It is incredibly hot today. Korea seems to think that regardless of its position compared to the rest of the calendar year this week deserves to be a part of summer and has ramped up the temperature to 80 degrees. Apparently next week it will go back down to 70, and that can’t come soon enough because my apartment doesn’t have air conditioning.
This week we had midterms so I didn’t go to school Wednesday and Thursday, and I went today because it was the teacher’s sports day. Teacher’s sports day is a once or twice-a-year event at CPHS and though the two teachers at the school I’m closest with weren’t able to go, it was still fun interacting with the non-English young female teachers, and my favorite older co-teachers. It was also fun watching the middle-aged men at my school regress to their high school ages and kick ass at a sport I didn’t even know existed (foot volleyball. It’s like soccer meets volleyball – there’s a net but you can’t use your hands).
I went to the Bamboo festival with some of my friends on Wednesday and Thursday and I’m supposed to take a bus to Mokpo, a city further south, to meet them but I’m stalling because I don’t want to go back outside in the heat. While I cool down, drink my iced tea, and prepare myself for the weather, I’ll tell you about what happened to me on Wednesday afternoon.
I have quite a few Bad students (students who either don’t study or do poorly on tests, or students who Do Bad Things like break curfew or even smoke). That being said, I rarely come across any BAD students. BAD students are those that are just bad people. Not those who’ve had bad days or a few behavioral problems, and maybe they’re not even BAD to everyone, but those where they’ve decided that they Just Don’t Like You and have No Interest in Pretending To.
I tend to get along with the Bad students rather well. They tend to range from shy and embarrassed about their ability to rip-roaringly exuberant. It’s not easy, but if you give the loud ones a stage and coax the shy ones to speak you can create some really deep relationships. The shy type generally get ignored, and the exuberant tend to be labeled as delinquents, so in putting in that extra effort to really see them as not just students but young adults, personalities, people, they appreciate it. However, the BAD students, well… that’s another story.
Now, I never want to label a kid as BAD, because once that label sticks in my mind, once I associate a face with BAD, it’s hard to approach them the same way. A warning siren goes off in my head when I see them and it’s difficult for me to judge what a good reaction to the things that they say and do are. I had an unreformed BAD at SGHS. He would sleep, swear at me in Korean and English during class, and try to stare me down, but other than him I’ve been pretty lucky so far. Most of my BAD-to-bes have redeemed themselves in my eyes at least (though, maybe not in the eyes of the school).
Fast-forward to Wednesday when I was waiting at the bus stop to go to Gwangju. I was wearing a shorter skirt than normal (which, by the way, followed the fingertip rule and I was wearing opaque leggings and a long sleeved high-necked baggy shirt – what more can you really do) when I heard a “whoo-hoo.” I assumed it was a middle-aged man or a soldier commenting on my outfit so I steeled myself and turned around, and saw a Bad and a BAD.
The “whoo-hoo” had come from the Bad, who was trying to get my attention, and who had immediately followed the whoo-hooing with frantic dual-arm waving, which was unnecessary as he was only about five feet away from me. The Bad’s an identical twin, and his brother’s also a Bad. A few weeks ago they were caught smoking and drinking in the dormitory and were temporarily kicked out, so they now commute to school everyday. I really like both boys – they’re exuberant, fun, try really hard in my classes, and quite a handful.
I have a long and complicated history with the BAD, and other teachers have had problems with him as well. Last year after I had lectured his class on being chatty and asked why they were so unfocused, he stood up and said that it was because my class was more boring than the previous ETA’s class and that I expected too much of the students. We had a one-on-one talk afterwards about his concerns about my class and appropriate venues for airing these concerns, but since then he’s been on my radar. His actions in class are strange – sometimes he’s focused and volunteers, and sometimes he tries to derail me or other students. He’s kind of spacey, but also he can seem really sincere about what he says,which causes other students to laugh, and I can’t tell if his spacey sincerity is genuine or if he’s putting on a front to amuse the other students and make me lose face by taking him seriously. Evidence from one class will point to the former option, but then the next week I’ll think it’s the latter.
Back to the bus stop. The Bad goes to chat with another student who’s waiting for the same bus a little further down the road and I steel myself for a confrontation with the BAD. Instead, we had a conversation. He asked me where I was going and said that he was going to Gwangju as well for music academy, and that he plays guitar. We then saw his father who works in Changpyeong and he asked if I thought they looked alike. I said “a bit” and he then went to go talk to him, and came back with two drinks – a coke for him and mango juice for me. I was so surprised that I practically shouted thank you, and he slowly smiled at me.
At this point the Bad (who is much less spacey, much more talkative, and basically demands attention) comes back to chat and tells me that the two of them are BEST FRIENDS. I teach him the term BFF (“Oh. Ok ok we are BFFS!”) and then the Bad questioned me about the American school system. He then mentioned that he wanted to be a doctor, but his friend (the BAD) didn’t have a goal. I asked the BAD what he wanted to study in college, and he said that he wanted to be a musician and do Christian music – like gospel. This causes the Bad to interject and state that since he (the Bad) was a Buddha (read: Buddhist) they were no longer able to be BFFs but only Just Friends. As I’m clutching my sides laughing at the turn this conversation has taken, the bus rolls up, we get on, get separated by people, a little while later get off the bus in Gwangju, and I wave goodbye as they troop off to the stationary store.
Maybe the BAD isn’t so bad after all?