I taught a special class today. Some of my students were 18 years old.
I took a great deal of pride in my work today, and to be honest, this
is one of the greatest days in my days as a teacher. I wish I could’ve
shared it with more people than I could, which is perhaps why I had so
much pinned on tonight’s afterwork activities, which fell through. But
in any case…
It was nice to be able to teach people who I could really consider my
equals. I was teaching, and they were understanding. And it became
not just about English– it became a lesson in how to ‘cheese the AI’.
I was teaching them ways to beat the system– I mean, how to beat the
TESOL tests when sometimes, you didn’t know what the words meant or
when the phrasing just confused the fuck out of you. I was teaching
them the way I saw the world as a game, and by the end of the 3 hours,
the students who I had never previously thought seemed to understand
something a bit better.
Today, I was a teacher.
From what I discussed with the other teachers, there are a number of
differences that became apparent between them and I. And I’m not
picking straws… the counter teachers told me that out of 25 teachers,
I am one of of 3 teachers who actually thought that the new special
program was good.
In a really petty way, isn’t it an ego boost to know that you’ve
succeeded where others have failed? I suppose that makes me a bad
We do have good days, and we do have bad ones– and when you add that all up, depending on how different your good and bad were from the next person’s, that’s why you’re different people.
I think it goes without saying that sometimes, I can be a real son of a bitch with the things I say, and I can be a downer with the poison that comes out of my mouth when I get critical about things or people. But in the end, I think it’s because I hold humanity to a high standard that this comes about. I honestly think that we can do it.
Don’t ask what it is.
There’s this dialectic between the idea of knowing nothing at all and being blissfully ignorant, or knowing something and then being forced to deal with the complications that ensue. What’s the difference? Well, take someone who believes in God ‘just like that’. Maybe the person has a mental disability and is fixated on praising the Lord. And then take someone who doesn’t. Someone who maybe started off as a believer and then turned away from the Christian path, on a road of humanism, but still did his best to stay with the ideals.
Maybe at the end of their lifetimes, they both end up in heaven.
But then, how’s that fair, since one person just had the “right mind” within him by default?
Do you get what I’m saying? Just what is lucky? What is fortunate, and what is good?
Would you rather be a rich person, born with no financial concerns, EVAR, or would you rather be born poor to scrape yourself up the food chain?
Who’s to say that a rich person can’t be happy? Who’s to say that a rich person can’t be good? And who’s to say that a poor person will work hard?
What I’m saying is that people can sometimes get to the same results. And sure, we can make a big deal about developing character through experience– but does that really matter?
I remember a passage from The Matrix, where the traitor says “to be honest, I like a good steak.” He choses to betray Morpheus and company because he doesn’t really care about knowing ‘the truth,’ he has no problems whatsoever of giving up character in exchange for comfort. And while most people do have some degree of character, the important thing is not to consider yourself in someone else’s shoes– the important thing is to consider someone else in his own shoes.
Does that make sense? I mean, if your situation changed suddenly– if you died and were reincarnated, and had no prior knowledge of whatever hopes and dreams you now have of becoming a better person, would any of this matter?
Would you chose the bliss of ignorance?
I think that the bad rap that this path gets is mostly because most people, like me, have had to work to get to where we are– and as a result, we don’t like the idea of easy roads, because we don’t like to admit anything remotely related to a theme of futility.
When we correct essays at work, we have to write comments on the essays. Because this is all done online, it’s pretty easy for a kid to just ignore the comments. As a result, many teachers don’t really bother writing anything useful– they just cut and paste and recycle comments over and over. The comments then lose all meaning, because they’re basically putting into words what could otherwise be read from the numerical scores– “Good job on the grammar. Spelling needs work. Structure is good.”
And what good is that? What needs to go into comments are the specifics– like how to improve. Even more important than that is to encourage the student to write more and to really enforce that idea that you’re proud of their efforts.
But commenting on essays has really taken a hit as of late, and teachers at my branch are putting in the minimum requirements for comments (about 250 characters). The reason for this is that they just don’t expect their students to read them, so they say fuck it: why bother?
But I think that this is bad. It really is. When teacher gives up on a student, what else is there? How will the world ever keep on turning?
Even if a teacher is a human, that’s where the real professionalism should come in. Professionalism shouldn’t come into teaching in the sense that we should treat children like numbers and deliver the education with robotic efficiency. Professionalism means that we do our job.
That means that we can never accept a concept of futility when it comes to a student. If even there is a 1% chance that student will read a comment, we cannot miss that opportunity– we must make sure that 100% of our comments are genuine and that all our bases are covered. We can never give up. And if we do, we must never show it, and we must be trying again by the time someone is looking.
I think a lot of things in life comes from fighting the concept of futility. I talk a lot about substance– real substance are those 1% of things, the truly ‘hard parts’ of a person’s character which are indominitble because they are the diamonds, the 1%, found through painstaking effort. In chinese, we say “One Wolf is better than 100 Sheep”.
In the same way, I think it’s important to fight futility. When you feel alone, against all odds, you need to beleive that you’ll find someone. When you feel inadaqute, you have to belive against all odds that you have a place or that you can get better.
And every now and then, you win against something that would normally have been considered futile. It’s a painstaking process like evolution to exhaustively try every possible way to survive this one trait, this one aspect of your character that everyone is saying should die. But if you can get it through those gauntlets, it is with you, and it is untouchable.
I have this habit that some people know about, and other people don’t. I guess that really says nothing at all. But I watch chick flicks. I watch a LOT of them. Why? I don’t know. I think in some ways it’s a way for me to remind myself of ideals of happy endings and love.
It’s an idea world, I think, where from the begining of a movie to the end, you know that one girl and guy are probably going to get together. It’s not always the case, especially with Korean romantic comedies, but the vast majority of romantic comedies, especially Korean ones, are really things that I enjoy.
How does real life compare?
I think it is similar, really. I was recounting the story to 예니 yesterday of how, after I kissed Flynt for the first time all those years back, she punched me in the face and broke my nose. I remember how BC crippled me when she slipped on the ice and side-kicked me in the ankle. My life’s had no end of strange occurances that would make for great fiction, if only for the fact that it’s not fiction and that the people involved wouldn’t want to be presented in those ways.
I’ve used the word “love” before but I really think that it needs to be restated that everytime you love someone, it’s real. Everythime love dies, that’s also real. But just because something dies doesn’t mean that in it’s own time, it wasn’t alive.
And I think that this is one of the important facts of life– people get so caught up with the fact that they’ve loved and lost that they decide that they might as well cut their losses and just say “why bother”. Like with essay comments. Why bother?
But that’s precisely why nobody should ever give up on anything that they truly want to accomplish. If it’s a noble goal, then go for it, and semper fortitunde! If there is that 1% chance that what you’re doing will work, then fuck the odds– win with perseverence. Exhaust Fate.
I have this thing about dreams. I love my dreams. And my brain really does play tricks on me. It seems that while few things in the real world scare me, what really does are the things that my brain comes up with.
I think it’s the difference between ‘what is’ and ‘what could be’.
‘What is’ doesn’t scare me. But ‘what could be’, that’s the stuff of dreams– both in nightmares and in fantasies. That’s where the crazy shit goes down, and trying to pull or push that border is what my waking life is all about.
I sometimes wake up from a dream completely terrified with such heavy emotional opression that I feel I should just lie in bed and cry.
And other days, I wake up from a dream which I can’t remember but I’m filled with such hope that I feel like I could kick down the door to my apartment and just run straight to work in one go, and change the world in one fell sweep.
But dreams if anything remind me that our greatest ally and our worst enemy remains myself.
In the end, I wonder sometimes if we want ignorance. On one hand, we might want an easy way out. And yet, sometimes, it’s the converse– trying to fight futility is like feigning ignorance against the odds.
There’s a certain amount of naivety that has to be forced upon oneself– you have to sing as if nobody’s listening, dance like nobody’s looking, and love as if you’ve never been hurt before.
Substance turns out to be that which you acheive in spite of what you mistakenly label as ‘futile’.
And of course, there are some days when such ideas are harder to beleive in than others.
I was stood up tonight. Sure, it was raining, but sometimes I get the feeling that certain things were not meant to be. Can I know for sure?
Some days, maybe I ‘do know’. But really… who knows.
I biked home in the rain today. Not on scooter. On my bicycle. It was raining, I had my pants rolled up to my knees. I wore a hood over my cap and had no gloves, and the rear splash guard is still too short so I got a skunkstripe on my back with the dirty Korean roadwater.
It was nice.
To bike home on empty streets– it’s not just the way everthing looks. But the silence of it all, aside from the rain– you own the roads at night, moreso when it’s quiet and nobody challenges you for the attention of the night. And it’s not just what you see– it’s what you hear. With the rain falling, you become aware of a picture painted only in sound, all around you, and you can ‘see’ things from angles around you that you could never see with your eyes. The world comes alive and plays marco polo with you at once.
Do you ever wonder what is your connection with the world around you?
On some days, it’s easier than others to hear the world trying to connect to you.
Sometimes, when I sleep, my brain decides to plug my existence, my being, into scenarios that I wouldn’t dare think about in my waking life. Past loves. Past lives. Or possibilities. And when I wake up, it is always with a sense of longing or regret for an existence where things just magically worked out, or had no consequences.
I came home at 1am today ( just a little while ago) and edited a post which I was originally planning to publish this morning but I thought needed a better conclusion. This is it. It’s not any better than it would have been, though it ends with my day.
My final thoughts for today?
My life is bittersweet.
On sunday, I met up with her because I volunteered to pick her up from Beogye and take her to the restaurant where everyone was at. But I was a bit late due to traffic– in my lateness, she wandered off a bit. When I got the destination, I couldn’t find her, and by the time she found me, it was too late to get to dinner with the others– it was already almost 7, so they were all going to have been finishing, and their location was a 15 minute drive away.
We went to Anyang instead, to the fruit market, and like the Night Markets of Taiwan, we had the chance to have street food. We sat down to some sundae and dokbokki, with a kimbap on the side. We sat there at the stall, ate and talked. Talked. And talked. Afterwards we went for coffee at a cafe, and after that, we went to the waterway.
Somehow, 7pm had turned into 2am and my sunday had turned to monday.
Today, I had plans with her. I was going to make oven baked spaghetti. But she canceled, and I ended up spending the evening with one of my coworkers. He and I went to a galbi place where we passed a couple of hours over meat and soju.
I came home to my apartment about a half an hour ago, the pack of mushrooms, the bell pepers and tomato sauce still in the fridge.
I consider calling her up on Skype… she doesn’t sleeep until 4 in the morning on most days.
But why? She’s recently broken up, and is pretty disenfranchised with Canadian guys as a whole. We have a great time together, but my vantage seems to look familiarly like the view from the ‘friends ladder’.
And why aren’t I doing anything about it?
Maybe I am.
Maybe this is what it means to keep paradise, to, despite circumstances, despite experience pointing out all the patterns, despite advice, maybe this is why I persist. It is calculated naivety, a risk or gamble of that nothing which I have to lose.
It will hurt either way, so lets try for the chance at least, right?
And so on some night, sleep is the only way to deal with a day or days that are just too much. Either too good, or too bad– I think somedays, you just feel that it’s been too long
The only refuge from the real world is the dream world– create it from scratch, and just as your real day comes to an end, so too does a dream world have to die before you can come back to the real one.
Bitersweetness left, right and center, isn’t it…?