Archive for the ‘thousand kilowatt smile’ Category

On Becoming a Gentleman

Monday, February 11th, 2013

First of all, I’d like to apologize for the lack of updates. I had to leave my computer behind in CP while traveling, and picked it up this weekend when I went back for CPHS’s graduation ceremony.

While I love, or at least like, most of my students regardless of their actions outside of class, it’s always nice to realize that your students are not only good students but genuinely good people. Somehow through the two or three years you’ve known them, they’ve developed and grown, and you’re proud to watch them go out into the world.

On Friday I watched my seniors graduate. It was surreal. After graduation the parents and friends of graduates swarmed into the part of the auditorium where the graduating seniors were sitting, and I narrowly escaped getting whacked in the face by multiple bouquets. While there were a few seniors I wanted to seek out, I decided to exit the auditorium and congratulate them on facebook later. Luckily, the universe seemed to be working in my favor, and I ran into all of the seniors I wanted to talk to in the hallways after graduation – all of them except for my thousand kilowatt senior.

Later that day I went into the nearby city and hung out there for a few hours. I was there a little later than expected, and missed the second-to-last bus back to CP by about ten minutes, meaning I’d have to wait outside in the cold for the last bus. Right as I was getting off the bus, I noticed my thousand kilowatt senior (TKS) and ran up and tapped him on the shoulder. He saw me, beamed, and shook my hand.

As we got off the bus and went to sit down to wait for our respective buses, a creepy older man came up to me. Now, I’m an adult, and I’ve had plenty of creepy older men come up to me both in Korea and in the US and I know how to handle myself, but TKS looked horrified. He jumped up, placed himself between the older man and me, and started apologizing profusely while simultaneously gesturing at me to walk away and glaring at the man.

I’m sorry teacher, sometimes we have bad people. Please ignore these people. I will protect you.

Don’t worry TKS, it’ll be okay. You don’t have to protect me.

Yes I do. He is an old man. A bad man. I will wait with you until your bus comes.

TKS! You don’t have to! Your bus will come very soon, and my bus will not come for another 40 minutes.

I will wait.

It’s cold, and you’re not wearing a proper jacket! Don’t worry about me.

I will wait.

True to his word, he did. His bus came five different times, and he never took it. The old man came up to us three more times, and he shooed him away from me each time. We talked about the graduation ceremony, his future, how he wants to keep improving his English, and about why I came to Korea. He expressed regret that he didn’t take my club class (TKS, maybe you would’ve felt uncomfortable – at that time it was all girls. Oh no, that’s okay^^), and said he would order his younger brother to take it. When other students passed us and said “hello” he admitted that he was a little embarrassed to be seen talking to me. When I asked why, he assured me that it wasn’t because of me, but because he was embarrassed at his low (his words, not mine) English ability. When my bus came he walked me to the door, then text messaged me to thank me for talking to him and to wish me a happy new year.

Regardless of his lower-than-CPHS-average (but still good) English ability, despite the fact that he didn’t receive admission to an extremely prestigious university (his university is still a pretty good one) I consider him a CPHS success story. This, my friends, is what a gentleman looks like.

You can’t keep them all… but at least you can keep some of them

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

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.