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.
Classroom management is a big issue for every teacher. Especially when you find yourself in a class full of people who don’t fully understand what you’re saying most of the time, it can be difficult to get your meaning across about what is and isn’t okay. Some things are pretty easy: kids flip each other off? Catch them in the act, grasp hold of your own middle finger, and shake head sternly. Done! Students swearing in English? Ask them if bad words are okay or not. Kids defacing my English Zone property? Bring the unholy fury of your teacherly displeasure down upon them.
But as summer approaches, my students begin to feel the itch of freedom. They know the semester is almost done. Once their exams are cleared, they are basically killing time until vacation begins.
Thus, they have melted. Where once there was order, and reason, and I could appeal to the sense that they wanted to learn and still gain my approval, now I have nothing. I have nothing to hold over them. When they see me, they see the dull ticking of the clock. They see hours not spent riding their bikes, or playing in fountains, or eating ice cream. They see adults keeping them down. I have nothing that they want.
Or so I thought.
For those uninitiated, Korea gets Satan’s-anus kind of hot in the summer. And Satan’s-anus kind of humid, too. Thus, where months ago my kids entered my class muttering “Coldcoldcold…” the chorus of “Hot! Hot!” has already begun. The children beg for the fans. They beg for the air-conditioner. They stumble in and futz with the controls, desperately praying for relief from the stifling, omnipresent heat.
In the most excited, fevered mime I could generate, I told them I would only permit the fans and A/C if they were quiet. The fans, I explained, were noisy. If we could not manage a decent level with the fans on, they’d have to go off. Air conditioning, too. Everyone in the room nodded silently. They did not realize exactly how much power they were bestowing in me.
True, I will sacrifice my own comfort. True, I will have to smell them sweaty and dirty for the next month and a half, and they will probably be at a near-constant whine should the fans go off. But the self-policing has already become brutal, and swift. The students look positively murderous when I begin wandering to the fan controls. And really, that’s all I’ve ever wanted.
Let’s talk about the things that I love lately and why I do that thing where I love them.
오징어 순대 (Ojingo sundae)
I am not a big seafood fan. We’ve talked about this before, internet. If it has pincers or a shell that is also its house or horrible beady little eyes floating away from its body on fibrous little shiver tendrils, I don’t want to ingest it. If it lives in the darkest, scariest parts of the ocean where things are basically two steps away from being Cthulhu, I don’t want it on my plate. Why do people do this to themselves? We have other food now, don’t they know? You don’t have to scrape the things off the bottom of your boat and suck sustenance from their horrible chitinous razorshells.
However. Occasionally I will stumble on something vaguely seafoody that surmounts my defenses. That proves tasty despite my long entrenched biases against the entire food genre. I will reluctantly savour this food, as though the sea itself conspired against me.
Never before has anything been so victorious against my tastebuds as ojingo sundae.