Tonight at the center one of the twins, Jeongwoo, the decided asshole of the lot of them, got pissy with me because I refused to end class when he wanted me to. The boys took fifteen minutes to come in and get settled down, so we went fifteen minutes long. That's how I do shit. That's how I've always done shit, unless there's another batch of students waiting to come in. You want to fiddlefuck around before class, that's fine. I'm going to fiddlefuck around for the exact same amount of time before I end class. Thus, most fiddlefucking is eventually avoided. Tonight, they decided to fiddlefuck anyway.
Jeongwoo wasn't feeling well, and I knew that. But life is hard and the sooner you clock on to that and learn to deal with it gracefully, the better. People who allow you not to learn that lesson certainly aren't doing you any favors. Anyway, he unloaded with a comment to the others in Korean that my class time was boring. Which he knew full well I would understand. So I turned around with a big ol' grin on my face and said, in Korean so that all present could understand just as well as they had his comment, that he, also, was boring me, so it was fair enough.
That pissed Jeongwoo off. First he said using polite speech that he wanted me to go away, which was bad enough, but then when I just continued smirking at him and informed him that that wasn't likely to happen, he slipped into banmal and told me to shut my mouth. That's a slappable offense where I'm from, and it's downright justifiable to beat a kid to a bloody pulp for speaking that way to a teacher in Korea. Of course, I didn't do that. Because that's insane. And the male teacher who had been sitting at a computer nearby got to him first, anyway. He grabbed him by the hair and held his head back, stroking his face and speaking softly, but in a vaguely threatening manner. He explained that I didn't have to be there, that I was giving my time and energy for free, and no other foreign or Korean teacher was likely to come in week after week and put up with his shit, so he suggested that Jeongwoo shut his mouth before I realized what a waste of time it was trying to teach him. That was just what I managed to catch. There was a lot that I didn't.
This is one of those things about being a more long-term foreigner in Korea. I can understand enough to know how fucking disrespected I've just been, but I can't properly communicate in a capable manner, enough to address the issue the way I would be able to in my native tongue. Which is why I just let the male teacher handle it. If it had been one of my students at school, it would've been a whole other ballgame. That kid would've been kneeling in front of the haksaengbu in no time flat. Because you can't let word spread around that someone spoke to you like that and suffered no consequences, when you're trying to keep 1,500 teenage boys under control, forty at a time. As it was, there were only three other students in the room at the time, and they were humilated by their friend's behavior already, his twin most of all.
We ended up finishing the last worksheet five minutes early. I pointed this out to Jeongwoo, and asked him if he was happy then. He politely told me that he was just not feeling well, and I suppose coming from Jeongwoo, that was good enough in the way of an apology. As it is, I'm glad that the male teacher didn't haul off and hit him, but just explained it to him that way, so that I could see that that alone would change his attitude. It was hard enough to take as it was, even though I knew he was in a bad mood and just angry. It's still a bigger blow to my ego than anything else in the world to have a student complain about my teaching. I can't just shake it off. So to see that just having it pointed out that I could very well walk out on them at anytime was enough for him to pull it together helped a bit with the sting.
Was feeling blue anyway, on the bus ride home. It's amazing how I can go weeks and weeks with nothing but excited students standing on desks and shouting for joy when I walk into the room, and screaming hello out of bus windows as they pass, but then one comment out of one asshole kid can make me doubt everything. Looking out the window as the bus stopped at a light near my neighborhood, and suddenly I was eyeball to eyeball with Hyung, our big struggling student who graduated last year, who Old Co would bring to me to explain things when he was having a hard time. Back then, he was the only student I would speak Korean to, Old Co asking me to pull out my homework from Korean class so he could see my wonky handwriting and numerous mistakes. She would tell him, see, she's not perfect -- it's cute, right? -- but she started from nothing but 안녕하세요? She's not stupid, right? She undertands you. And when he tried to cover the tattoo on his hand when I noticed it, I just pulled up my sleeve and showed him my own.
He stared at me for a moment through the window, waiting to see if I would recognize him, and when I smiled, he gave a big bow and cracked a grin. The bus pulled away. He looked good -- healthy and happy, and a lot less tired and bogged down than he used to. He was also in uniform, which means he's still going to school. I felt a lot better by the time I made it home.