Biography: The Life and Times of Our Washing Machine

In December, rumors of new textbooks for the 2011 standard elementary school curriculum were confirmed.  This was very exciting to me for one reason: it suggested that the outdated, ridiculous stories and role plays like this would be done away with (Why bother spending money to publish new books without significant improvement?) No one enjoys teaching material that you can’t take seriously. Everyone complains about the books, Native and Korean teachers alike, so the odds seemed in our favor.

The bright shiny new books arrived in March and the kitschy, slightly more sophisticated art on the cover was encouraging. But I opened it to find most of the same activities and topics, recycled and reprinted in pretty colors and fancier fonts. Big deal.

For the sixth graders specifically, more ‘bulk’ was supposedly added to each lesson and a lesson was added to each week. But it was soon obvious that more meat had not been added, rather activities were stretched super thin and the titles “Look and Speak” and “Listen and Repeat” were printed in new combinations to make it look like more. Seriously? My coteacher and I were bummed because it means more work for us trying to find materials to fill up three classes a week instead of two.

Oh but wait, what’s this I see? A new Story Time section, one page designed to take up an entire class period? Let’s take a look shall we?

Chapter 1: Washing Machine. Wait, what? Why is this "story" about a washing machine?

Chapter 2: This "story" continues...about a washing machine.

Chapter 3: Whoa whoa, "it smiled"??

Know what makes washing machines come to life? Acid.

I don’t know how exactly to make sense of any of this. First, Korea is playing fast and loose with the definition of ‘story’. Second, this is taking the Korean obsession with machines and technology to a new and creepy level. Third, this whole talking washing machine does a lot to undermine the idea that Korea is staunchly anti-drug.

Instead of new and awesome material that I might enjoy teaching, I get to try to convince 6th graders that they should be enthusiastic about a beloved family washing machine. Which means I have to attempt to be enthusiastic about a fucking washing machine. That ain’t never gonna happen y’all. Can we get the old books back?

5 responses to “Biography: The Life and Times of Our Washing Machine

  1. That washing machine is the true star of the new text. Bless its creepy, anthropomorphic face.

    Also, every instance is improved if you read it in your mind with the voice of HAL.

    (Also also, damn you, I was totally going to make a “Wacky Korean textbook washing machine whoa!” post myself.)

  2. We should all know by now that Korea plays fast and loose with the definition of “story”: Coffee Story, Lens Story, Toast Story….everything’s a story and none of it has anything to do with an ACTUAL effing STORY! Makes me *wish* I was on acid.

  3. For the “Who Am I?” story in the grade 6 pre-lesson, I made a Simpsons powerpoint story using the target language in the book. It worked pretty well, given it’s the TV talking in the story (and we all know how much the Simpsons love their TV).

    But for the washing machine story, I was floored. I couldn’t think of any way to make it more relateable or in any way less horrible. So we just taught it as is. I am not looking forward to the next 3 story times..

  4. Pingback: Update: Biography: The Life and Times of Our Washing Machine | The Wanderlust Diary

  5. kleinemakrele

    I guess if I was a teacher it probably wouldn’t be that funny, but I have to say I totally like the washing machine story time! Actually I usually think of machines as my friends (or foes!)…
    But I guess the wahsing machine story doesn’t help much with learning English ahahaha

    Anyways, I don’t mind that it’s called “story”, doesn’t that sound pretty nice? What would you call it? A tale? HAHAHAHAHA
    Sorry I am not an English speaker….
    By the way, I came across this blog because I was trying to find out if Lens Story has a website. I have yet to find out. It was kinda fun to read, I’ll be back to read some other posts, I think.

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