Friday, 22 June 2012

Friday Favourite V10: Homeroom Teachers

At the end of every week I'm going to write down one thing I love about Korea. Last week it was living so close to my best friend and here is this week's... 

Homeroom teachers are the equivalent of England's primary school teachers. They teach kids the majority of subjects, apart from languages, art and music. They spend most of their day with their class, they teach in the classroom, eat their lunch with the kids in the classroom, and make sure the children all do their daily chores...in the classroom. Their role goes further than this though, they're a hodge podge of mother/father away from home and a disciplinarian figure. This isn't why I like them though. I like that as the months go on,  I can distinctively see how their personalities differ and how they deal with this role, which is quite hilarious to an observer.

They're these elusive individuals that loiter in the classroom while I teach. Always trying to look inconspicuously busy so as not to get asked a question by the English teacher. From what I can see, there are three different roles they adopt.
1. Terrifyingly strict
2. Don't give a hoot
3. Fatherly and affectionate.

The strict ones hawk eye the whole lesson. If any student dares to even breathe too loudly, the homeroom teacher will bark at the child, who will instantly shut up. There was a strange wooden instrument, which I thought was a recorder, on the front desk of the 6th grade class with the most stern homeroom teacher. I picked it up while asking the kids what it was and was met with a laugh when they answered 'beat stick' and they saw me throw it back down. Recently I had two boys that just wouldn't listen in class, I'd tried to quietly chastise them, in the hope it wouldn't draw the attention of the homeroom teacher, but it was too little too late. He stalked around the back of the classroom with stealth movements comparable to a prowling cat, grabbed their heads and banged them together! Ouch! 

Natasha has the sternest homeroom teacher in the school. We once saw two boys at lunch time, squatting in the stair well with their arms held above their head, just as we wondered what was going on, we rounded the corner to see him hunched in the threshold of his classroom door, messily shovelling food into his mouth. He watched the boys, without even blinking, to make sure they remained squatted.

The second type are the ones that don't really care all that much, they're just happy to have 40 minutes where the little cretins that bother him like a rash all day are my problem. These are who I find the most annoying, they make phone calls, they play music and they sing to themselves in a weird way I've only ever heard grandmas do. Not only is it completely distracting as a teacher, but the kids are fully aware of the indifference and do whatever they like.

The final ones are my favourite, who swing between being strict, they want their kids to be the best, yet  have the tendency to shake their heads at some of the things the kids do. Especially when it's something that only a parent could possibly find cute or funny. I find that the children with homeroom teachers like this tend to be the better behaved, and are the ones I always look forward to teaching. 

This week I had a little (by little I mean young, he was by no means small) boy who wouldn't stay sat in his seat. I asked him to sit down and so did the homeroom teacher. He did, but then started conducting some imaginary orchestra with his Rilakkumma highlighter pen, whilst humming rather loudly. When I pointed at the book to suggest that he follow the story, I noticed he had gone through the whole book and smothered every word he could find in orange highlighter. The homeroom teacher stood up to see what I was looking at, when he saw it, he walked around his desk, calmly lifted up the boy's tshirt, grabbed his pale flabby body and did what I can only call a glorified chinese burn on the boy's torso. This then developed into a jiggle, which made the boy look like he was doing an involuntary Truffle Shuffle. The boy sat there and took it, and 2 minutes later was back in charge of his invisible orchestra, at which point the teacher just shook his head and laughed.

Sometimes these guys listen. other times they nap quietly or slip from the room. I think my favourite homeroom teacher by far is one of Natasha's. He drives to work on a moped, wears a shirt with flamingos on it and dons a lovely red polka dot apron to serve his kids their lunch.

By spending a little time with them outside of school, I've realised that most of them are just little boys in men's bodies. They still jump at the chance to play volleyball with the gusto shown by some of my 5th graders (who live for volleyball).  At a recent dinner, after a few too many shots of Johnny Walker Blue, it turned out that most of them can string a sentence together in English, and they gathered everyone round, asked us all to put our hands in and chanted '1,2,3. I LOVE YOU!'



It's funny to see them at work, and the weird voodoo magic they seem to have over the kids, that makes them behave like angels in their presence, in comparison to the jokers they are when the week's over.

Tasha's been invited for a dinner meeting with her homeroom teachers in the next few weeks so no doubt we'll have a story to tell following that...wish us luck!