Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Headline: White American Girl Teaches White Irish Kids About The Korean New Year.

From our visit in 2009
 Two weeks ago during Seollal (the Korean New Year) I had the opportunity to go in and teach Miles' classmates about Seollal.

So here's how it went down: I actually just called the teacher to ask if I could bring in a special Korean snack for the day.  The teacher was out, so I had to ask the principal.  She was so on-board that she thought it would be great if I could come up with something for all of the teachers/students to do, which would be easy because there are only about 86 kids at his school total, none of which had probably ever been to South Korea.  I got off the phone that Friday excited for this opportunity to give Miles something he could be proud of.
Then 2 things happened.
1.  I couldn't figure out what she meant by "come up with something for all of the teachers/students to do."
2. I had to read up on Seollal, since everything I do, and every holiday I celebrate, generally revolves around food. I wasn't going to fix BeBimBop for 90+.

Insue slight panic.  Here it was the weekend, Seollal ends on Monday, and I had no idea what I was supposed to prepare.  Also, I must remind you that I'm pretty sure 80% of the students and staff at his full-integration Gaelic-speaking school think Miles is Chinese.  Needless to say, he's the only Asian-American Gaelic speaker in our part of the country - that I know of.

On a self-important observational side note: teachers/administrators don't use email here like I'm used to.  Like, at all. (Side note of the side note: I almost wrote "don't use email like they should", but that would imply that I know best, and I'm trying really hard to give up "knowing best" for lent.)

So I decided to do like the locals and chill out.  I waited it out until Monday and then just phoned them. It seemed my chilling out paid off because the principal was gone for the week (a small detail that went unmentioned).  The person answering the phone didn't mind if I came until Tuesday (she went around and asked all of the teachers while I waited on the phone - I guess this would be one advantage of small schools).  AND they thought it would be great fun if I just came up with a presentation for the entire school.

This oddly left me relieved.  As a former teacher turned current parent, I wasn't too keen on handing out a list of things for the teachers to do with their students while I went home and drank cups of coffee and watched soaps. (NOT implying this is what other moms do - just what I would do...)  And  I thought it would be pretty fun for Miles if his mom and Nana came to his school to talk about how cool his culture is.

So I spent Monday researching Seollal a bit more, which was good for me.  I created a kick-ass slide show (you know, as far as slide-shows go) which included pictures of Miles in his Hanbok. I traced 86 paper snakes (for the year of the snake), and put on my big girl pants.

It couldn't have gone better.  I zoned out during the introduction, which of course was in all Gaelic, although I think they were talking about it also being "Pancake Tuesday" - another great holiday in my opinion.  The kids were great listeners and asked lots of questions, had lots of experiences to share, and raised their hands A LOT. This is where my teacher-instincts came in handy because I had no problem sweetly ignoring them when it got to be obnoxious (because it always does).

Cute Hanbok Pictures.
At one point the entire school was performing Sebae, or at least what I could understand and interpret of the complicated bowing ritual. They loved the pictures of Miles in his Hanbok.  And they all made snakes.  It even made it into the local paper.  This is big news here.
Other children making snakes for the Year of the Snake
I feel lucky that Miles' teachers and administrators were so excited to share his culture with his classmates (or get out of 30 minutes of lesson planning).  They took a break from their daily schedule, which is never really easy for those age levels, and were so grateful for everything (at least to my face).  And I feel so lucky that right now I have a job where I can do these sorts of things for my kids.  And if the amount of confetti on the floor of his classroom is any indication, I think the snake-making was fun for all (under the age of 10).