Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Small Children--Highs and Lows

Some days at Oedae, I am still baffled about how to deal with the young ones. You see, I taught exceptionally jaded and often more worldly in some ways than myself 16 year olds for three years. Now, I may be certifiable when I admit this, but I love teenagers. They are HILARIOUS. Not everyone is suited to working with them--there is a reason that all the best high school teachers have at least a few screws loose. And they may act all grown up, but they are still children. They're needy, but you can't let them think you know that or they won't let you help them. They're incredibly selfish, even as they are some of the most selfless idealists around. They're ignorant of so many things, yet wise in ways you'd never expect. They crave structure and freedom at the same time.

My students here are much younger. The adjustment has been a little difficult for me at times. Like, while it is reasonable to expect a sixteen year old to stay still in his/her seat for 50 minutes, it is not really natural for a seven year old. They younger children are a lot more sensitive to changes in routine and you have to be careful how you introduce a new procedure. Especially here where there are language and cultural barriers for me as well as the different ages.

For example, yesterday I tried to introduce a new way to play the review board games that are in the Hop-Skip-Jump books to the class with Jason and Dragon (my second grade boys who sometimes decide to write stories or bite each other instead of reviewing the lesson for the day again...). I knew it would be difficult because every time I try to do something new with them, they get indignant: "No, teacher! Jane teacher did it this way!" Even before Gwen confirmed this, I suspected that they spent most of Jane's tenure complaining about how that's not what John teacher did and before that complained to John about how he wasn't Gwen teacher... sigh. I know better than to take it personally by now, but it makes it difficult to try new techniques in the class. So I tried to be upbeat and peppy when introducing the new paper, promising that we'll play the game when we finished our review.

However, I was not expecting Jason to take one look at the review paper I wanted them to do and rip it up, throw balled up papers around the room, and then collapse at his desk weeping like his puppy had died. I was actually expecting Dragon to do something like that (he tends to be more vocal in his objections to change), but he was so shocked by Jason's behavior, he was an angel for the rest of class. We finished most of the review together while Jason sobbed with his head on the desk, although every few questions I paused to invite Jason to join us. After class, I talked to Jason alone about how he has to work with me to finish this paper before we play the game and that he'll have to go talk to Samson if he behaves like that in my class again. He seemed better when he left, but who knows?

Sometimes though, teaching the little ones is just awesome. Also yesterday, my MWF 3:30 class had finished a book, so we were having a snack party (I bring some sugary drinks and let the kids eat snacks for 15 minutes in class and talk to each other. This is very fun for them... though I still don't know why). One of the weakest students, Helen, saw me leaving to go buy the drinks from the grocery store and grabbed my hand.

"Teacher and Helen go store."



"Yes, Helen. 같이. Together. You want to go with me?"

"Yes, teacher!"

"Ok." Running through my head is the fact that taking a student off campus alone in an American school without the parents' permission could get me fired and possibly jailed, but Korea's attitude towards children is different. Most of the time, I like it better because I can hug other people's children. Other times I see a three year old wandering alone down a busy street at 11 p.m. and think, What the hell are her parents thinking???

On the way to the store, Helen was beaming as she practiced talking with me in English.

"Teacher cat camera?" She mimed taking pictures.

"Yes, Helen. I take pictures of my cat."

"Oh teacher! Friday see cat!"

"I have pictures on the computer. I can show you on the computer."

"Oh yes!"

She proudly carried one of the soda bottles I purchased back to Oedae.

"Teacher brother have?"

"Yes, I have a brother."

"Little or big?" (She meant older or younger. She said the Korean words for older brother and younger sibling that I sort of recognize while she was trying to figure out how to ask me this question. We haven't done comparatives yet.)

"My brother is younger than me."

"What is name?"

"His name is Brian."

She practiced saying it. American names are so different than Korean names, so it is good practice for them to hear.

The whole exchange was so cute and sweet because I know how hard English is for Helen and the smile on her face from helping teacher carry the drinks back to school made me feel like teaching the little ones may actually be almost as great as teaching teenagers.

Then the children were children again. A class that is learning comparatives made the best sentence ever, of course: "Oh Jiny teacher is taller than Diana teacher, but Diana teacher is fatter than Jiny teacher."

Thanks. I know. I'm working on it.

My middle schoolers were practicing, "He likes ____ing" (instead of "I like ____ing), so they started telling bad stories about each other. As in "Dennis likes watching red movies." Red movie is the Korean term for NC-17 rated film, or porn if you'd prefer that term.

Well, I will say this for teaching--it's never, ever boring.


  1. I think you mean 같이 not 껕이. :)

  2. That sounds better. It's a word I knew only by sound, so I tried to sound it out and use a dictionary to look it up, but I guess it was wrong.

    My listening skills are still not so great.

  3. Jason does get upset when things are different... but he's such a sweety and so cute when he cries.

    Helen, too, is a sweet heart. I miss my kids! :-)

    Well, except that class that always wanted to talk about red videos. Weirdos.



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