Salmon

Today was an emotionally difficult one.  I woke up like so many others this morning with a heaviness in my heart and gut that’s not likely to disappear for a while.

A lot of folks have written long-form pieces on the misogyny, white supremacy, xenophobia, and entitlement that have fueled the Drumpf campaign; that’s not what I want to write about here because so many people are speaking about it more eloquently than I can.

But I can speak to this: with a vice president coming into office who has done everything possible to roll back Roe vs. Wade in his state, reduce women’s access to contraception and reproductive health, and who has tried to criminalize miscarriage – now in a national position of power with no one to check that power – our reproductive rights are genuinely in a precarious position.

In Indiana, minors must have parental permission to get a prescription for birth control.  Sex education isn’t required and if it is taught, abstinence must be stressed.  Teaching about contraception is NOT required.  There are no anti-discrimination laws or anti-bullying laws in schools based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and there’s no statewide hate crime law.*  Much has been said about Indiana’s draconian measures to restrict abortion and its attempt to encourage discrimination against same-sex couples; this is the man who will be tasked with helping to choose our next secretaries of health and human services and education.  Who will be partially responsible for nominating the next Supreme Court justice.

Furthermore, knowledge itself is dangerous to Drumpf.  The more educated people are, the less likely they were to vote for him.  As an educator, I’m nervous not only about the future of teachers’ unions and science and history textbooks, but about an administrative attack on higher education and knowledge as a whole.

There are many who joke about leaving the US for greener pastures; I certainly sympathize with that sentiment.  I’m swimming upstream, though.  After seven years of living as a resident alien in another country, I’m coming home.  I was already planning on this well before the election, but after yesterday, my feeling that now is the right time is much stronger.  I can’t make my voice heard from South Korea.  I cannot march, I cannot organize, I cannot be an advocate or active ally for young people and communities who lack access to resources.  There are trying times ahead, and it’s time to jump in with both feet.

#wewontgoback

*This information comes from Sex, Etc., which I highly recommend you check out for state-by-state information on laws concerned with birth control, abortion, and sex education.

 

Self-Actualization

I don’t particularly like children.  They demand attention and time, they can be really mean, and some of them seem to be in perpetual motion, which is just too much for me.  I got my degree in secondary education and initially taught high school because I love the rebellious attitude, sophomoric delusions, and “who-the-fuck-am-I?”-ness of teenagers.  So when I moved to Korea, I was shocked at how much I LOVED my kids.  My elementary and middle school students were hilarious, insightful, and creative. 
I have had the great fortune to stay in contact with a few of these students over the years; one of them recently got back from a study abroad semester in China.  Before travelling there, she had told me that she wanted to live with her parents while going to uni because “Why would I want to clean, cook, and pay bills?”  Now, having lived alone for three months, she has come back with platinum blonde hair, an effervescent bounce in her step, and a deep desire to move out.  That happened fast!  She had several conversations with her boyfriend while she was gone about how to best make sure that both of their needs were being met while apart and figuring out how to communicate in a way that was comfortable for both of them.  I cannot imagine having the emotional maturity or confidence at twenty to have a single conversation with a partner about making sure my needs were being met. 
The best part of being a teacher, hands down, is watching young people grow up and into self-actualized humans; seeing them thrive is a singular experience of joy. 
On the same day that I had dinner with the student who went to China, another former student (who’s currently in her senior year of high school) got back in contact with me; we met for coffee, along with her twin brother, whom I’d also taught.  They were suddenly both taller than me and bubbling over with excitement to tell me about their friends, teachers, and preparations for the test they’ll take later this year that will decide their entire future.  We talked about movies, politics, friendship, and language, and I was blown away by their maturity.  They’re applying for universities this year; I started teaching them when they were in fifth grade.  That shit is crazy.
You may be sitting there, thinking: WTF I THOUGHT THIS WAS A SEX BLOG.
This post exemplifies why I started writing this blog.  I am a whole human being – as are all teachers – and part of being human is being sexual.  I date and I have a sex life.  A non-monogamous, unmarried, bisexual, kinky sex life.  And I am a caring educator who acts as a mentor – who stays in touch with her students years after they’re no longer her students.  In fact, I stay in touch with their parents because I think children benefit immensely from parents and teachers working together. 
In the past five years, there has been a litany of teachers being fired for having been an exotic dancer or acting in a porn before becoming a teacher; for dancing burlesque; and most recently, just for having nude selfies on their phonesAll female teachers, by the way.  Pretty sure no male teacher has ever been fired for having a dick pic on his phone – but that’s a rant for another day.
So, yeah – this is mostly a sex blog.  But once in a while, I feel the need to drop a gentle reminder that it’s more than that.  It’s a call to stop shaming (and firing) excellent, hardworking, enthusiastic, and compassionate teachers for being whole human beings.  Teachers are out there in the world sexting, writing lesson plans, talking dirty with their partners, inspiring curiosity about scientific concepts and history, hooking up, and putting band-aids on skinned knees.  Just as your accountant might go home and put in a ball gag after doing your taxes, a preschool teacher might *gasp* go on a date after singing “Old Macdonald” for the hundredth time.

This blog is anonymous because I could be fired for writing about my sex life publicly.  There’s a part of me that worries about this all the time.  All the time.  Teaching is so central to who I am as a person that the idea of losing my job really freaks me out – but I continue to write because maybe it will encourage someone to open a dialogue.  My kids and my job mean the world to me – but so does being able to be a self-actualized person like I encourage my kids to be.  

A Brief Rant About HBO’s Girls and Teaching

I’m a teacher.  Like, a licensed one — not just someone who popped over to South Korea and thought, “Hey, how hard can teaching be?  I bet I can do that for a year!”  I studied for four years to become a teacher.  The last semester of university, I taught full-time at a high school while taking three university courses and working a part-time job.  Furthermore, I’m an English teacher — and along with social studies teachers, the supply exceeds the demand.  There are a lot of people in the US with teaching degrees who are looking for work. 

So imagine my surprise when in this season of HBO’s Girls, Hannah Horvath just walks into a private school, asks for a job teaching advanced literature, and gets hired immediately with no experience and no qualifications.  Now, I love this show, and I think this season has been pretty great.  But for a show that prides itself on realism, I’m pretty shocked that the writers didn’t seem to notice this glaring error in the script. 

Private and charter schools can hire whom they please; however, the likelihood that there’s a substitute teacher opening in a magnet school in Brooklyn in the middle of semester and that there’s not a single qualified teacher applying for that job is remarkably slim.  I’d say close to zero.  Come on, Girls.

But there’s more.  So much more.  The minute Hannah starts having inappropriate conversations with students, her ass would be out the door faster than you can say lawsuit.  No school — even a private school — wants a teacher like that on their hands.  Too much liability! 

Principal in the show: “Hey, sweetheart, you could really use some boundaries.” 
Hannah: “Are you firing me?” *sad puppy eyes*
Principal: “Why don’t you take the day off and come back when you’re feeling better? We’ll talk about it then over hot fudge sundaes.”

Principal in real life: “You’re done here.  Pack your things.”
Hannah: “Are you firing me?” *sad puppy eyes*
Principal: “You took a minor OUT OF SCHOOL DURING THE MIDDLE OF THE SCHOOL DAY and brought her to a tattoo and piercing shop.  You’re lucky we’re not suing you.”   

My school got pissed at me and my co-coach when we took our swimmers out for dinner after the season ended (after the school hadn’t had a swim team in twenty years) because it was too much of a liability to drive them in our cars rather than have the school pay for an insured school bus.

Do Not Be Alarmed

I started a new university job this week; as a new teacher, I got a “Welcome to X University / Here Are Our Official Policies” handout last week at the new teacher meeting.  Imagine my shock and dismay upon reading the following paragraph (copied here verbatim):

“It should be pointed out that students in the sports department have a special system of grading.  This means that students with athletic scholarships are given academic scores based on their performance in that particular sport.  These students can often be absent from class, late and apathetic to appropriate academic behavior.  Simply put, their effort in class does not matter if they place high in their respective competition.  This being the case, it is essential that you identify these students at the beginning of the semester,  However, do not be alarmed.  Take each individual case in stride.”

I don’t know — I mean, I consider the fact that my university took the time to include in writing in an official university document that student athletes can sleep through class or not even bother to show up, and we’re still supposed to pass them PRETTY FUCKING ALARMING.  I’m sure college professors (for sure high school teachers) in the US are pressured to pass athletes (or, in the case of New Orleans, musicians) no matter their academic performance, but at least they have some means to fight back against it.

New KTO (Korean Tourism Organization) slogan:

Image result for korean flag

Korea!  We have the cojones to own up to corruption. 

I write this blog

because of bullshit like this.  And just when the Catholic church was starting to change its image a teeny, tiny bit thanks to Pope Awesome.  

By the way, one of those “gravely evil acts” is using birth control pills.  Guess I know now why mom dressed me as Satan for Halloween that one year! 

We should get a bunch of sex nerds together for a huge meetup and call it EvilCon.

Mean Mommy

I’m the only female staff member among the English teachers at my university; I’m also the only English lecturer who has a university degree in education.  Or English.  So when my male coworkers decide to take our students on a field trip to the film festival (to see a movie that’s not even an English-language film), or to hold my students ten minutes into my class because they’re playing Apples to Apples, or to go to lunch with the students  instead of having class, or to cancel my class time so that they can sit back and let the students do a scavenger hunt, or to tell me that if I want I can show videos in my class because that’s what they do to kill time, I kind of feel like a divorced parent.  More specifically, a divorced mom who makes her kids eat their vegetables and do their homework and help with the chores.  I’m the mean mom, and my male coworkers are the cool dads who buy their kids presents and show up once a month to take them skating or to an amusement park. 

I don’t have time for that shit.  I have actual content to teach them, carefully planned and scaffolded projects where they come to learn things on their own, confidence to help build, papers to score, meaningful shared learning experiences and conversations to be had. 

I know that someday my students will appreciate the effort they put into my classes because I make them work hard, and the effort I put into planning and adapting my curriculum with their educational needs in mind.  But it feels like today is not that day.    

Teaching Sexism

I found this horrifying gem a couple of days ago while perusing EFL websites.  Jokes!  What a great teaching tool!  I mean, nothing teaches us more about culture than its humor, right?  So let’s read some North American jokes about love and marriage to teach us about the culture of relationships in the US and Canada:

*A man inserted an ad in the classifieds: “Wife wanted.”
The next day he received a hundred letters. They all said the same thing: “You can have mine.”

Oh, I get it.  It’s because having a wife is such a burden!  I mean, if the bitch didn’t cook and clean, we wouldn’t even put up with her, amiright?

*Q: Why are men with pierced ears better suited for marriage?
A: Because they have suffered and bought jewelry.

Those gold-digging wives!  All they care about is getting their greedy little hands on some bling and making their poor husbands suffer, presumably by working long and hard hours in order to buy wife said jewelry. 

Who thought this was an appropriate lesson for anyone, let alone ESL students?

Running on Empty

I have this student who always wears a track suit.  He has several, all in different colors.  He’s a big guy who has a buzz cut and walks like a wrestler, even though he doesn’t wrestle.  He often comes in late, clutching his stomach and looking pained, but he’s there every day.  His English level is probably the lowest in his class, but he is super confident — never afraid to speak, never afraid to make mistakes, and always wanting to participate.  I love him for it.  He’ll often start speaking rapid Korean in the middle of telling me something, when his sentence or idea is too complicated to explain in English; I’ll listen patiently, answer or respond in English (if we’re in the classroom; if I see him in the hallway, we speak in Korean), and keep the conversation going. 

A couple of weeks ago, he missed his Thursday class; the following Tuesday, when I was walking around listening to my students answering conversation questions, he called me over. 

“Oh — teacher!”  “Hey!”  I said.  “Where were you last week?  Are you okay?”  “Oh no, teacher,” he answered.  “Hospital.”  “Uh?”  I asked (kind of the Korean equivalent of “huh?” or “what?”), thinking he probably went because he either had a cold or was hungover.  In Korea, people don’t go to a clinic or stay home when they’re sick; they go to the hospital.  (I’d like to mention here that a majority of the hospitals in Korea are private, and they’re closed on weekends; only a few hospitals here have emergency rooms open on weekends!  Basically, if you get sick on a Sunday, you’re screwed.)

Anyway, he then proceeded to explain to me in a wild rambling of mixed Korean and English (I would love to reproduce it here, but I wouldn’t do it justice) that the reason he’d gone to the hospital was because he was so sick from drinking that he had to get his stomach pumped; the doctor told him he has severe liver damage from (and here I quote) “middle school high school drink all time.”   Fuck.  I guess now I know why he always looks like he’s in pain — he probably always is.  And he probably keeps on drinking, joking about it, and thinking he’s invincible, as we all do in our early twenties.

Update: Today my students gave presentations; this student was missing.  His best friend came up to me and said, “S could not come to school today.  Police.”  “What?!” I asked.  “He’s at the police station?!”  “Yes,” he said, calmly.  “What happened?  Is he okay?”  I asked.  “I don’t know,” he said, and walked away, unphased, like this shit happens all the time.

Further Update:  S comes to class this week and tells me he was at the police station.  I know, I tell him.  I ask if he’s alright and to tell me what happened.  Apparently, his friend called him to help him in a fistfight.  S went, and the police came.  He then told me that the police have an arrest warrant (!) out for him, but that it’s okay because he’s “buying a lawyer.”  He makes me promise not to tell the other teachers.  I pinky swear I won’t, and he stands in front of class to give his presentation.