oil, and the tropical storms and monsoons have begun to cleanse the roads of puke like some vengeful god drowning away our sins. The day of release from our constraints is nigh, and everyone I interact with is essentially checked out. Children, adults, teachers and students, Korean or foreign: it’s time for summer vacation.
The problem, of course, is that people have been checked out for a little while, but we all have to play the part of people who are still dedicated to whatever it is we are doing. Now, as an adult, I have developed years of experience pretending I care about things, and can maintain a certain professional posture long after I have stopped giving a crap and have ridden off into the sunset on a chopper in my brain. My kids, however, are not so skilled.
Their wails of torment and distaste have grown greater in volume and frequency as each day has become dolorous. Every minute in school between now and next Wednesday is an affront, an active restraint against their summer time joy. They sound like a people enslaved. They sound like souls under the torturous ministrations of enormous Eldritch abominations. They are wounded. They are weak.
As such, we haven’t really been playing hard-ball with the English these days.
In regular class, I have abandoned all hope of actual pedagogy occurring, and instead stand sentry over snack parties and movie festivals. The children file into the room with enormous bags of chocolate and chips and fish-flavoured everythings, and slowly approach me like I am an Aztec emperor. They bow low and raise their offerings above their tiny heads, and I add the sacrifices to the mounting pile on my desk. We watch Wall-E and Ice Age dozens of times, and the kids relish the opportunity to simply sit in the dark and not think of things.
The best classes in each grade are rewarded with a pizza party. Their fervour can barely be contained, or processed. I feel like I could harness their glee and sell it as a cheap fuel source. Presented with pizza, one of my boys shouts to me, “Marry me!” I don’t know where he learned to reference Arrested Development, but I am pleased.
My bonus classes have similarly deteriorated. I joke with the kids, and let them get away with far more murder than I would in any other month. The grade ones play games, the gifted kids draw comics, and any student who manages to work up the feeling to actually care about English in these draining few last weeks will receive nothing but my enduring praise, and maybe some portion of my snack offerings. We all have a mutual understanding that no one will interrupt our gentle drift towards summer vacation bliss, and anyone that does will receive swift and brutal retribution.
The only people who believe that work should actually continue are, of course, the administrators.
Spurred on by some useless busybody bureaucrat in an education office, my school looked at my contract once more. Due to the vagaries of a few sentences regarding how many classes a foreign teacher will teach (up to x number apparently means exactly x number to some people who like to get het up about these kinds of things), my school was sent into a tizzy trying to scrap together new work for me, weeks before the end of the semester.
Suddenly I teach additional after school classes, which I had to design and evaluate an assessment for. When the kids deign to show up, I must educate them as best as I can knowing, as I often do, that they are here because their parents cajoled them into doing it, and that summer approaches, frying their capacity for life.
Still further, everyone higher on the food chain is enthralled by all the ideas I had months ago, and are amped about me doing them right now, even as visions of myself lying on a beach in Indonesia dance tantalizingly in front of my eyes. All the things I suggested months ago in order to combat the fleet of terrible ideas they wanted me to try first were suddenly dredged from whatever backwater file folder they had been sealed away in, unearthed like numerously limbed, chthonic horrors from the depths of the earth. Remember all those things you thought of and promptly forgot because we pretended we hated them? Do them! You want me to design the English bulletin board now? With four days of actual school left, before I am on a plane out of the country?
It is, of course, cyclical. Once every few months, someone in a higher echelon remembers that I exist, and suddenly has the unyielding desire to make my life difficult. I weather the changes, the calls for more and greater work, the dull encouragements to take the reins and think of more busywork for myself. In time, they will forget about me and I can do my job in peace. In this case, I will wait it out, drag my feet for the precious few days left in the semester, and then blast off to the airport.
Summer is coming.