As the days slip away towards my departure from Korea, I can’t help but feel pangs of sadness as I teach some of my classes. Despite coming here for the travel aspect of this life – not the teaching one – I have grown incredibly attached to the majority of my students. I love seeing how they progress in their study of English. I love when they come in and say they’re happy, or bring in some cool toy to show (even if it fairly realistic gun that they shove in my face and say, “BANG!” with). I love asking questions about their lives and just having ‘conversation practice’ which I pass off as part of the curriculum.
I love memories like these:
At the start of every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; Julia arrives first (always) and jumps onto the back of my chair. We usually spend the five minutes before the bus arrives sharing headphones and listening to whatever I had playing when she bounded up. She seems to like the Senate and the Swell Season. She didn’t care for Five Finger Death Punch too much…
Or when Stuart walks in with his little chest puffed out and gives me that, “Yo wassup, man?” upward nod of his chin as he says tough-guy things in Korean to show off for his friend. Then, as he walks away, he’ll smile and give me some candy, or a piece of gum.
Also in those classes where a lesson plan goes out the window, and I end up talking with my middle schoolers for 40 minutes about pop stars, or current events, or whether or not the girl who’s always laughing in class is crazy. Or when I had the debate with three middle school boys about how the international community can improve living conditions for people around the world.
Granted, there are a few students I can’t stand. I’ve got some in particular who make the entire class so awful… to the point where I dread going in every day. One girl – Cheryl – is the most mean-spirited, malicious, disrespectful sub-human I have ever met. She’s one of those students where you wonder: if she were to die in some horrible, awful manner… would you actually be sad? You think you would because, let’s be honest, you’re a good person; but there is that little sliver of darkness that mutters, “Well you can’t argue with karma…”. Her older brother was almost as bad before he left, but at least he had redeeming qualities. She is just a vile little person. Every day she tells me she hates me, or looks at me in disgust, or asks me to leave and go die. Today, after nearly a year of trying different tactics to improve the situation while the class morale slowly but surely slid into the abyss, I decided I’d had enough. I told her to get out of my class. Then I locked the door behind her and didn’t open it until class was over. It was heaven. I had a good time enjoying the other kids and playing card games while the little hell-cat sulked outside. She is obviously stuck in her ways of being a blight on humanity. Whatever. I’m going to stop trying to change that and just enjoy all the other good kids in the class who I actually care about.
Bad experience aside, today was an awesome day full of laughs, playing, and a small amount of studying. I received a fox costume in the mail and wore it for the entire day, to the delight of most of the children. They laughed, pointed, shrieked, “FOX TEACHER!”, and incessantly tried to grab me by the tail. It got to the point where I had to hold the tail in my hand so they didn’t get their hands on it. We played Uno, Home Base, the Zombie Game, and countless more. I took pictures of each class, of every student. Some hid from the camera, some made funny faces, some stared into the lens with a stoicalness that only a Korean can manage. But I’m capturing memories. These ones, to be precise:
For better or worse, you help shape the identity of everyone you interact with. I hope I changed some of my students for the better. Maybe it was all the stupid dances I did. Maybe it was how I always sang Jason Mraz and Gangnam Style and Electric Shock whenever they came on. Or maybe it was, by some miracle, something I taught them… or something I said. I hope there was something, because they definitely changed me. And I’m gonna miss the little buggers!
Well… except for Cheryl…