November 5, 2009 § Leave a comment
Being a teacher wasn’t necessarily something I ever aspired to be. I once volunteered as a preschool art teacher at a community center back in Kansas; that pretty much amounted to chasing paint-covered kids and scraping play dough off of miniature tables. I really had no ‘teaching’ experience to speak of when I came to Korea, but somehow none of the schools I interviewed with seemed to care. Now that I’ve been here for two months, I’m beginning to think that was just fine, at least for my particular job here. The job itself is pretty straightforward: I work at a private cram school,or hagwon, in the Apgujeong neighborhood of Seoul teaching one-on-one English lessons to kids that age anywhere from three to seventeen. That more or less means I get paid to have kids say hysterical things to me in fledgling, clumsy English.
My experiece with the artsy preschoolers is particularly relevant with my youngest student Sally, a three-year-old whirlwind who can already read words in English and speak full sentences. In a few weeks, Sally will be applying to a fancy English kindergarten, and the pressure is on for us to get her ready. She has to be reading words and able to have a simple conversation. (“What’s your name?” “My name is Sally. I’m five years old.”, etc.) Sally, of course, is less concerned about the upcoming test and spends most of the thirty minute lesson either running around or pretending to sleep. The quickest way to upset Sally is to call her “Silly Sally” which provokes her to yell, “No! I no Silly Sally! I’m SALLY! I’m Sally TEACHER!” (The kids all either call me “Teacher” or “Leah Teacher.” I can’t tell if Sally knows she’s being funny or if she really doesn’t know she’s not a teacher.) Sassy Silly Sally.
Another one of the young ones is Little Kevin. He’s six years old and obsessed with tanks, alligators, and robot tanks. He refers to a wire coat hangar in my classroom as “viking,” and after two moths of me explaining the difference between wire coat hangars and vikings with visual aides, the habits persists. I guess thats okay since I still don’t know the difference between tanks and robot tanks and I’ve been drawing them for the kid three times a week for the same amount of time. He never brings a pencil but always brings his camera phone, which he uses to take my picure once a week or so. He’s also the only one that ever draws for me, and he’s pretty good. My favorite is a squirrel he drew after we spent five minutes practicing how to say “squirrel.” (Well, I spent five minutes saying “squirrel” and Kevin spent five minutes saying “squiller! squiller!”)
I have a lot of other favorite students too – Andy, the ten-year-old in cammo pants who asked me on his first day what “tuck and roll” meant. This is the same kid who pointed out “You American! Like Apache Helicopter!” and has asked me to bring him pie and bacon. (Or, more accurately, when I described bacon to him in the Korean terms of “very thin samgyopsal” he said, “OK, what do I have to do?”) There’s Julie, who always updates me about her Alaskan Malamute Poon Baek (Which means “white wind” in Korean) and once confused the words “superstitions” and “supermarkets.” Louis is a goofy twelve-year-old that called me “sir” on the first day and has a textbook with readings about b-boys and flash mobs and illegal music downloading. Today he informed me that he thinks the world could be improved by making one universal language, system of measurement and by combining his favorite movies into one super movie. Huck Jun is another twelve-year-old, with near perfect English, who attends an international school and just got back from studying for a year and a half in Canada. I don’t know what to do with him, so I just let him talk about what ever he wants to, which is usually either his pet praying mantis or his pet stag beetle. I am currently considering an offer from him to take on a pet baby praying mantis, one that will hatch from the thousand eggs his pet just laid. DJ is obsessed with zombies, and death, and whenever he has a writing assignment he always writes about zombies and comical cartoon death. Some of the time, my job is really boring, me surfing the internet during an abscence, or trying to pry words out of a surly teenage boy, but these funny kids really make my day.