My Friday night class consists of 11 to 14 year olds. *insert eye rolls galore* Yesterday, boy, what a day…
First, I counted the cellphones in my plastic you-can’t-have-cellphones-in-class box and came up short. I asked for cellphones and a few students remembered and came forward. And then there was David, sitting in the back. “David, give me your cellphone.” This is what made him remember, “Oh yeah, there IS a cellphone in my pocket.” “Oh and David? This is your desk, in the very front.” “Oh Teacher, whyeee?” “Take off your hat.” “Oh Teacher, whyeee?” “Oh, OK. My hat now. Thank you.” To which another student replied, “Oh Teacher, your fashion is good.” To which I replied, “It’s true.”
Class proceeds and I hear, “Teacher! Kyle is fucking me!” “Wait, what!?” “He is giving me the fuck!” “No! Do not say that!” “But he is, he is giving the fuck to me! He is showing me middle finger!” “First, don’t say this word. If you say this word to an English speaker, you will make them very angry. Second, when you say this, it sounds like you are saying that Kyle kisses you. It sounds like you are saying that Kyle loves you.” “Teacher NO!” “No indeed. Do you want to say that Kyle is loving you or do you want to say that Kyle is showing you middle finger? If you want to say middle finger, then you say, ‘Kyle (writing on the board) is flipping me the bird.’ Class, what’s the subject? Good. What’s the verb? Good. What’s the object? Very good. Let’s say it together, one two three. Great! Now go to the office.”
I never thought that I’d be the kind of person who does well with young children. I’ve always thought of kid people as being overly sentimental, the kind of people who have pastel posters of angels saying inspiring things or of precariously dangling kittens telling them to just hang in there. I don’t like parents either. They tend to be self-aggrandizing and condescending, both to people who haven’t gotten themselves knocked up and to their children.
In spite of my preconceptions, what I have learned in Korea is this… young kids are great. It’s grown ups who ruin them. Kids are honest, fearless, inventive, curious, and affectionate. I really enjoy my middle school classes, but I think what I’ve learned most by teaching them is that I like people before they realize they are being watched and once they’ve gotten to an age when they know no one is watching any more. I want a career that allows me to teach elementary students to take care of the elderly and facilitates the elderly teaching elementary students. I want to surround myself with people who are thirsty for life and who saturate the air around them with sincerity.