Intrepid Girl Reporter

teacher?/reminding me to know that I’m glad
November 22, 2007, 4:12 pm
Filed under: skool, students, teaching, U S of A, Uncategorized

What if I told you/I was in love with this?

– Sufjan Stevens

There’s a can of reduced-fat feta-flavored Pringles hidden in my classroom. This is NOT as fat-kid as it sounds. In America, I rarely even ate junk food; I can’t remember the last time I bought Pringles, or anything like them. But a few days ago I was getting my daily liter of green tea (that’s right, I am INVINCIBLE) at Family Mart and I saw them, and I hadn’t eaten much, and I wanted cheese so badly, and that was that. I eat more junk here than before simply out of curiosity.

Anyway that day I took them back to my classroom, because I didn’t want the teachers to see me eating them, because if they did they would automatically assume that I am the sort of American who only eats McDonalds and Tootsie Rolls and would inform my host mom posthaste, who would then stock the house with gross convenience food that I neither want nor need. I hope you don’t think I’m exaggerating this chain of possibility. But I couldn’t let the students find me eating them either, so I ate a few* and stuffed the can in a cabinet. Today I got up late, demoralized from the events of yesterday (more on that in a sec), and didn’t have time to eat, so I ended up finding myself very much in fat-kid position, hunched over the chips and glancing furtively around to ensure that no one saw me. Eventually, I also ate an apple yogurt and two chewy sesame rolls, so I don’t feel that gross. Especially considering the fact that one day I saw the Japanese teacher eating a corn dog for breakfast.

“Teacher?” is what my students wrote on the board before one of my classes today. At the time, it seemed apropos; I had been forced to conclude that the initial success of the pilgrim/refugee lesson was a fluke, as yesterday I had to scream at 1J – 1J!, and I had no fewer than two classes LAUGH at the picture of the African refugee family. (In another class, one that didn’t even GET the refugee lesson, a student kept calling me “hey baby.” I kept him after class and told him that if he said that to a girl in America, she would hit him. At which point his face lit up with recognition and he said, “Oh! Girl with black skin?” Apparently, thanks to the export of American popular culture, Korean kids think that only black girls slap. I had to explain to him that no, girls of all races could and would smack him.) After the abysmal failure of two classes today, Visiting Co-Teacher, who comes once a week from another school and whom I normally quite like, told me that I should probably take the refugee part out, which misses the whole point of the lesson, and then reminded me that boys don’t really LIKE serious stuff, so they need “fun.” Okay, I realize that these boys are in seventh grade and that I am imposing my liberal ideological views on them and blah blah blah, but still. I think I was just disappointed that they couldn’t handle it. But then I taught a girls’ class that pretty much got it** AND I realized that I am making slow but sure progress with two MORE of my worst first graders, Teddy Bear Barrette and Min Ho. TBB is tough, and mean, and outgoing, and not a little butch, and she always wears these ridiculously girly barrettes – in the beginning of the year it was a giant plastic teddy bear, but now that winter’s setting in, she’s switched to a pink plastic bow. Today she was worse than she’s been in a while, and VCT made her stand against the wall, which was totally counterproductive; if she’s publicly punished then she capitalizes on it, and then there’s no going back. But I kept her afterwards and told her what a good job she’s been doing (which is true, with the exception of today), and her face genuinely lit up, and I was like, YOU CARE WHAT I THINK! And Min Ho – well, I saw him outside my apartment complex last night and talked to him for a minute, and I don’t know if that did anything or what, but usually he’s really, really disruptive in class, and today he wasn’t. Baby steps.

Point being that teaching today for the most part, with the exception of those few moments, felt like an exhausting shouting match – a state of affairs not helped by the fact that TFANY is now all but an impossibility, which means I have to come up with a new life plan. But it is Thanksgiving, after all, and I spent it eating fried chicken and drinking hot chocolate with two of my favorite people. Sometimes I think that this journal is one long gush about how thankful I am, and I don’t want to risk alienating those of my loyal readers who are envious of the amount of pickled cabbage available to me in this glorious country. But I am thankful for my friends, for Oregon and Hallim and Soccer and Africa and Quagmire and of course Scooter and everyone else. They are good – so good that I don’t want to come back for another year, because I know it just won’t be the same. Some days I cannot believe that I live with such a family, that I have such people in my life, that I have students who scream my name across the schoolyard, when they are not jokingly threatening each other with pocketknives, etc. I am thankful that living here has taught me how to accept and absorb the absurd, like the fact that I’m teaching Korean middle schoolers the words to “Summer Nights” despite the fact that it makes NO sense without solo roles. Living here, I say: does it not make sense? Or, with every student singing together, does the song become a kind of collective story, reflective of the transience present in all our lives, not just Sandy’s and Danny’s? I know that this probably isn’t true, that really my kids just like the tune and that it just so happens that no one wants to give a solo, since they won’t even perform together for anyone unless I can provide them with some sort of screen behind which they can hide. Still, though, this would never have occurred to me; nor the fact that seeing as there is no performance incentive, my kids really, truly love to sing.

*Neither as bad nor as good as one might think.

**In all of the classes in which I did the pilgrim/refugee lesson, I asked the kids what countries refugees came from, and in EVERY CLASS, I’ve had someone say, “Uzbekistan!” There must be some sort of migratory crisis of which I’m unaware.


3 Comments so far
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i am so full of pie and turkey. . .there were no hot dogs or other fowl within my bird

Comment by mom

[…] Teddy Bear Barrette has switched over to rhinestones […]

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[…] Thursday Nightmare Trifecta Kids are the ones who were friends with Min Ho, except that, unlike Min Ho, they’re really good at English, which means that they tended to […]

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