The tides are turning, and skinship is finally making a reappearance after a long drought in contact-free corona times. As you probably know by now, Korean society is generally much more touchy among people familiar with each other.
In between fifth grade classes, one homeroom teacher in the lounge exclaimed something at me in delight, and not knowing what she was talking about, I looked to the other teacher in confusion who simply watched as I was bodily guided to class.
“It’s time for English class, let’s go together!” My captor said.
I love spending time with my students and don’t have Sunday blues because I look forward to seeing them again. 5-2 taught me that Korean also has two words for bathroom and restroom which veered into a small tangent about the American dialect.
“America has a dialect?” One boy asked, one boy who strongly resembles Seventeen Fan from Seoul. At least, above the mask and in his mannerisms.
“Yes, there’s American dialect, UK dialect, Australian dialect…” I started and he murmured in amazement. Maybe that can be our intro video for next week.
Two girls in 5-4 chatted with me in English in the hall before class started. One took the glasses from her friend and attempted to put them on me whilst saying I’d look like a college professor. The girls all enjoyed my pink look today– pink collared shirt under a white scoop necked long sleeve shirt and pink structured coat. She gave up on completing my look when the glasses ended up in my ears rather than atop them. Soon both girls pulled me into class citing the time.
For every fifth grade class I demonstrated our “May I?” sentence pattern by asking different students for things: may I sit here? May I have your pencil case? May I take your notebook? I ended up like a queen in one class, a pile of stolen items in my new throne. They found it amusing and it got the point across, double win!
As the lunch hour started, one boy in the cafeteria line waved and said hello but I saw a flash of red.
“What’s on your hand?” I asked. He flipped his hands over in confusion so I gently took his right hand and pointed.
“Oh…” He mumbled in sudden shyness. There were notes written in red. He didn’t have time to explain as the lunch line was pulled along.
After lunch Jack and I were walking up the outdoor stairs when I spotted some fourth graders on the pavement. I complimented one girl’s floral print dress and another boy nearer to me ran to the stairs to yell my name.
As I stood on the landing, he reached above himself and out to me so I caught his hand. He hung off of it pretending as though I was saving him form falling. The girl in the flower dress and her friend, not to miss out on the fun, also came over to reach for my other hand. For a moment I was bent over the metal railing with three kids hanging off of me as though I was a singer reaching down into the crowd. To feel their sweet little touch—I’ve missed it so much! Even at the cost of my slightly crushed stomach.
The reality was right after I thought: I guess I should wash my hands because of COVID. There are so many times I hesitate in being affectionate because one of many terrible things about this pandemic is having to distance ourselves from others.
I walked back to the office with cleaned hands and intercepted some more students who wanted to say hi.
I asked Helen what part of the lesson I should focus on next week which is our usual plan. She teaches two of the theee weekly sixth grade English classes.
She asked that I complete a writing portion of the textbook which was a bit surprising as I usually leave book work to her and focus on speaking or writing activities separate from the text.
“I started it this week but couldn’t finish. Students had to write about their own experiences being sick but they were asking me about 탈수 and 폐렴. I didn’t know those words in English. I had to stall and pretend.” She explained.
“I was so embarrassed, as the English teacher I should know.”
I assured her it’s difficult to know medical terms like dehydration and pneumonia off the top of your head, but ultimately our thinking is different.
I don’t mind if the students know I’m wrong or can be wrong, so long as we maintain respect for each other. I ask the students all the time for Korean help, and they know I search on the internet for translations if I can’t answer their questions. I hope they know we can learn together… and I do regularly ask them to teach me when I have Korean knowledge gaps in class. Free tutoring!
And thus, it was a very good Friday.