Saturday, 28 January 2012


Here I am sitting, yet again, in a coffee shop as I write my blog. It's been somewhat of a roller coaster at the school I've been teaching at, but the kids were totally worth it. I'm going to be honest and say I didn't love all of the kids there. But being here has taught me a lot of things, and my first perceptions of some kids totally turned around.

Starting at this school, we had 4 kindergarteners whom we spend four hours of our day with. Now, we have 3 and these 3 kids, I love with all my heart. Good days and bad days-- I love them through and through. One boy who isn't in the group picture attended the hagwon when we first came here at the end of August. My first impression of him was that he was a smart and handsome little boy. He was great until I realized he was a complete braggart with way too much ego for his age. It became apparent he actually wasn't as naturally smart as we thought he was. In fact, he would try and just tag along for the ride on the girl's brain. He would try desperately to keep up with her, cheat off her paper, or just work fast without trying to use his own brain because he wanted to be better than another kid. He complained more and more as we got to know him and it was evident he was very spoiled. The boy in the middle was not at the hagwon when we started, but he is incredibly smart, and I don't mean smart as in he just knows facts. He can work hard, figure things out and is incredibly motivated to get the solutions himself with math, English, or any critical thinking task. While he was a bit annoying to me with his super upbeat demeanor, I have come to love this quirky personality of his. You won't find many kids like him, and I mean this with the least amount of cliche possible.

Then there's this sweet little girl. I am so attached to this girl. Since day one, she has been the most courteous tomboy princess out there. Princess in the sense that she was polite, clever, forgiving, and more rare than a blue moon was she ever a diva. She is in every way the smartest girl I've come to know. She is only aged 5 and knows the most crazy things-- science-wise, world matters, famous people, math, English, history... you name it. She knows fractions, simple division, and can almost multiply. We talked about crabs getting new shells and she said, "I think it's because they grow and are too big?" Ryan and I looked at each other and just about fell over on each other. Day before yesterday, Ryan asked her, "Do you know what mummies are?" Of course she knew. But the winning response instead of a yes was "Tutankhamen." Who is this kid and where did she come from? There are way more instances of these things, but that could take up five pages of this blog if I told you all of them.

She is my little mini-me. I say this because we love the same animals, we both love being boyish, we still love cute things, we have "오빠", and we apparently make the same noises. Ryan came in one time and said, "She makes the same noises as you!" And, with half surprised and half expected feelings, I proudly say, "I've never made those noises in front of her. Yet." ;) She is the better "me" in that she is going to go far in life-- she is going to do too many amazing things and not just in one field. Ryan absolutely adores her, too. We've both wanted to hug her so many times and just steal her for ourselves.

Then there's this little boy. He is the one Ryan and I struggled with the most at first. He was the most difficult kindergartener that didn't want to do anything, that worked the slowest, and would not pay attention. We had so many times we've given tough love-- taking away points, scolding, lecturing-- but it made him all for the better. We finally realized that one kid kept talking down on him for working slowly, not being able to understand, make grammatically correct sentences, or even pronouncing some things correctly. (Yes, that same kid that thought he was all that and a bag of chips.) This child has come such a long way. He has a family that doesn't pay attention to him, and I think this boy understands more than his parents think. I can tell if people are deep down emotional and deep thinkers like me. This boy can understand things more than other kids around him. So while his parents and grandparents do not discipline him/let him play games or whine about simple responsibilities, he is adjusting to our "tough love you can't get out of this at school" mentality. He knows when he is bad even he chooses to be bad. But on his good days, he works incredibly hard and I hope this boy knows he can be great at any subject. It broke my heart when he asked me what "stupid" meant. I told him it was a very bad word and not a nice word, to which he said, "Yes. My father said 'You are stupid." It really ruined his mentality on a lot of things the next two weeks. It broke my heart. But on the last day, he was the strongest little gentleman. His friend got mad at him but he stayed calm and said, "I'm sorry. I didn't know your birthday party was today." And to me, he said, "Yes, today will be a happy day. Not sad. It's okay." If you knew how gentlemanly this little boy is for his age, you would be in disbelief. He's the kind that pulls out chair for the girl, gives other kids pencils, compliments them on their work (the other kids do, too), and encourages them even if they are having a difficult time with something. I can still hear him saying, "It's okay."

He has come such a long way. On the last day at the end of class, he ate the lollipop I bought him and out of nowhere, walked up to Ryan hugging him quietly. He didn't even look up. He just stared out across the room hugging Ryan's leg with a very solemn face. (I told you this kid is deep and understands things.) He understood that we would never see him again. I caught a picture of him hugging Ryan. And then he walked up to me and by this time was almost in tears. Just silently hugging me. And tightly. My heart sank and Ryan and I wanted to cry-- we had tears in our eyes, but we had to try so hard to fight back the tears. "Why is there sand in this building? It's not clean!" Haha

After he hugged me, I scooped the little boy's face in my hands as he hugged me sadly and said, "Promise me. Promise me you will be good and work hard. Be good. Promise me." He looked up at me and gave me the most sincere nod with tears in his eyes. How did I tell a little boy to do these things when I myself am just like this boy? I love playing, I love drawing, I love being lazy sometimes, I make mistakes any other kid would make. It is the weirdest feeling to have to make myself be the grown up in a situation I wanted to crumble in. It felt so hypocritical. A kid telling another kid, "Be good."


The kids after kindergarten were difficult, but they definitely made this an experience to remember. Bossy kids, disrespectful kids, distracted kids, and kids with great hearts even if they were a tad annoying. One kid I got to know this past month (because his classmates were on winter vacation until the end of this month), didn't know Wednesday was his last day seeing me. I didn't know either; he was supposed to come back on Friday. But he was incredibly sick and when his mother told him the school was closing and he couldn't make the last day, he cried so hard saying he had to come to school to say goodbye. I will admit it broke my heart.

This kid got no attention and was not even placed in the correct class. Previous teachers and supervisors didn't seem to care because he didn't belong in that English class! He didn't understand anything-- even basic words one would need to answer questions or have an idea of how to answer them. Since it was just him and not 5 other kids, I was able to focus intensely on his English. I was even learning Korean myself, so I tried to incorporate it into his learning so he could understand. He made groundbreaking progress. He can now form complete sentences and actually understand what is being asked of him when I say simple things like, "Why is he happy? How do they go home? Where is the nest? What is a chrysalis?" I even practiced basic English conversation. Everything I did was done with intricate details to help him understand worksheets, readings, and so on. So I have come to really enjoy this kid, and I was so sad to hear he cried because he wanted to say goodbye to me.

This has been an amazing experience, and I won't let adult things at this school ruin the feelings I take away from teaching here. I can proudly say I gave 200% of myself for every child-- even if I didn't like them. I would do it all over again if I had to. But looking forward, hopefully my new school will be more stable, and I hope I can learn to accept more new kids into my heart and make it melt just like these kids. It will be hard to learn these kids, accept them, and let them completely into my heart- I'm still a kid myself. I'm skeptical like any other kid would be. But being in Korea forces me to be the grownup I never thought I could be. It's great and it's terrible-- but however I feel in the future or even now, it is an experience in itself.

I'm just glad I'm going through this with someone I love so we can share difficult and amazing times together.

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