Today I was reviewing how to give advice and suggestions with my first grade girls. I gave them different scenarios and they had to practice giving advice for each situation. One of the situations I gave them was "My boyfriend doesn't love me anymore." The overwhelming solution I got from my students?
"You must get plastic surgery!"
Just imagine a room full of 15 year old girls telling you that if a boy doesn't love you, you need to get plastic surgery. Pretty much a dagger through my heart.
In a later class I gave them the problem "A boy likes me, but I don't like him." One of the solutions was "You should tell him to get plastic surgery." At which point I tried to explain that the problem actually the way he looked, but the way he ACTED.
And yes, I threw in a lot of relationship problems because hey, it gets their attention EVERY single time. Seriously, if I ever need to wake up those sleeping students, all I have to do is make some sort of scenario about a boyfriend.
Anyway, I blew my students' minds the other day when I asked them some "would you rather" questions. One of the questions was "Would you rather be rich and ugly or poor and beautiful?" I told them if they chose rich they couldn't get plastic surgery to become beautiful. The overwhelming choice for this question was that they would rather be poor and beautiful.
I told them that I would definitely rather be rich and ugly--they couldn't believe it. They said it was because I was "already beautiful", at which point I told them I would much rather be ugly and rich because I could travel, see the world, and help countless people with my money. At that point they were all staring at me with looks that were partly confused and partly in agreement. I think I caused some major cognitive dissonance. Score!
I know I've written plenty about both the importance of appearance here, and the way in which students talk so nonchalantly about plastic surgery, but after 7 months here, it still blows me away.
My first students are smart and beautiful young women. It really breaks my heart that they only see all of their "imperfections", which I'm sure have been pointed out to them from a young age.
When we were practicing giving advice today I gave groups slips of paper with problems written on them, then they had to give people suggestions one by one. For one of the problems one girl was told by her group she needed plastic surgery to change her face. I was walking by as I heard that suggestion, at which point I exclaimed "No! Your face is beautiful!"
She looked at me in disbelief and proceeded to tell me over and over how touched she was.
I hope my students improve their English while they're in my class, but I think I'll be even happier if they at least re-examine some of their beliefs about what's important in life--if they at least know that there are different perspectives out there. I love Korea, but man, this is a tough country to grow up in.