Some teachers are brilliant…

… and some are, well, not.

I remember, when I was about to begin high school, how one of my teachers explained to us which courses we ought to select if we wanted to go to University. I was singularly annoyed to discover that even to get into a program like Music, it was advised that I study algebra and trigonometry.

When I complained of this, Mr. Miner (or was it Minor? I’m not sure) looked at me and tilted his head to the side and asked, “What, haven’t you ever seen Donald Duck in Mathemagic Land?” He went on effusively to say, “Music is all about mathematics, don’t you know? Fractions all over the place. Harmony and rhythm are mathematical.”

He could have told me, “You know, mathematics are important for you as a human being. If you want to be really educated, to really have a developed and cultivated mind, you should just study math anyway, just like you should study science, and art, and history, and music.”

But no, what I got was, “What, haven’t you ever seen Donald Duck in Mathemagic Land?” and some effusive business about mathematics underlying music… which, by that argument, means everyone should be obligated to study math since underlying mathematics exists for every discipline — including police officers, fashion models, and hog butchers — and indeed for every thing in the universe which can be thought of.

Shame on him. Shame on him doubly, for he had a son who played the oboe, and he should have known better. (It doesn’t justify how I laughed at him when he lost his job for sleeping in his office at the school gym; life comes down hard on some people and I think now they were too hard on him… but he was one of the oddest and most discomfiting teacher I’d ever met.)

Anyway, Winter Camp is starting tomorrow, and my biggest hope is not to be the Mr. Minor for these kids. I don’t wanna be the jerk that puts them off English, or makes them think of it as a drudgery. Even if the commencing ceremony drives home my ever-growing impression that a lot of EFL in Korea is actually a kind of self-propagandizing make-work project, focused on convincing everyone who can afford a course for his or her kid (or his or her self) that everyone in the nation needs to study/learn English. Even if, in my opinion, a real immersion course is impossible in only three weeks. Even if, as certain other teachers put it, this is more about freeing up parents’ schedules than it is about the expected learning (and I honestly think it’s not true for all parents).

Forget all of that: my biggest hope is not to be Mr. Minor for these kids; the lout who says, “Speak in English!” or who makes them think that studying another language is a drudgery obligation. If they get something good out of Camp, I’ll be more than happy. But as long as I don’t impact negatively on them, I will feel a relief.

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