We do not like you.
- You are a 뺘쟈
- You betray and make us look bad you 씨 발
- No writing on board
- No answering [Jinryu] question
- Kelly hates you
- Amy hates you
- Jennifer hates you
- Lucy 장꺈하 게 지내지 양기
etc et etc.
Imagine this. Put yourselves in the shoes of a ten year old girl. You’re not so great at making friends because you’re really shy. When the teacher asks the class a question, your hand is one of the first to go up. You always do your homework, you always show up in class with a bright smile and every now and then, you bring an extra cookie for your teacher. When you write your answer on the board, you sign your name and draw anime hearts and teddy bears around it. Your teacher gives you attention because he sees that you’re struggling with the vocabulary, more than the other kids– when it comes time for a vocabulary quiz, by the time all the other students are finished, you’ve only got 4 or 5 out of 10 answers down. The teacher tells the rest of the class to be quiet when they get rowdy and restless, because you’re not finished your test yet.
Even though the rest of the class is constantly poking fun at you, you still lend them your pencil or your pen or your eraser when they ask. You just want to fit in– you don’t say anything bad about anyone, and you try to smile whenever you can. Your name is Lisa, you are ten years old. You are a student in my Junior 1 class.
And it happens one day that there’s crackdown– the whole class, being full of ten year olds, is totally out of control and as a means of disciplining the kids, the teacher puts in a rule that anyone who scores less than 7 on a very easy vocabulary test is going to have to go to the counter and speak to the counselor (the equivalent of being sent to the principle’s office in Western schools). Sessions with the counselor are usually brutal, and leave lasting impressions on children– they’re often up to five minutes of the hotseat.
So on this particular day, anyone who gets less than 7 is going to the counter to be asked “why are you here?” The teacher [I, Jinryu], is doing this because in less than a week level tests will begin. While it may seem difficult to set a 70% passing average, the fact is that all the words on the vocabulary test are reviewed in class as we read the story, and just prior to the test, I put all the words and definintions on the board. It is very easy to get 10 on 10, if you’re paying attention. Many kids can and do. But sometimes, they don’t.
Let’s get back to the first person. I don’t care if kids don’t like me. The fact is, almost none of them hate me– I have a 99% success ratio, in that department, in the sense that perhaps 25% of them are indifferent, and 74% of them like me. The remaining 1% though, they jump in and out with their loyalties.
The only thing I ask is that they don’t waste their opportunity. I mean that, really. I will fight with kids, sometimes literally, and I don’t mind taking the extra hits if in some way it gets them motivated to pay attention to their work more.
The second thing is that they don’t ruin an opportunity for anyone else.
Being a student in my class costs upwards of 2500$ USD/CAD per month, for 6 hours of instruction per week. It is not cheap. Especially considering that the minimum wage in Korea is about 3.50$ per hour, you get an idea of the standard of living and how much these kids’ parents are paying, perhaps even risking, by sending them to my classrooms.
But it has nothing to do with the parents really. Whether the parent genuinely wants their kids to learn english, or if they’re treating my classroom like a high class babysitter, it doesn’t matter to me– the kids get the same treatment. You walk in the door, you speak only English, and you do your best.
On the day when I set the 70% bar on my vocabulary test, Lisa failed. She got a 5. It’s not that bad, all things considered– she usually gets between 5 and 8 on her tests, simply because I don’t have enough class time to give her to finish since she takes more time than other kids. Out of principle, she was sent to the counter, along with 6 out of 13 of my other students who didn’t make the cut. In my note to the counselor, I mentioned that Lisa was the only one of the bunch who was genuinely struggling. “Please be lenient with her, I am only sending her with the same group to maintain fairness but really, she is already trying her hardest to ignore the others who are troublemakers.”
When Lisa came back from the counselors to my classroom, she was crying.
And she was crucified for it by the others. The basic order of events is the other girls, even if they cried (and they all did), managed to dry up their tears before coming back into class. Since Lisa was the only one who came into class crying, they made fun of her for it.
And suddenly, a week later, I intercept five pages of looseleaf of letters in Korean. Most of the girls in class are writing notes to her. I can’t read it, so I bring these notes to my S5 class of seniors. Foremerly, the S5 class was the biggest group of delinquints– but now, they’re like my rogue squadron, a bunch of hard criminals who have turned to my side. I ask them for translations, and they spare me no details.
They explain the letters of my Junior 1 class in as much detail as they can. Five pages, four of my S5 students on the board, each one translating one page of the messages into english. By the end of it, 20 minutes later, they’re walking me through an explanation of a 6×20 foot board full of swear words, threats, and insults.
All directed at one little girl.
In the letters, they give her a list of 11 things to do to stay out of their way. Among them, Lisa isn’t allowed to answer any of my questions in class, or go to the board to write any of her answers; this explains why Lisa has lately not been involved in any of the classwork. They also challenged her to fights. There’s a list, petition style, of girls who don’t like Lisa and reasons why. They accuse her of being a rat, a weasel, and they pepper the pages with swearwords.
My Senior 5 codebreaks add that many of the swearwords are even misspelt, which suggests that though they are so young that they can’t even spell in Korean properly, they are certainly old enough to be totally monstrous to Lisa.
“Teacher,” Brian, says one of my S5 kids, “Lisa is in much unhappy. It says here, ‘my heart is very weakened, not good and sad, because of hating. I is no want to fight.’ Teacher, she sounds very sad. Many bad things messages in, teacher, many bad words that no english meaning.
How does this story end?
Since I only had the translations done at the end of my last class yesterday, I need to talk to my counselors once they get in. Updates will follow.
It’s saturday, but there is a remedial class today. The Junior 1 class is my first class.