Outside, they are so small.

Three crying students, two boys who, due to ridiculously difficult life circumstances, have been labeled "trouble makers" and are repeating the third grade, which of course means that, in Korea, they basically have no future. One is missing in action, and he's my favorite. I only found out about his situation today, when he was absent from class again. I asked his classmate, a lovely student (second favorite, actually) who is fairly fluent in English, where he was. He said he didn't know, but explained that he was a year older and has had a really rough go of it.

This is the student who started out giving me massive attitude at the beginning of the year, but was quickly and sufficiently won over when I simply took two minutes to quietly explain the assignment to him and help him write an answer. He's been one of my best students ever since. He's the one who asked his friend (the nearly fluent one) to tell me that, although he cannot speak English, he will speak to me with his heart. Apparently, according to #2, he's a total nightmare in most other classes. "But he likes you, because you like him." I remember him passing me and a co-teacher in the hall, early on in the year, and when he greeted me enthusiastically, the co-teacher sort of yelled at him, asked him why he was acting like that. He responded to her then, in Korean, "She likes me." I had no idea the weight that statement had at the time. Now, I want to know where he is. In a very strange way, I wish that I had acquiesced to his joking taunts for me to give him my phone number. It's hard to speak from the heart over the phone, but with him, I would like to try. I'm worried.

Another one, a second grader, was coming out of the office when I dropped off my attendance sheet. When I came back out, he was standing in the hall rubbing his backside and clearly about to cry. I don't know what he did, but he had just gotten a phenomenal old school style ass-beating from one of the other teachers. I didn't even try to make him speak English -- asked him in Korean if he had been punished. "Neh..." He closed his eyes to try to force back the tears, and I just stood there, rubbing his back. Eventually he squatted down and the tears came. I squatted beside him, gave him a few firm back pats. Leaned over and asked him in Korean if he was okay, as the tears slowed. "Neh. Kwenchanayo."

Another third grader, who was a terrible shit to me last week, simply walked into the office, took a seat on a stool and began to sob. No idea what was up with that one.

It's like these field trips released something in the boys. They were dead and depressed all day long. My second grade class was frighteningly quiet and subdued. Two of my most upstanding third graders got into a mean fist fight with each other over God knows what. Busted up lip on one, huge gash on the neck from fingernails on the other. When I went into the office, after school, each and every teacher had at least one student standing in their cubicle being berated. And some mystery student decided to show up to my after school class voluntarily.

Most of the time, I'm amazed at how stress-free the boys seem, considering how much pressure they're under. You'd never know it. But the last two days, both on the field trip and after, I've seen the evidence of it. Coteacher put it best, when I was explaining how surprised I was to see the boys lose wind so quickly at the amusement park yesterday -- "They don't know how to be children. Inside of their school, they are kings. Outside, they are so small."

And now, it's raining and terrible outside. And I feel like crying, too. My nephew was born just a few hours ago. Welcome to the world, little Logan. Komo's sorry she couldn't be there to meet you, and hopes life won't be too hard on you.

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