The I Love You Dance and the Great Escape.

I ran away from school today to avoid the retirement party. I feel guilty, obviously, but I just couldn't take hanging around school for an extra hour, and then going to dinner where everything would be in Korean and I would be bored out of my mind. Plus, I don't really feel like "playing" with Mr. K tonight.

I got a phone this weekend. I met HJ yesterday and we ended up spending most of the day together. Chinese food (amazing) and then coffee, talking about art and poems, and the importance of community. She pointed out, as we wandered through my neighborhood, that I recognize a lot of my students out of their uniforms for someone who sees them once every week or two and has about 850 of them. I told her that they usually travel in packs, and there's always at least one among them that I know. She said, "Ah yes. Some you remember. One: good student. Two: bad student." Exactly.

She gave me the biggest compliment over lunch when she told me that, attending my adult class, she realized immediately that I had teaching experience. She said she has attended many of the native English teacher's classes over the years (she works part time as an art therapist for disabled students in our district) and that I was set apart from the immediately. I told her she couldn't know how much that meant to me. More than anything else right now, I want to be a good teacher.

Anyway, she's amazing. And when she found out I still didn't have a phone, she marched me straight over the Home Plus to sort the situation out. It was a little demeaning, at this point, to have everything done in translation, especially as the first company we approached turned me away just for being a foreigner. Sometimes I think I would prefer the humiliation of muddling through in broken Korean/English. But it was really good that she was there to explain everything to me. And I probably would have dragged the phone thing out for ages without someone forcing me into it. Anyway, I'm really looking forward to getting to know her better.

I sent more kids out into the hall today, a couple in each class. I tried to be as good humored about it as possible -- I still don't feel comfortable telling other people what to do, even if they are my students. It wasn't so long ago that I was in the back corner of the class not paying attention and rolling my eyes, after all. But I realized my one coteacher is basically never coming back. Which is frustrating as far as hoping to accomplish anything in class, but there's one week left in the semester, so for now I'll settle for quiet when I request it and a base level of order in the classroom.

When I stepped out into the hall to tell the boys to come back in, they assumed the appropriate position, which is new to me, but something I've seen many times in front of other lecturing teachers. Head down, eyes on the floor and at least the semblance of a very serious countenance. It's a little awkward for me, considering I grew up in a "look at me when I'm talking to you" culture. I still take direct eye contact as the most pertinent sign that someone is showing me respect and listening to what I am saying. Not that they can understand what I am saying anyway. Instead, I just put my hands in my pockets and stared at them for a minute. Then I leaned over in order to meet their downcast eyes. "You wanna come back in?"

A flicker of eye contact.


"You'll sit and be quiet?"


Leaned over a little further, this time with a bit of a smile. They raised their eyes up and smiled back. "Be good boys, okay?"

"I am so sorry, Teacher."

"It's okay. Let's go."

"Thank you, Teacher."

And perfect angels for the rest of the period. Every last one.

My one fucking turd of a student decided he would sit at a more well-behaved table today, after spending the entirety of last class out in the cold hallway, but when I went to hand him his worksheet, he refused to take it. I leaned over and got very close to his face. "You want to just go out in the hall now?" He didn't understand. His friend translated.

"Ahni." It doesn't escape my notice anymore when I don't get the polite endings for words. Or when a student doesn't hand or receive something with both hands.

"Take the paper, then." He took it with both hands.

I've stopped ignoring the oh-so-clever, under-the-table cell phone action, as well. I really am starting to wonder how much crap I thought I was getting away with at school, every ounce of which the teacher observed. I've just started saying, "Choice: your pocket or my pocket. Which?" It's not that the cell phones bother me. Nothing bothers me as long as they are sitting there and shutting up. But it's about establishing some amount of respect.

And any guilt I felt about showing the movies has vanished, as today my most effective coteacher told me that she thinks it is a very good idea, because the boys are tired from exams, and is excited to have them watch shows like this in English, which are easy for them to understand. When I told her what lesson ideas I was kicking around for next week, she said, "Why not if you have another show like this one? I think it would be very good."

Well. Okay.

And now, the third graders. The first video... I probably should've been trying to stop that instead of filming it. To be fair, I told them multiple times not to do it before they started. It features the boy with a beautiful smile, who the other boys like to make fun of, saying, "She is very pretty." I told him they're just jealous. The second is My Friend, doing the I Love You Dance. If you see the ring on his pinky, it's the same as the one on my thumb. Today he put his against mine and said, "Couple rings."

"I don't think so."

He asked his friend to translate what I said.

"Aash! Why no?"

"Too young."

"Aash. Me. High school."

"Too, too young."


Oh. And when I passed a few of my students on the way home, one of them just looked at me and said, "자지." I'm not sure what his point was. Now, if it had been, "ne jaji na bal a ra" (not even going to try in Hangul), we would have turned around and marched straight back to the school together. As it stands, it was just sort of stupid.

That's right, boys. You better watch out. The textbook's not all I've been studying.


likethenina said...

So funny guys. Cute. :)

I wish I had a teacher like you when I was in school. Glad to see you actually enjoying and doing your job brilliantly.

I'm no Picasso said...

They're amazing. I love them. I think I would hate going to work if it weren't for the students. Because of them, I look forward to every day instead. Which is a rare privilege.