It was like a scene from a Hollywood nightmare. I enter the school grounds yesterday, cursing, kicking things, some of which might have been students (Monday morning pre-caffeine fuzziness), and come face to face with…myself.
A cheerful, more youthful, and allround better-looking myself, admittedly, and sporting the toga and kinky boots I’d always known I was born to sport but had just assumed were inappropriate work attire.
The anonymous artist(s) — I’m told they were third-year students who’ll be attending an “art high school” next year (many high schools here specialise) — had even immortalised some of my favourite classroom catchphrases.
They’d omitted my very favourite one — Very disappointing — but I was pleased to see the 야 that is now an indispensable component of my classroom arsenal. I’d seen so many co-teachers use it with great effect and when I finally took the leap and shouted it, the effect was so magical I was in danger of blunting it with overuse.
It translates as Hey! or Hey, you! or even, adroitly employed, Shut the hell up!
The school festival was last Friday, and these — one for every teacher — had been unveiled during festivities. I was working at N2 and missed it, but N2’s festival is this Friday, and who knows what I’m in for, apart from the seemingly mandatory K-pop dance routine done by all the girls’ (and some of the boys’) classes.
As well as the portraits, there were hundreds of dangling…whatever the hell these things are:
I’m told we may buy our portrait for 10,000 won — about 10 bucks — which will go to charity. I’ll probably do it, though getting the thing home may prove problematic.
Some of the likenesses were uncanny, and I can only guess at the significance of the coded motifs incorporated into each one. This bloke is pulling out all stops and hitting the buggers with a deadly Double Ya backed up with a nice, ripe persimmon:
More than one subject confided to me that they were less than impressed with their (un-)likeness.
I think the bloke on the left would be pretty satisfied. The one next to him — well, I thought it was a woman, but I’m not so sure now, and have blotted out the name tag without reading it. If it is a woman, good luck to her! She’s wearing a suit and bearing a bottle of liquor and a three-day growth, but seems happy with the path her life’s taken:
One of the great things (on a good day) about being a male teacher is the gender imbalance. I am surrounded by princesses like these, not that we’ve ever exchanged anything more meaningful than a smile.
H____, one of my English-teaching colleagues, was most unimpressed with her picture. Justly unimpressed — she’s actually gorgeous, and a lot younger than she looks here:
Another colleague, S_____, who is actually my minder, liaising between me, the vice-principal and the Board of Education, and just as lovely as H_____, fared somewhat better:
It’s often said that Koreans venerate education and shower respect on teachers — I don’t know if this kind of display is typical of schools in Korea but I’d guess it is. I must say my feelings about the school system here have evolved over the year. The classroom environment is certainly not for the faint of heart. It seemed like mayhem to me when I started, and some of the stuff I see still blows my mind, but I no longer approach most classes with crippling dread.
I actually like a lot of “my” kids now, and have even managed to half-tame some of the obstreperous brutes who made my early months hell (a packet of lollies or 10 is another essential part of my toolkit — I hope you’re taking notes, future language-teaching professionals). And let’s face it, my anonymous portraitists could have been a lot crueller…
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote