Saturday, February 11, 2017

how my Thursday went

This past Thursday was a break from the usual Golden Goose routine. I had been alerted, back in January, to the possibility of a February 9 mock-interview gig as part of Seoul National University's chwi-eop kaempeu (job camp*) for students interested in getting a leg up in finding their first job. The whole day was to be devoted to various interview-format classes—most of which would be done in Korean except for mine, which was to be done in English. The students were divided into four teams—A, B, C, and D—and those teams would rotate among different teachers throughout the seven-hour day (six hours plus an hour for lunch). My contact, Ms. Park, told me that I'd be meeting the teams in reverse order (first D, then C, B, and A); my roll sheet showed about ten or twelve students per group, but in reality, only four or five students from each group showed up. This is probably because the job camp was occurring during winter vacation, and because it was free: students on vacation, taking a course they didn't pay for, have no reason to stick with the program until the end, so it's only natural that many should flake out.

I saw, on my attendance sheet, that one student in Team C was a French language and literature major, so I was excited to practice some French with him. Alas, he proved to be one of the no-shows, the bastard. Still, I had fun with the students who did make it. I explained the format for the class as each team walked in: we'd be doing one-on-one sit-downs for six minutes—three minutes for the mock interview, then three minutes for feedback and any questions the students might have. I had decided on the six-minute format based on the team sizes listed on my attendance sheet. When I saw that the actual team sizes were smaller, I chose not to extend the interview times, thus allowing the students to finish early. One big pedagogical mistake is thinking that you always need to run out the clock. You don't. While I do believe in the No Dead Time rule (i.e., never leave the students with nothing to do), I don't believe it's necessary to draw out the pain of being in class for purely bureaucratic reasons. When you're done, you're done. Let the kids go. They have lives, too.

Each 90-minute session with a given team began with me saying a few words and breaking the ice. Some of the kids were nervous; most of them were, frankly, clueless about what they had to do. Once I gave them a concrete procedure to latch on to, however, they became more comfortable, although some of the more tightly wound students remained nervous. When I'd finished my one-on-ones with the whole team, I spent some time going over some of the bigger issues involved with job interviews, then I let the students leave early. Ms. Park, who would pop in at the end of every session, was fine with my letting the students go early; she understood that attendance was woefully low. One student hung around close to lunch hour; he and I talked a bit. Another group of students asked me for my email address so they could send me their résumés to look over and evaluate. I know from experience that most of these students won't bother to email me; I've had people ask for my email address in the past, and nothing has ever come of that. No follow-through.

Lunch was awkward. I had been told to go to Room 207, a lecture hall next door to the closet-like classroom that I had been placed in. Lunch was held late because the class going on in 207 ran overtime (as is common with Korean profs, who seem to have little notion of how to budget time for lectures). After the lunch area was set up, I went into 207 and saw that a single long table had been placed in the very center of the large lecture hall; four Korean profs were already seated at the table and talking quietly with each other when I entered. We all politely bade each other a good meal ("mashitge deuseyo"); I said little, but I noticed that the men I was sitting with all looked a lot like some of the TV stars I've seen on certain Korean dramas. The guy who was obviously the stud/hero of the group sat across from me; he was very clearly the alpha—the manly man. Next to him was a guy whose earnest face looked perfect for the role of the hero's best friend—the guy who normally dies in an action movie, thus motivating the hero to exact revenge. The other two gents, fairly nondescript, looked like background extras—the actors who play characters that get run over by cars during street-chase scenes.

When I came into the hall, the profs were complaining about how the building's central heating system had shut off during the lunch break and wouldn't come back on until classes resumed. I joked that this was terrible for thin folks, which got a wry chuckle. The hero asked me one or two perfunctory questions about what I was teaching my students, then he left me alone for the rest of the meal, preferring to speak with the other Korean men. Can't say I blame him. I didn't want to be sitting with anyone, anyway, but the lunch setup left me with little choice but to take the empty chair at the table in the center of that large, empty hall. Lunch itself was mediocre: a box meal with cold bulgogi, Korean-sauced chicken wings, various banchan (sides), and a lukewarm cup of seaweed soup. Better than nothing, I suppose, although I wouldn't have minded skipping lunch altogether (something I may do next time). Soon enough, I finished my meal and headed out. Never saw any of those profs again. They seemed nice enough, but the atmosphere at lunch was about as warm as my food had been.

I was scheduled to finish my final session at 5PM, but since only five out of twelve students showed up, I ended up finishing shortly after 4PM. I packed up around 4:20, said goodbye to Ms. Park, hailed a cab, and headed out to Itaewon to pick up some items for my gyros. While I was at High Street Market, I spoke in Korean with the very cute Korean cashier, who told me she had learned a lot of her English from watching "Friends," and that Ross—the sad-looking one—was her favorite character. It would've been nice to get this pretty lady's phone number, but she was far too young for this graying old man. (Clint Eastwood, who was pushing 90 when he separated from his latest 30-something wife, would beg to differ, I'm sure.)

After finishing my shopping, I then hopped into a cab for the ill-fated cab ride that I've already written about here. When I got home, I could feel myself fading away, but because I had promised gyros to my boss and coworker, I slaved away into the night, prepping the meal, containerizing everything, and finally collapsing into bed and falling into a blessedly dreamless sleep. An eventful Thursday was finally over.

*The term chwi-eop actually refers to the act of getting/obtaining a job, but "job-getting camp" seemed like a weird translation. I risked "job camp" because the word job has a wide semantic field that includes getting a job.

1 comment:

Charles said...

Tried to comment on this yesterday but got a "bad request" error message. I have since forgotten what I tried to say.

Metacomment FTW!