The best blessing of working in a high school is the daily interactions with my students. Many can hold great conversations. Other times, hilarity and absurdity reign supreme.
Note: I don’t give my students English names, but I changed their names for the sake of anonymity (and because it’s fun).
Two students work on a writing assignment in an after-school class.
Danica: Ian teacher, what is different between Korean girls and California girls?
Ian: Uh…well for one many California women wear tank tops and show their shoulders. I don’t see many Korean women showing their shoulders.
Danica: It’s true. If a Korean woman wears a tank top, old people will stare at them and judge.
Paula: One day I want to go to America and wear a tank top.
I can’t blame her for this lofty dream. California girls are truly unforgettable – with their daisy dukes and bikinis on top.
It also highlights an interesting double-standard in Korean women’s fashion. Women wear some of the shortest skirts and shorts I’ve ever seen. But God forbid if they flash some shoulder. Sleeves are a must but show as much leg as you want.
Two students play a question game. This is a back-and-forth game where participants can ask nothing but questions.
Mark: What is today?
Kevin: How is the weather?
Mark: Who is your mother?
Kevin: Why are you so ugly?
Mark: How is your skin so black?
Kevin: Why don’t you have a girlfriend?
I should have known that a competitive question game would devolve into antagonism and downright savagery. I should have known.
How about more polite questions like “How is your day?” or “What time do you wake up?”
No. Questions like “Why do you live?” and “Who is your father?” ruled the day.
Ian passes two students in Namak. Ian wears a cutoff t-shirt en route to the gym.
Emily: Wow. Your body is nice.
Ian: Oh. Thank you?
Emily: Why do you have no sleeves?
Ian: I cut them off.
Ian: Because my arms are more free. I can move more easily.
Emily: Ian Teacher. Sexy boy.
Students can call me handsome all they want. Guys do it. Girls do it. It’s quite flattering and good for the ego (sometimes too good). But sexy is where I draw the line. Not cool.
Ian watches a volleyball game in the gymnasium. Two students sit next to him.
Jennifer: Ian! Who do you like more? Me or Patricia?
Patricia: He likes me more. I-, I-
Jennifer: No. She is a liar. Patricia is stupid.
Ian: Well that’s mean.
Patricia: No. You like me more. I am English level A. Jennifer is English level B.
Jennifer: Yeah but in math, I am level B and Patricia is level C.
Ian: It’s a tie. I like you both.
Competition and Korea go together like apple pie and the 4th of July. Did they really think their relative English levels would make or break my opinions of them? How shallow do they think I am?
Two students enter class early and introduce themselves.
Erica: Ian Teacher! My name is Erica and her name is Jumbo.
Erica: Yeah. Like the elephant.
Tiffany: My name is Tiffany!
Ian: Okay. I will call you Tiffany.
Student nicknames here are pure savagery. I’ve heard several students called “pig.” I’ve heard another student nicknamed “mosquito.” One student once told me “Melanie is a sweet potato.” The sad thing is when I look at Melanie I can’t unsee it now.
6 students share their groups’ responses in a fill-in-the-blank assignment. “Despite ______ he ate the whole cake.”
George: Despite the cake falling in the toilet, he ate the whole cake.
Hayley: Oh! Dirty! Dirty!
Hayley’s turn arrives.
Hayley: Despite the cake being made of poo, he ate the whole cake.
6 Different Students: Wow! So dirty! Dirty!
What can I say? She who lives in a glass house should not throw shitty stones.
Ian chats with two students before class.
Jordan: Ian, do you eat McDonalds. in the U.S.A.?
Taylor: Did you eat a Big Mac?
Ian: Yes, I’ve eaten a Big Mac
Jordan and Taylor: Whoa!
Taylor: What about the Shanghai Burger?
Ian: There is no Shanghai Burger at American McDonalds.
Jordan and Taylor: What!?
It didn’t stop there. They went on to ask me if we had Burger King and Baskin Robbins in the U.S. Thank God us foreign teachers are here to set the record straight.
Ian leads an activity in which groups of students prepare responses in the past progressive.
Ian: Okay! Number 3. Why are your hands so dirty?
Ian monitors the room and notices one group’s answer.
Ian: I was power handling for a long time? What is power handling?
Students snicker as Jeff makes a hand motion mimicking male self-gratification.
Ian: Oh, God.
The answer and gesture pique the interest of Sarah, Ian’s co-teacher.
Sarah: What is that?
Ian: Power handling.
Sarah: Power handling? What is he shaking?
Jeff: A cocktail!
I wish this happened in Hayley’s class. “Dirty! Dirty!”
I don’t know where my students come up with this stuff, but I love it. Every day of work is a blessing because my students never fail to surprise me. Their creativity and humor make my job more fun than I could have ever hoped for.
Now if you excuse me, I must power handle for a minute.