Friday, December 30, 2011

on teaching children, volume one.

kids are effing weird. wonderful, at times, but mostly just odd. here are a handful of my more... memorable interactions so far.

the general fascination with my hair: my entire life, my hair has been a point of interest. when i was little, it was platinum blonde. i was sometimes teased, it was frequently oohed and ahhed over by adults, and taking photos of me in direct sunlight was tricky because my head would just be engulfed in the white light of my hair. by comparison, my hair is much darker now, but still quite blonde. in korea, the fascination has moved to an entirely new level.
  • you may remember my facebook status from a week or so ago. the one about the boy who actually pulled a hair OUT OF MY HEAD during class to look at and show to the other boys. for the record, this kid is also the one who thinks i'm a pirate since i have tattoos. he always peers at my hair anytime i'm anywhere near him and i think actually asks me every. single. class. if my hair is real. he's strange. but during one class, while i was checking on his group's progress on their presentation for the day, he actually just reached over and pulled a hair out. not off my shirt. but out of my scalp. like, i felt it. then he put it on the desk and all the boys leaned in and they examined it. ...yep.
  • number of times i've had a student just reach out and touch my hair: i've actually lost count. this seems to be the most normal reaction. personal space is nonexistent.
  • last week, one of my favorite students pulled some hair off my back. when i noticed and turned to say, "oh, thanks," i realized she wasn't just helping me keep my shirt free of hair, but she was picking off the hair so she could look at it. the girl next to her leaned in to look too, and when they saw me watching, they dissolved into a giggle fit. adorable, yes, but i also think she kept my hair..
the desire to be the teacher's best friend: this probably applies to the girls in my classes more than the boys, though there are some exceptions. but i have been so amused and touched by the things my students have done to be nice and get to know me.
  • sharing their snacks! it's a pretty regular occurrence for my students to bring me a handful of whatever food they're eating during break time. one will even bring an extra clementine orange just for me when she's packed one for herself. of course, when i have a snack, they expect me to share with them too, but i always do. plus they seem to be greatly entertained when they give me something i haven't tried yet just so they can see my reaction.
  • very earnestly telling me their opinion on a particular exercise in class. one section of my memory english classes involves practicing memorization skills. one student absolutely hates memorizing and waved me over to tell me this. "teacha, i really do hate this part of class. in korean, i am so good at memorizing. in english, it is not fun and i don't like. but i will try anyway. but i don't like." then, in every class since, he will look at me and shake his head and quietly say, "teacha, you know what i think about this. i told you." even though he doesn't like it, he still tries hard and has actually improved a lot. but he really enjoys giving me a knowing look and reminding me that we discussed how much he dislikes memorizing english sentences.
  • giving me presents and/or drawing me pictures. right off the bat, students were giving me gum and angry birds erasers. every now and then, when they draw a picture for their presentations, they'll bring it to me at the end of class and say, "this is for you, teacha." but today, a couple of my girls actually drew pictures of me, folded them up, and quietly passed them to me during class. so sweet. and then they were so pleased when i thanked them for the pictures.

the love of death and all things morbid: i've mentioned this before -- the sheer joy the boys in my class get out of killing off any character in a story we make up. lately, even the girls have chimed in more than usual with their own... creative ideas.
  • in one class last week, we read a story about a haunted house. two of the characters actually ended up being ghosts. for their thinking (creative) project during the last hour of class, they had to design and plan an entire haunted house attraction that they would then present to the class. one of my groups of sweet, adorable girls came up with a two-part attraction. first, you see this cute little house that's all pastel colored and pretty. then, you see what happens to the house after an evil witch takes over. as they were presenting, i noticed giant red blobs all over the page. when i asked them what it was, one innocently looked at me and matter-of-factly said, "oh, that's just the blood rain." oh, yes. of course it is. another group of girls even put an entire river of blood into their drawing. lovely.
  • at the beginning of lessons, the students look at a couple pictures in the book and try to predict what happens next in the story. it's a fun exercise and they get to be really creative. the stories can literally go anywhere, so they really have fun trying to make them crazy. the first picture today showed a little girl talking to her mother and looking angry. the second picture was of the little girl at a camp, arguing with the camp counselor (who the students just kept calling "teacher," for the sake of the rest of this making sense...). so, during prediction, i always write their ideas on the board so we can plot out the story. they decided the little girl and teacher argue, the little girl wins the argument, and then here's the rest: yes, my students supplied "dehydrated" and "children play in river of teacher's tears." should i be concerned for my safety?
that's all i can think of at the moment for the really memorable stories. i'm sure i'll have plenty more in a couple weeks. i never really imagined myself teaching children, and while i probably won't once i move back from korea, i do have to say i'm quite enjoying it.


  1. You should be very worried Zannah, those kids are going to wear your hair as a wig as soon as you cry yourself to death.

    They seem super adorable though. I'm glad you're enjoying your time in Korea!!!

  2. thank you for sharing zannah. i love this post.