Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Student Profile: Min-ji

One of the things that's been interesting as a teacher is the necessary role-reversal involved (because after all, I had teachers once) and wondering back to my own experiences and pet peeves.

The biggest pet peeve I had as far as school and learning went, which extended all the way through college, was the teacher's expectation that we "participate in class discussion" or otherwise give signs that we were sparkling examples of wit and charm and panache. I am not really any of those things and always resented this (perceived) demand that I somehow perform or prove my worth as a student; it irked me that peers who I knew were less intelligent and less worthy of accolade nonetheless always seemed to be singled out for merit just because they couldn't shut up.

I may or may not have been an asshole. I may or may not still be an asshole.

Now I find myself in the teaching position, and face to face with this reality of "students who don't talk" scenario. Of course, there are significant differences: I'm not teaching in the students' native language, nor do I see them every day (and for hours on end, in the case of the little ones). And the very subject I'm teaching is based, a lot, in verbal communication and, y'know, talking.

Needless to say, I always feel a little guilty about how much I like Min-ji because I feel like she is the kind of student I would have greatly resented when I was her age. She is like a domineering whirlwind of ideas and opinions, and she volunteers so many answers that when I occasionally make a point of calling on other, quieter students, she gets incredibly impatient.

"Teacher, why Angela? Me, me!"

As a grown, adult version of myself, though, I like her. She is bossy, sometimes, but it's an exuberant sort of "I think this will be fun!" bossy rather than a "I like getting my way no matter what" bossy. She's a good student and ultimately defers to whatever I decide to do, should it conflict with her suggestion (which is invariably, "Let's play a game!"). She's also not above playing harmless jokes on her friends, to get a laugh out of both parties involved, and quick to apologize if it goes awry.

In elementary school, Korean girls are (generally) just as feisty and aggressive and un-self conscious as the boys; somehow, by the time they get to middle school, many of them morph into these wilting, passive, giggling things. (Maybe this is true for American girls as well, but I haven't worked with enough of them over the long term to make any worthwhile observations.) The body image issues and self-loathing also seem to start then, which puts Korean girls right in step with their American peers. Even a tad behind (or ahead?), when you read stories about American elementary school girls on diets or with eating disorders.

Min-ji, however, gives no shits. For example, compare and contrast the following two conversations I had right after the new year:

Conversation Number One
Me: "How was your new year? Did you eat a lot of ddeok guk?"

Emma: "No."

Me: "Why not?"

Emma: "Diet."

Conversation Number Two

Me: "How was your new year? Did you eat a lot of ddeok guk?"

Min-ji: "It was very good! I ate lots of ddeok guk, and [enumerates the vast menu of food she consumed over the weekend]. I am having a growth period, so I eat a lot. One weekend, I grow two centimeters!"

I also admit that I have a soft spot in my heart for Korean kids who don't go for the whole "English name" bullshit (because it is bullshit), and who are good at English. Min-ji is both of these things. She also just joined a class that is typically dominated by a spoiled and sullen boy student, so I'm looking forward to her (hopefully) taking the piss out of him.

1 comment:

  1. I really, really like reading these student profiles ... :-) more, please