Sunday, October 11, 2009

Funny Thing That Happened to Me at Work, Part I

I haven't blogged much about my job yet. I'm going to try and keep things anecdotal while on the subject of work, to avoid a mile-long rant/rave about Swaton Language School for Kids that would probably have you glazed over by the time you were halfway through it.

Instead, new series: (Cute/Funny/Frustrating)Thing That Happened to Me at Work.

So at this point in my two month stint at Swaton, I've made two children cry. Here are their stories.

A) Dennis
So my first grade Finding Out 1 class (the name of the primary-level textbook that we use) is what you'd expect of a bunch of first graders: loud, always verging on out-of-control, and a lot of fun. Even though they speak almost no English and can't communicate with me, I get to run around like an idiot and the kids all think I'm hilarious and beautiful, which they tell me frequently. Except Amy, who tells me that I look "Like you have baby" before poking me in the stomach. Nice.

So anyways, one little boy in this class, Dennis, hasn't even started public school yet (he's six, Koreans don't start real school until they're seven). He's the class baby: super immature and (until recently) always really badly behaved in my class. So one day, I have all of the kids drawing on the whiteboard at the front of the class. Dennis finishes drawing and runs back to his seat with the cap of the marker clutched in his little, sweaty fist. I say, "Dennis, can you please give that to me?" and hold out both my hands--a sign of respect in Korea. Dennis looks at the marker cap, looks at me, smiles mischievously, then chucks the marker cap at my head, hard.

Now, I really wasn't that pissed when this happened. But I knew I had to make a big deal out of this, or else every other kid in this class would think it was okay from now on to throw marker caps at me. So I said as scarily as possible, "Dennis, come with me outside." Dennis frowned and shook his head. I grabbed him by his sweaty hand and tried to lead him outside, hoping he wouldn't protest. Nope. Dennis planted his feet, shook his head again, and said loudly "NO!". So I started dragging him out of the classroom, and another student, Jason, started pushing Dennis out the door from behind as I was pulling him on his other side. Dennis was so upset; I could see he was on the verge of tears as Jason slammed the classroom door shut behind Dennis and I.

So there I was, outside in the hallway, alone with Dennis. Corporal punishment is totally legal in Korea, so maybe Dennis thought I was going to hit him. But I didn't. I just shoke my finger in his face and said "Don't do that again." And he burst into tears. Not oozey, slow streams either...full on water works, complete with sobbing/dry heaves. And I felt like a terrible person.

I led Dennis back into the classroom to his seat, where he continued to cry and and refused to participate for the rest of class. After class, I found a hate note from Dennis left where he was sitting, which, according to my co-worker Ginny, said something to the effect of "I hate you" and "You are crazy" in Korean.

Now Dennis is the best behaved student in my class. And I think he likes me more now.

B) Beth
Beth is the afore mentioned IAMHEREHAPPYYES shouter. I love her; she is one of my favorite students in my Finding Out 3 class (eight and nine year olds). That said, she is by no means a teacher's pet, and can be a complete bitch sometimes...wandering around the classroom, sitting on my lap, trying to leap on to my back for piggy back rides at random times.

So generally, with this class, for the last ten minutes or so I let it descend into absolute chaos. We play dodgeball, or I let everyone draw pictures on the board. Usually at the beginning of class I write NO KOREAN OR YOU DIE on the board (the kids aren't supposed to speak anything but English with their foreign teachers). Usually during the last ten minutes the kids will make me cover my eyes while they change the words to NO ENGLISH OR YOU DIE..."October 8th, 2009" becomes "OctoPUS 8th, 2009," too.

So this past Friday, after about eight minutes of this post-class chaos, I had all of the kids line up by the door to wait for the bell to ring. While they're were lined up, I dashed out a word on the board for a quick game of hangman. Beth was clearly not in the mood for word games, though...she stomped up to the board in a fake rage and erased my dashes. I said "Hey, you!" somewhat playfully, a then (gently) poked the uncapped dry erase marker in my hand on her little forearm, leaving a tiny black dot of ink on her white skin. She looked at me, and her little black eyes welled up with tears behind her Coke bottle glasses. She turned and rested her forehead against the whiteboard, crying. Her classmates in line looked of them, Leah, pointed and said "She's crazy" in perfect English. I couldn't tell if she was talking about me or Beth.

So no more drawing on my children for now...we'll see how Beth takes the heartbreak after she's had this weekend to recoup...and now you all know how terrifying I am within the classrooms and how ALL POWERFUL I AM, MAKING KIDS CRY AND WHAT NOT

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