Friday, March 7, 2014

The School Year Has Begun!

There are so many things I've started to write and haven't finished... maybe I will. Don't hold your breath. In the meantime, let me tell you about the start of the school year:

It's Saturday, the first week is done and I'm sitting in my office, listening to Karjam singing (unfortunately not live) and determined to finish a ton of class prep today.

Intro to Modern Korean History (for majors)
(5 weeks only): Intro to Korean Culture and Society (for majors)
(every week): Intro to Korean Studies I (for majors)
(teaching 5 weeks, attending every week): Intro to Korean Music: Pungmul Drumming (for majors)
Contemporary Korean Culture and Society (for non-majors)
Modern Korean History (for graduate students in Korean Studies or International Studies)

This week was the first week, and usually first week classes are so easy-- you spend time on the syllabus and letting students know the expectations for the course and you try to get to know them and let them learn enough about you to suss out if they really want to take the class. But when it's your department and it's the same students on Monday and all three classes on Tuesday, it's very different... you really have to start teaching right away because you can't do introductory games and conversation for 11 hours! The students are not required to take all the classes--the required class is Intro to Korean Studies I and the rest of the classes are optional-- but of course they need a certain number of credits to graduate. So almost all of them are enrolled in all four classes (two students elected not take the history course and one student isn't taking the music course). They are also enrolled in various other courses that meet distribution requirements.

Next week I won't be teaching Korean Culture and Society, but rather Lyudmila will spend 5 weeks with them teaching them how to look at Korean culture and society through Korean literature. Then I get them, and at the end of the semester Lina (a friend from my MA at Yonsei University who is doing her doctoral dissertation research in Korea right now) will teach them about Korean Social Movements for 5 weeks. For the Korean Music class, however, I will always attend even when I'm not providing lectures on Korean music. On those days (about 9 or 10 of the 16 weeks) my friend Go Seokjin will teach them drumming on the janggu or hourglass drum. The style they will start with this semester is the style from Imshil Pilbong Nongak, also the style played here on campus by the student club. I am hoping to integrate my students with the club and then with attendance at the transmission center in Pilbong. An ideal outcome for me will be to find a way to give students credit for attending a certain number of weeks of classes in Pilbong during their vacations. I still have to figure out how that will work out, though. And my new chair, who I love in every other way, seems to be very nervous about the connection of pungmul drumming with politics and will NOT listen to me when I assert that the kids these days are not interested in politics and just want to play the music. I hope to get him to listen to common sense, soon.

So far I love the personalities and attitude of all my major students.

On Wednesday I taught my non-major class... that was stressful. First of all the classroom that was mine on the schedule was being occupied by another class. What the heck! Finally we started, at least 15 minutes late, in a different classroom, but it was NOT the way I want to make a first impression!!! Then the students included two students who spoke no English, even though the class is listed as being taught in English. These students (who are from China and from Uzbekistan-- it's not Korean students who are totally unprepared to use English) really wanted to take the class, and the students in the class really wanted to meet more foreigners and make foreign friends... this left me in a quandry over what to do. If I told the two foreign students to leave, we'd lose 2 out of 5 enrolled foreigners (only one is German and an obvious foreigner, by the way), but all my class prep was done in English, and I didn't want to redo my syllabus and spend all the extra time to prepare lessons in Korean (did that last semester and it easily was double the prep time, maybe triple).

Thursday was the hardest day. I got a bus at 6:05 and made it to the campus in Seoul by 8, finding the classroom by 8:20 or so. The class started at 9, and there were 12 students there, only one with a 100% Korean name, although several had diasporic Korean names (like Eric Lee). A student (sounded American and looked Jewish) was a bit abrasive and challenging of a couple of the things I said-- he took a hard-lined (Korean) nationalist perspective (which is kind of funny since he's not Korean), and his attitude in class really threw me off. I am hoping (for once) that my first impression made him think he did not want to take the class, because an argumentative ultra-nationalist will be hard to deal with considering that I was trained by the opposite of the nationalist camp and hence will say things a nationalist might not like over and over all semester.

Now I better buckle down and work on prep!

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