Sometimes I get angry at the kids. Real angry.
In my head.
It’s the kind of anger that builds over a series of days, until every little thing pisses me off.
A 6th grade girl showed up in a t-shirt that said ‘Pure F*ckin’ Canadian.’ On the back it says ‘Made in Italy.’ She wears it two days in a row. Who prints these shirts in child sizes? What does the parent think it says? Why did she wear it two days in a row? My anger starts to boil. The third day, a different girl walked in wearing a shirt that said ‘BEAUTY. Start wearing makeup and see what it is to be a real woman.’
Yun-Seo walks into my after school class eating a lime popsicle. She gets a droplet of lime juice on the yogurt card from my carefully laminated food memory game. I consider kicking her out of class.
My co-teacher asks a child to choose a number for the game we are playing. The student responds in Korean. This is ENGLISH CLASS, dammit! Just say FOUR! I know you know the word FOUR!
Class runs late. The kids for the next class are clamoring outside. I can see one boy’s messy hair and thick rimmed glasses as he peers over the cloudy part of the glass in the door. It infuriates me. Just step back! STEP BACK AND WAIT, YOU NOSY, IRRITATING CHILD! When class ends, the kids outside the door try to push their way in as the kids inside try to push their way out. It makes me want to punch someone in the glasses.
I tell the kids, during their spelling test, to make sure they put a period or question mark at the end of every sentence. My co-teacher repeats the instructions in Korean. I draw a period in the air, followed by a question mark. The students nod their heads in comprehension.
The first test I mark – the kid has put a giant, lead-ground-into-paper period after every stand-alone word.
etcetera, until we get to the sentences, #8-10, which are completely punctuation-free.
I know they’re just kids. It’s not really their fault. But that doesn’t change the way I feel.
Yesterday I was doing my normal ‘greet the class’ song-and-dance routine. It usually goes something like this:
Me: Goooooood morning!
Class: (monotone) Goodmorningteacher.
Me: How’s it going?
Me: (slowly) How. are. you.
Class: I’m fine/I’m so-so/I’m angry
Me: Are you hungry?
Class: (lively chorus) YES!
Me: You should eat breakfast. So, what’s the date today? (pointing directly at date on calendar)
etc, etc, etc.
There are always kids that ignore me completely and continue talking. This annoys me, but I can usually let it go. Yesterday, I stopped talking and stared at the offenders.
The rest of the class fell semi-silent and stared at the two boys, one of whom was completely turned around in his seat, flicking the other boy on the forehead.
It was time to pull out the big guns.
This is the magic word for getting Korean kids’ attention. I use it rarely so as not to abuse its power.
The class froze. The two boys spun forward and sat ram-rod straight. Terror rippled through the room.
I reveled in my newfound control of the classroom. I glared at them all individually, arms folded across my chest. This is how it should be. Man, power feels good.
Then I heard a giggle from the middle of the room. It was Da-Hun, a good-natured kid who has no interest in learning English. His giggle was infectious, and soon the entire class was laughing. I laughed, too, but it was through clenched teeth.
My only weapon, lost forever.