The hardest part of my job, harder than classroom management, lesson planning, or editing, is saying goodbye. I only teach first and second grade, so that means that when students become third years, I lose them. Not only do I not teach them anymore, but I don’t haev many chance to talk to them, because they’re so busy and they rarely leave their homerooms.
One of my favorite students last year was a third grade boy. Other than during the D-county English Competition I rarely talked to him one-on-one, but he has a thousand kilowatt smile. I know that the usual saying is a thousand watt smile but you’ve never seen this kid. When he smiles, his mouth become wide and his eyes light up, and you can’t help but grin too.
When I started this semester, as I was halfway through my introduction lesson I was surprised to see almost the same exact smile peering out from one of my new first grade classes. I think I actually stopped talking mid-sentence and stared, before catching myself and continuing. It turns out, thousand kilowatts has a younger brother, who looks nothing like him except for when he smiles. In fact, when I asked this first grader if he had a brother at CPHS, he was surprised that I recognized that they were related. The similarities end with the smile.
My third grade student is sweet, super sweet. Even when he was doing other work in my class and not paying attention (which was rare), when I caught him he’d look up with a big old apologetic smile, close his book, and continue to beam in my general direction. He recently came up to me, shoved a note at me which stated “I cannot speak English well, but I want to become better. Maybe we can practice after the 수능 (entrance exam)?” I told him of course, and asked him when. “Is everyday okay?” Of course, kid, everyday.
His brother, on the other hand, is snarky, cocky, speaks English really well and knows it. He’s the kind of kid that doesn’t walk, he saunters. Instead of bowing when he sees me in the halls, he does a half wave with his hand and an upwards head nod. He’s always talking to people during my class. Self-confidence just exudes from his pores.
Maybe his brother was like that, as a first year. I’ve only taught him as a second-semester second grade student, and any high school teacher who works at a Korean school will tell you that there’s a huge change in students’ attitudes between first and second grade (it’s part of the reason why I like second grade better, as a general rule). I somehow doubt it. This first grader is just saucy, and though his smile is a bit dimmer, (probably a result of being a thousand kilowatt 동생) and has a bit of a bite to it, I can’t help but love him.