Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years: Version 2.0!

Thursday, July 11, 2013


The youngest hasn't taken to first grade so well:  a while back she had what could best be described as an 'episode'.  She decided that what was going on in class truly sucked donkey balls, and when the teacher wouldn't let her do her own thing, she climbed out the window and took off.  One of the other dads happened upon her wandering and crying in the street, and when he brought her back the teacher at first refused to let her in the class: it wasn't her responsibility to constantly watch all 16 of her first graders, and since the youngest was proving too defiant, she would have to go elsewhere.

When I heard this from the dad (friend of mine), it was only thanks to June's pleading that I didn't immediately go down to the school and rip the teacher's head off.  June did have a point: if I went in and demanded an explanation, the youngest could find herself in a much bigger world of hurt.  I still can't get how a grade one teacher who has only 16 students can't find herself responsible for watching over her charges for about 5 hours a day, but I'm guessing it probably has to do with me not trying hard enough to understand her culture.

The youngest has always been a handful, always busy, always on the move.  Reminds me of myself, the dude who has the dubious achievement of getting kicked out of kindergarten for failing naptime.  I did once pick the lock on the bathroom door when the teacher was inside taking a dump, but I'm sure that had nothing to do with it.

When I was a kid I constantly needed new things, new challenges.  At the time, the term ADHD was just beginning to become trendy, so I was stuffed full of Ritalin, placed in a Montessori style class, and proceeded to 'adjust'.  I was lucky that my parents encouraged me to do many kinds of after school activities, and they probably saved me from a life of (serious) crime.  They also didn't keep me on the meds for long, as they didn't like the change in personality they saw.  So keeping the youngest occupied has been our focus for some time, but the vice principal of the school still insisted we get her tested.

The result?  Supposedly she not only has an IQ of 137, but is ADHD.  The doc recommended drugs and the equivalent of mild shock therapy.  When June showed the pills to me, I immediately squirreled them away and said a big NO to any type of therapy.  My view is that generally most ADHD diagnoses are horseshit: yes, some kids do need therapy and maybe meds, but they are generally the exception and have other problems.  It's just one way of talking about a certain personality type that is excessively active; prescribing too much medication will only cause more harm than good and is the easy way out.  If the environment the kid is in won't allow them the attention they need, move em.  Meanwhile, get the kid out running, swimming, focused on the diverse interests they have.

I said all this to June, the need for more diverse stuff to focus on and a more hands on approach to education in general.  If the teacher is a knob, we'll just have to try and limit the damage she can do, and make sure the youngest has enough to keep her attention.  She doesn't need all that stuff.  June finally accepted my view after attending a workshop in Seoul last weekend where they basically said the same.  Still, she is extremely anxious about the whole thing, and has recently started going to a more charismatic type of church, since it 'makes her feel happier than she ever has'.  Great.

This has been hard on both of us.  June has been bearing the most of it, hanging out at the school most mornings, just so the youngest knows she's there.  When I've secreted myself away from work to go, the youngest has been nothing but an angel.  Guess she knows that while daddy can be pretty fun and cool, he has a much lower tolerance for stoopid shit than mom does.

So the dilemma: the teacher insists one of us always be there, which of course is difficult at best.  June is talking about sending her to a Waldorf school up in Yongin; they'd move up there while I either found new work or stayed in the Wonj solo.  This does have some appeal, but then I do know the youngest would benefit more from having me around more of the time.  I'm wondering if maybe it isn't time to vacate Korea and head back home, as I know schools and teachers there are better trained to work with students who need different types of focus and attention.

The only up side so far?  I've got a nice prescription for Ritalin.  After talking to June, the doc figured I could probably use it.  I've been taking some for shits and giggles, but now have quite a number of extra doses.  They are certainly fun when camping.

Time for some Max.


Korean Stig said...

The teacher is probably one of those Gmarket, 11th street internet shopping gals. There should be no excuses if she lost one of her students from her own class room. 16 students is a godsend! You might try giving her Omega 3s via salmon or kids fish oils? They're supposed to be a natural way of calming ADHD and focusing the mind.

matt said...

Sometime in the 1990s when I was going through junk in the basement at my parents, I came across a harness and asked my mom what it was for.
"Oh, that. It was for you."
It turns out I was hyperactive up until maybe 4 years old and the harness was to make sure I didn't run off anywhere out in public. Apparently Ritalin was discussed but never given to me, so I'm sure my parents could sympathize.

As for ADHD, much as you wrote above, a friend who works with an adoption agency in Canada told me that it basically means 'We don't know what's 'wrong' nor what to do about it."

And regarding the teacher not admitting responsibility... wow. Are they even allowed to reject a student? For a first grade homeroom teacher to absolve herself of responsibility for a student running off is pretty galling. But, while culture might come into play, some teachers are just... terrible. I've worked directly alongside more than a dozen teachers for long periods of time. Some have been fantastic; others, not so much. It's interesting to see the same homeroom teachers' classes, year after year, being either well behaved or terrible, just like clockwork.

F5Waeg said...

Korean Stig: We've been basically trying to keep her busy, with plenty of exercise, but I'll look into the fish oils. She does eat a fair amount of fish though, so that may be enough.

Matt: Yeah, teachers are teachers, some are great, others not so. I obviously lean towards the latter with this teacher, as come on, sixteen kids is much easier than what many other teachers have to deal with. She should have enough time to sort out classroom management, the different personalities she has in her class and how to make things work. I don't really see it as a cultural thing, I was sarcastically imagining the kind of response I might get if I went in to talk to her, based on responses from past experience.

Korean Stig said...

The lousy thing is if your daughter stays at the same school and encounters the same douche teacher in later grades. I think Costco sells Cenovis kids omega 3 fish oil jellies. Easy way to get them down as the true dish oils are fishy and not too kid friendly. Good luck f5weag.

King Baeksu said...

Interesting story. It made me think about – er, wait, I can't remember because I was too busy checking my email and YouTube channel-surfing while I was reading it. Anyway, keep up the great work, Mom – I mean, Dad!

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