Babysitting 15-Year-Olds

All of our third graders finished their finals 3 weeks ago.

In Korea, students have to apply to high schools. So finals need to be finished sooner so the test results can be sent out to the prospective schools.

They are about lose any quality of life they may still have – I talked to a third grader who got into the high school of her choice. She’s not happy. She is going to spend the next 3 years studying for the suneung test. High school means going to more cram schools and staying later. Students in high school also eat lunch and dinner at school and go to school for half-days on Saturday. Life is about to really suck for them.

Meanwhile, they have already “finished” middle school. The finals are done and graded. But still they have to wake up every morning, put on their uniforms, and go to school.

I think it goes without saying that little to no learning is done in this time. Sure, it’s 6 weeks of time lost – but what else are we supposed to do? This is their last chance to have fun before high school and there are minimal consequences to anything they do.

Chris has been doing trivia games and any other games he can think of. It’s actually been working pretty well. But he only sees them every other week. In fact, he’ll only see them one more time.

I see my 3rd grade every week and I’m stuck with an English Pop Song Competition.

I have to coach and later judge the whole thing. I had had a whole plan for this time involving British and American English, slang, etc. Not to mention reviewing all the writing rules they don’t know. With my points system and rewards I actually think I could have kept them somewhat motivated…

But no, I’m stuck listening to the same songs 15-20 times for 45 minutes while they mouth the words and pretend to sing. Of the seven classes of third graders, only the all-girls classes care. The 4 boys classes are mostly indifferent and one hasn’t even started.

I’m not even working anymore. I’m just sitting and going nuts – I really hate repetitive sounds so the same song over and over and over and over drives me a little crazy.

Each class has to pick 2 songs – one Christmas and one regular pop-song. Because no one told me this (I’m only in charge of the whole thing). I overrode this rule for a few classes.  Oops!

If you’re curious what songs we listen to over and over:

3-1 (girls): One Direction “What Makes you Beautiful” and Santa Claus is Coming To Town . Mostly they have spent the whole time choreographing a fantastic dance to Santa Claus.

3-2 (girls) Upside Down by the A*Teens and Santa Baby by Taylor Swift. “Upside Down” is a song I used to listen to a lot when I was about 10 years old- it was a huge surprise that they picked it out.

3-3 (girls): Sunny (a Korean-English song) and Mercy by Duffy. This was a class asked me in English “do we have to do Christmas songs?” to which I said “oh gosh no!” So here we are: no Christmas songs.

3-4 (boys). Unknown. They don’t care and I don’t care. We’re at a bit of an impasse. I think none of us know what the consequences are if they don’t do it. They won’t win the $100 prize.

3-5 (boys) We are Young by Fun and possibly YMCA. I’m actually not sure. This was another class I accidentally gave them permission to skip a Christmas song.

3-6 (boys) Backstreet Boys – It’s Christmas Time Again. I grew up with the Backstreet Boys! How are they  even still popular!? Their second song is To Be With You by Mr. Big. This was the only English song I didn’t know. Strangely enough class 3-7 picked it as well. It must be in a drama or in commercials to be so popular with the boys.

3-7 (boys) They tried to pick the same exact song To Be With You but I convinced them to at least do a different artist. At least this one is a little less like a balladTo Be With You by Human Nature. 

Their Christmas song is Jingle Bell Rock. There are a hundred and one different versions of all different speeds and artists but they picked the original 1958 version by Bobby Helms. It was described as being “sleepy … Teacher this is a sleepy song.” To which they searched a remixed version and landed on this Jingle Bell Rock Remix with the impossible-to-sing to lyrics “jing-jing-jing-jing-jing-jingle bell. *record scratch* Bell. Bell. Bell. Bell. Bell……”

So we have a bunch of 15 year olds choosing songs – did I have to say “no” to any of them? I was expecting songs that were full of rich figurative language about terrible things – like “my anaconda”

Instead they all picked decent songs on their own. However, I did override one class who wanted to do “Let it Go” from Frozen to which I said “I will automatically fail you.”

Reason 1) Everyone in Korea already knows the lyrics. It wouldn’t be fair for them to use it. They wouldn’t utilize the time in class to practice the song.

and consequently

Reason 2) No one ever wants to hear that song again.

So I have not overridden any student’s choice of song because of double meanings or lyrics. If anything, I’ve saved some classes.

My co-teachers have to translate the lyrics for the administration to reference. So, of course, have found some problems in the lyrics.

“So if by the time the bar closes and you feel like falling down, I’ll carry you home tonight…”   suggests bringing a woman home from a bar. It caused a huge stink until I stepped in and overanalyzed the heck out of the song to clear it. I said it suggests carrying her home so she gets home safely. I really don’t care what it could imply. It’s a very popular song and it was the only song that class cared enough about to sing.

The other one was a song that could have possibly maybe potentially been about being tempted to cheat. That’s it- just the temptation. Not actually going through with it. I said it probably doesn’t mean it, and if it did, who cares?

What about all the dirty Korean songs? Where the only lyrics in English are  “gonna make you sweat, gonna make you”… hehem never mind I don’t want to quote that one (Psy – “Gentleman”) or “I know you want it … touch my body, come on, touch my body” (Sistar’s “Touch my Body“) Finally “ice cream, ice cream, I’ll melt you down like ice cream, cream, cream…” (Hyuna’s “Ice Cream”)

My goodness! If they sing along to these lyrics in the hallways of the school in front of all the teachers, I’m pretty sure they can sing to the clean songs they picked out.




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