Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea

Billy Collins

March31

This does not have a lot to do with Korea, other than the fact that I rediscovered my love of Billy Collins while at school one day, but I really love the poem “On Turning Ten”

On Turning Ten

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I’m coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light–
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

Recently I’ve been feeling like an old grumpy teacher. Believe me, dear blog readers, I know for a fact that I am not old and I am in the prime of my life… it’s just a feeling, quite like Billy Collins’ narrator at 10. I feel that I’m not quite as relaxed and fun as last semester, and instead I’m channeling an old, grumpy tenured teacher. You know, the one who complains about “students and their baggy pants these days” and shakes her ruler at them as they gallop down the halls, except for me it’s their crazy perms and eye-tape (in Korea many girls put double-sided tape on their eyelids to create the appearance of double-eyelids… I don’t think it works particularly well as it just looks like their new double-eyelids are encased in cellphane. And yes when I say “perms” I’m talking about girls AND guys). Even though it’s only a half year later, these new students just seem so much younger!

There are days that are awesome and teaching just flows and the “teaching persona” (how I present myself as a teacher) I have works really well, but for the new classes I’m having issues finding a persona that works. If I’m too nice they sleep/take advantage of my niceness, but if I’m too hardball they don’t want to participate. This isn’t always an issue, just with certain classes and generally on Thursdays. So please forgive me just for today for being old in my mind, if not in my body. 

Darn teenagers.

posted under School
2 Comments to

“Billy Collins”

  1. Avatar April 5th, 2011 at 6:57 pm Alanna Says:

    Love reading your blog.

    It always cracks me up, even though I know that for some of it I am not suppose to be cracking up. ^^


  2. Avatar April 7th, 2011 at 8:28 am epotosky Says:

    I’m glad you like reading my blog!

    I try not to complain too much here… it’s really easy to do when you’re upset and you have a pseudo-independent space where you can just write down anything that comes to mind, but I don’t like doing that. This is not a space for venting. I figure that in reading this blog people are going to get a skewed perspective of what it is I do, and how I react to it, no matter how much I try to make it a fair representation of my daily life, so why not make my more negative posts constructive (asking for advice, working through issues, or talking about an ongoing problem) or at the very least funny. There are a few exceptions, but other than that I’m glad you found this post funny because it was supposed to be at least sort-of funny – if I can’t find humor in things then I really am a grumpy old teacher.


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안녕하세요! My name is Emily and when I started this blog I had received a 2010 – 2011 F*lbright grant to teach English in South Korea.  I then decided to apply to renew my grant, so I am now staying in Korea until July 2012. This blog is not an official F*lbright Program blog, and the views expressed are my own and not those of the F*lbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

I graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a degree in Philosophy Pre-Law and Classical Civilizations, and found myself 3 months later teaching English at SGHS. The town that I taught in, SG, is a small town of 12,000 people, an “읍” (eup) rather than a “시” (shi – city), and though it was sometimes hard teaching in such a small town I really enjoyed the unique experience of being the first foreign teacher SGHS had ever had. I lived in the largest part of the county which is significantly bigger (40,000 people) than the town the school is situated in, but is also considered rural by Korean standards.

During my second grant period (2011-2012) I decided to change schools and I currently teach at CPHS which is located in an even smaller town than previously, in Jeollanamdo.

This blog is meant to serve as a reflection not only of being a Native English Speaking teacher in Korea, but also of living as a foreigner in rural Korea.



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