The Things My Students Think I Don’t See

Teaching is 50% preparation, 50% stand-up comedy. 

I think someone gave me that little turn of phrase at the truncated training sessions all the new teachers in the private school company I now work for had to attend about a month ago. Someone must have complained that they were not adequately prepared for life and teaching in Korea, because otherwise no one would make us sit through two hours of “cultural lessons” on where to sit on the subway and other things that one would be able to figure out alone rather easily.

I’m inclined to believe that the ratio is closer to 50% preparation and 50% observation. My students are caught in the dream (to which I was once party) of thinking that the teacher is somehow blinded by adulthood. They rely often on the tiny bubble of space around themselves, and think that I don’t see the hilarious things that they do in class.

Here’s a short list of the things my students thought I didn’t see this week.

The magnifying glass, larger than a silver dollar, passed between friends to focus light, ostensibly in a desperate attempt to set their reading textbook alight.

The bits of eraser thrown at each other’s heads. Especially the piece left sticking to her cheek like a green pimple.

The wild dancing feet under the table. She’s obviously hearing music fit for shuffling despite the relative silence in the room.

The one sentence summary telling me that the story is stupid and not worth reading, quickly erased when she realizes that this is in fact a graded assignment. 

The absentminded braiding of her own hair for five minutes, nothing written on the page that I’ve just written out on the board.

The sweeping glances at the clock in the middle of class.

The army of a hundred “POOP”s written in Korean all over the desks of three of my students.

The texting under the desk, despite the fact that their phones must definitely not be in their hands but in the box at the front of the room labeled with our classroom number.

The in-fighting between the seven year old girls, who think I can’t hear them sniping at one another in Korean.

The cough into his hand, look of surprise, and subsequent slurping up of the lugie thrown therein by his sneeze.

Much of this observed behavior I let slide as if it didn’t happen, with the exception of those behaviors that prevent working in the book and the ones that might land my butt in trouble (zero tolerance for texting). I don’t want to burst their little bubbles, since part of the wonder of being a child is thinking that you can get away with anything and that you’re cleverer than adults. Let them be silly kids a little longer.

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Classroom Miracles, Korea

One Comment

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  1. myfriendmissmiller 31 March 2012 — 12:59 AM

    What you are writing about is the EXACT reason I started my blog. Kids are seriously hilarious. And you’re right, so often they think we are these big giant adults and really, I look at myself as a kid more often than not. Stand-up comedian? Yeah, I do that a lot. I teach ESL in America and most of the time I’m making jokes and laughing at them myself. But hey… we have a tough job, we’ve got to get some entertainment somehow. 🙂

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