Even though my patience completely expired, and I wanted to hide in the bathroom–I still left the school loving teaching and loving my kids. I feel this way.. maybe 1 week out of the month.
I started to write things down when they struck me. Today in my 2.25 class, the kids were role playing the story (which they call “CHARACTER, TEACHER!!!”) when one of the student’s pants started to buzz uncontrolably. He had a wind-up monster in his pocket–and no that is not a keyword for some thing children should not get a hold of. He literally had a monster doll stuffed in his cargo shorts, and some part of the mechanism had been tripped when he moved–and amidst his perfect pronunciation of “Here you go, Sally” the thing started to go wild. And I just stared at him with this “wtf” look, and he gave me the biggest “I am so guilty and I am enjoying it so much” grin I have ever seen.
I also gave this kid his English name. I named him Paul after my dad and brother’s middle, and I knew he was going to be one of those over enthusiastic, slightly-trouble inducing fellows.
In my 3.30 class I am so proud that my little student–Mina–who refused to talk until maybe a week ago, is raising her and and answering questions. Her voice is still tiny, but she answers them. It’s so amazing.
At my 4.35 class, I walk into the wrong classroom. They changed it around, switching two of my classes around–but nobody thought it prudent to tell me. But I just turned around and walked out, because I recognized immediately that I was in the wrong place, and my brain connected the two occurrences, and it was just “business as usual.”
In my 5.50 class, I called the desk on a student who was pissing me off. Another student refused to talk to me for the entire class, I thought because I failed to produce the stickers I had promised. I honestly went looking for them, and then I discovered that a student potentially stole them out of my unlocked desk drawers. Or I buried them under presentation papers. Who knows. After class, her two friends explain to me, in very broken English (and with a drawing on the board) why she was angry. It had nothing to do with me. But I think maybe the failure to produce stickers kicked her off the edge.
In my 6.55 class, one of my older students insists on screaming the Korean word for “delicious” in a demon voice. We have a great connection, this kid and I. He exhausts me when I’m already tired, but when I’m in a good mood I love to tease them. They tease me back and its hysterical. In this class I have a student, no joke, named “Major Joseph.” He has an epic stutter and is the most nationalistically indoctrinated child I have ever met. I love him, but today I was so exhausted that I could barely deal with it. They drove me up the wall, but I loved them anyway, after walking away from the class. “Delicious” kid came back and talked to me for a while. He erased my board for me too. I used to buy coffee from his mom every day at the Dunkin Donuts below us. I always bow and wave at her now, if I come in that direction and catch her eye.
In my 8.00 class, there are two students. Ricky does his work, which is rare, and then the new girl, the one who has a really cool English name, and walks like she is from the hood, tells me all about her exploits as a teenager. She tells me about alcohol and smoking, and her friend that died because he crashed his motor bike at 160 meters per hour. I don’t know if I believe her, but I keep asking her questions, and keep asking her: “Why are these people your friends?” She shows me her fake ID that she supposedly stole. And a visa card that she supposedly stole. I’m not sure what is what. They use English and I think it’s kind of a joke to them. They don’t know that they’re really communicating, because all matters of substance to them happen in Korean. And I’m not sure she really thinks I’m a real person. She might be trying to impress me because there’s this stereotype that Foreigners only drink and party. She tells me about clubs. I don’t have the guts to ask her what clubs she’s been to–or to tell her that they are all epicly lame. I’m not sure if I should even be having this conversation with her. But the hagwon camera is on, and she’s doing all the talking. I’m asking questions–and occasionally telling her that she should make good, safe decisions. At one point, I tell her that the most important thing that anyone, anywhere, in any country can learn is how to choose friends who make you feel safe and happy. Hastily, after the bell rings, she tells me that she goes to church and believes in Jesus. I wonder if it wasn’t just a joke to begin with.
I leave Little Fox and I go over to Taekwondo, where the dojeong is empty except for her brother. I sit next to him, ask him a few questions (he acts out just as much as she does–but mostly he charms the ladies), sit with him for a minute before I change my clothes. When I get back, he’s on his way out and I start training.
Then I come home and I go to buy a beer at the corner mart next to my house, and I run into another foreigner, who lives next door to me but I’ve never really met. She’s freaked out my my word-vomit “Hi, how are you? Who are you? I can’t believe we’re neighbors–can I have your number?” — and she says, “Actually I’m leaving in three weeks.” So I give up, don’t make a new friend, and buy a liter of beer instead.
And I’ve been reading testimonial stories on Teach for America’s website. Hence the out pour of love for the students, even when I hate their guts. I feel weak because I don’t have enough patience, but I think the more I write it down, the easier it gets to keep that patience up. Who knows.