똥이 필요해

I simply must share some of these awesome Korean (written by a Korean in Korean) children’s books I’ve gotten my hands on.

Title of the first book, 똥이 필요해 written by 노영수 and illustrated by 유현경. For those who don’t know Korean, the title is… I Need Poop.

In I Need Poop, a rabbit sits, happily eating carrots. He eats them all and his stomach is full and a small apple tree asks for his poop. So the rabbit turns and poops all over the apple tree. (Complete with “bbujik, bbujik” noises.)

The apple tree cries out, “That’s not enough! I need some different poop!”

The rabbit, rather hurt, says, “Is my poop lacking?”

The rabbit collects a goat, who poops on the tree. (Sound? “Tong, tong, tong!”) A mouse rakes his poop onto the tree’s roots.

Next up, a pig wearing a baseball cap. The mouse, rabbit and tree all hold their noses while the pig does his duty. “Bbujijik!”

Still, the tree is not happy. “Give me more poop!”

The rabbit gets a cow. “Jwareureureuk!”

The apple tree grows up tall and strong and finally yells out, “Children! Come quickly and eat apples!” The animals (and a dog, some ducks, and some other creatures) eat apples. The tree explains, “Because of your poop, I grew a lot of fruit, thank you!”

The animals yell, “Wow! Our poop made these delicious apples!” (See? I have photographic proof of this.)

Finally, a dog lets loose on the tree (no, fresh dog poop does not make good compost, and dog poop should never be used on food crops) while a second tree cries out, “Me, too!”

The end.

I swear, I might photocopy a page from this book, frame it, and hang it over my worm bin. Awesome.

I’m Not Yet a Middle-Aged Woman, Alligator

Remember the kid of mine who asked if an alligator could bite off his own tongue?

He loves comic strips. He’s been flying through all of the “Calvin and Hobbes” strips.

Today he was reading Understanding the “Why” Chromosome.

In a moment of frustration, he put his book down hard on the table and said to nobody in particular, “I think this book is kind of boring.”

I said, “Well, it’s ‘Cathy.’ ‘Cathy’ is usually read by middle-aged women.”

I was standing behind him and he simply held the book up over his head and behind him, offering it to me.

Wisdom: Reverb 10

Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

The best decision I made this year was leaving my old school and making the leap to becoming a third grade gifted and talented teacher.

I was terrified to teach third graders—they’re so…young. But oh man, I do love them. They’re sweet (mostly) and innocent (they still believe in Santa, for example). And they’re funny, really smart thinkers, and interesting.

And although I bit off more than I could chew at the start of the year, they’re growing. They’re living up to my expectations. In fact, they’re surpassing them. Before they get into Socratic Seminar, they vote on which three or four questions they want to discuss, instead of discussing the questions I choose. Now they want to discuss meaty topics, and they’re not afraid to disagree with ideas. For more than four weeks, a student has facilitated the conversation with very little input from me. And they’re learning how to take turns in a large group instead of raising their hands and being called on—it’s incredible to watch 18 eight- and nine-year old students have a massive conversation about topics such as friendship and revenge.

My old school is moving down the street. If I’d stayed there, next year I could walk to school in all of ten minutes. And yet because of the major streets students would have to cross, none of the students who live in our complex would become my students. Sometimes the thought crosses my mind that I should’ve stayed at my old school. But I couldn’t teach there like I wanted to teach. And that’s worth a longer (in-the-car) commute.

Party: Reverb10

Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.

Although I attended two funerals this year, I think Grandmother’s funeral in Korea was the most educational, awe-inspiring and eye-opening “social gathering” I attended this year. I think I learned more about myself, Good Man, Korea, and my place in Good Man’s family (immediate and extended) in those two days than I did in my entire prior relationship with him.

(The wedding taught me about my place in his family. But this funeral taught me about his family’s place in the extended family. I still hate that stupid aunt. Mother hates that stupid aunt, too. So does Good Man, Father, and Sister. We all hate the stupid aunt, because we’re family. And Mother and I hate the stupid aunt because she’s married to one of father’s elder brothers, so in Confucianism she gets to be mean to us. Blech.)

I wrote about it in great detail when it happened, but retrospection has made me realize in even greater depth how wonderful my relationship with Good Man’s immediate family is.

And yes, I feel slightly terrible for using a funeral as my answer to a “party” prompt, but hey, it is was it is.

Three Guesses

“So, I got this watch for Hanukkah,” one of my students explained, showing her watch.

Another student asked, “So you get eight gifts?”

“No, we get gifts for eight days.”

“Right, one gift a day?”

“No,” she said, “sometimes one, sometimes five, maybe three, it depends.”

“You get to open gifts for eight days?” he roared. He looked at me, “Ms, you’ve gotta tell my mom I want to be Jewish!”

“I leave all religious conversations to you and your parents,” I said.

“But she thinks you’re a good teacher, she’ll listen to you.”


“Ms, are you Christian?”


“Are you Jewish?”


The student looked a bit confused. “Korean?”


She nodded and walked away. I wondered why she didn’t ask if I was Muslim, but maybe she figured three guesses was enough.


Ahh, the wintertime. The time of the year when schools try to navigate various holidays respectfully. This is always an…odd time of year. Some teachers throw snowflakes and snowmen up on their walls. Others figure they can put Santa all over the place because it’s “secular.” Some think Santa’s OK, so long as they put an image of a menorah up. I really feel for the music department, although they always seem to manage it well.

Me? I avoid any mention at all of any holiday. In part, this is because religious holidays only very, very loosely relate to the curriculum, so I’m not required to teach anything about them. In part, this is because the students are already going winter stir-crazy and I am trying to keep them calm and tempered and any mention of anything related to presents is sure to excite them. (And to most of them at this age, holidays are about presents.)

Instead, I let the students lead me. I only stop the students if they start proclaiming that what they believe is the only thing anyone should ever believe. At the elementary level, this usually amounts to “each family celebrates different things. How would you feel if someone told you what your family thinks is wrong?”

Otherwise, if they want to make a Christmas card during their free time, I don’t stop them. Writing this time of year tends to be centered around gifts. If they want to talk about holidays and gifts, I listen with an open ear, nod, and comment. But I’m honest, too. I don’t celebrate Christmas. Or Hanukkah. Or, or, or…

I used to be really afraid of students finding out I wasn’t Christian. Somewhere along the way, I loosened up. (Perhaps it happened in Korea, where “Are you Christian?” is a fair opening question and families often practice multiple religions in one home.) I figure as long as I respect all of their religious practices, it’s OK. And most students have a sense of privacy and respect, so they don’t ask too many questions. And the fact is, I have had other non-religious students in the past, and they need someone to identify with, too. (And of course, I’ve had students who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and thus are Christian, but don’t celebrate Christmas.)

One of the benefits of working in this area is that we have students who practice Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism in my class. Heck, some of the students practice more than one of those religions.

I was still surprised, however, that “Korean” was a religion. I had to work hard not to burst out laughing at that.

Let Go: Reverb10

I’ve seen a few people in the blogosphere do Reverb10. I don’t find all of the prompts interesting, so I’m not going to do them all, but today‘s spoke to me.

Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

I let go of feeling guilty because I enjoy working with gifted students more than other students.

I have known since before I was a certified teacher that I would not stay in the general education classroom forever because it just didn’t speak to me. I also knew that I wouldn’t do special education because I don’t have that amount of patience. But I wasn’t sure if I should do gifted ed—what I wanted t do—or if I should work with English Language Learners. I thought that ELLs needed good teachers “more” than gifted students.

Well, I discovered in Korea that I enjoy teaching EFL. But when I came back to America and was assigned that advanced math class last year—I knew that I could always do EFL abroad, but domestically, gifted is where my heart is.

Through taking my gifted endorsement coursework this year (halfway done!), and through paying more attention to gifted students, I’ve realized that gifted students are the foremost group of students left behind by No Child Left Behind.

Schools are held accountable for these subgroups:
Asian & Pacific Islander
American Indian
Other/no response (race/ethnicity)
Free/Reduced lunch
IEP (Special education)
LEP (Limited English proficiency)

Do you see gifted kids on that list? Of course not.

Gifted kids are the ones being left behind in public schools. They are often being kept behind, doing boring, uninteresting coursework. Most of them don’t grow one full school year, and they certainly don’t grow as much as they could in one school year.

Why? Because the system expects them to “do fine” on their own. Because the system wants their high test scores. Because the system is focused on the “bubble kids” that will probably fail the state tests and drag the scores down. Because the system buys into the argument that offering gifted education is elitist. Because some teachers view gifted classes as a reward given out to teacher-pleasers, and thus actual gifted student who misbehave are ignored. (I got into an argument with a teacher about this last year. “If someone misbehaves, do you prevent them from going to ESL? If someone misbehaves, do you tell the sped teacher she’d not allowed to work with them? What makes being gifted any different?”)

The gifted kids need good teachers, too. And while I know I can pull up struggling learners (I have done it quite successfully, according to the standards and measures used in America today), I enjoy pushing the gifted learners forward. If I’m going to spend the next 30 years of my life teaching—or even only the next five—I’m going to spend it doing something I love.

And so the guilt is gone.

Korean Mindmap

When I first started reading Korean books, I didn’t always recognize names. I’m better about it now, but sometimes I still ask Good Man for help. I’m currently reading 어린이를 위한 오바마 이야기 and several nights ago, I came across “대현이가 또박또박 열등감의 의미를 설명했다.”

“Is that a name?” I asked, pointing to 대현이가.”


“대현이?” 대 is not a Korean last name I’d ever heard.

“No,” Good Man said, “대현.”

“Why is there an 이가?”

“It’s the subject marker.”

“Why isn’t it just 이?” 이 is used after syllables ending with a consonant, and 가 with names ending in a vowel.

“It makes the word flow better. We do it sometimes.”

I shook my head and said, “That does not fit into my Korean Mindmap, I will forget you said it and make Korean bend to my will.”

Tonight we video chatted with Mother. I asked her when you would use both 이 and 가. The expression Mother gave me told me that she was going to have a hard time explaining it, too.

Mother claimed it was used in big groups. I asked if that was “Mother Grammar.” She laughed and said yes.

Mother and Good Man talked a bit and finally decided that 이가 can be used when:

No family name is used
The name ends in a consonant
When talking to someone else of the same age or younger
Usually spoken, but can be written
Usually casual
Can replace -씨 as a title

I’m not sure that actually answered my questions, but as my Korean Mindmap grows, so will my understanding of using 이 and 가 together.