Saturday, February 11, 2012

Student Profile: Minsoo

This is one I've been meaning to write up for a while, but I've always put it off for whatever reason. Which is silly, because Minsoo is a student I want to remember forever. Of course, I think I'd have a hard time forgetting him, but it's surprising and scary what you can forget, so here goes.

Minsoo is not a student I have now. He was in my kindergarten homeroom when I worked at Cassandra Academy, and my first day was his first or second day in the school, so we both were kind of flying blind at the same time.

At first, I had no idea what to do with him because he was so fantastically hyperactive compared to the other children in the class. My foreign partner teacher and I both agreed he was a bit weird. This is the same class as Jaymon and everyone who taught this class agreed that they were the best ever. But Minsoo is definitely the most high-strung of the bunch, forever out of his seat and sometimes incredibly temperamental. Early on I handed back work the rest of the class had done with their old homeroom teacher. Naturally, Minsoo wasn't there, so he didn't get a paper back, and this brought him to tears. Even when I let the kids break the cardinal rule of  "No Korean at Cassandra" to explain to him that this was work they did before he joined, he still wasn't okay.

The next day, of course, he had completely forgotten.

I can't say exactly when I hit a turning point, but eventually he rose to be my favorite in the class (though they were all an adorable bunch that I miss dearly even now). Beneath the spastic energy there was a very sharp and perceptive mind going on. They were all pretty smart kids and, for the most part, quick learners, but Minsoo was easily the quickest. He'd pick up on new vocabulary words almost instantly, or even words I just used a lot. ("Clever boy!" he especially liked to repeat.) He and Jaymon used to have discussions, in English, about dinosaurs. Which one were the biggest, which ones could fly, and so forth. He eventually got to be pages ahead of his classmates in their math textbook and was always the first to finish worksheets—this I dealt with by having him copy his work over again neatly, or just having him flip papers over and draw dinosaurs.

"That's awesome work, Minsoo! Can you draw me a dinosaur now?"


 Dinosaurs were Minsoo's favorite thing, and he absolutely loved drawing pictures of them and labeling them and telling me all about them. I kept one of those drawings, laminated it (company time and resources, natch), and I have it taped on the wall of my new apartment.

Yeah, sometimes I'm a lazy teacher.

Or sometimes he'd jump out of his seat and, while I was squatting and helping another student with their work, latch himself on to my back.

"Back hug!"

My Korean partner teacher came to me towards the end of my tenure and said I might have to be a little more strict with Minsoo, as parent teacher conferences were coming up and neither of us wanted a breakdown or anything like he sometimes had (in his other class, he hit his teacher with a pencil and then refused to apologize, meaning a conference with the Korean teacher).

"He likes you a lot, maybe too much. He thinks you are like his mother."

(Aside: just goes to show how great the communication is at Cassandra: this was mere days before I was leaving and my Korean partner teacher HAD NO IDEA I had quit. I managed to get away without having any parent teacher conferences at all, mwuahaha.)

The last day with my kindergarten kids was fun, though a bit sad. Minsoo didn't really process that I was leaving until his other foreign kindergarten teacher showed up, and then (according to her) his face just fell. During the break before the last kindergarten class of the day, he came to the teacher's room to bring me a pencil I had forgotten in class. For a moment, he didn't move: he just stood in the doorway and started sniffling. Everyone's heart broke a little bit, seeing that.

"Aw, Minsoo my boy, come here." He bolted and almost knocked me over with the force of his hug. I gave him a good squeeze.

"Shh, I'll come visit you guys during lunchtime, I'm not gone yet."

I came to visit and sing and play with them one last time, before they left for the day and a new teacher took over on Monday.

The whole class and I, being silly on my last day.

And the man himself.

The teacher who replaced me also is leaving early, but she waited until "graduation" so that she could see this class off until the end. She also got really attached to them, which is easy because they're sweet and smart and adorable. I hope she had as much fun with them as I did.

I worry about Minsoo, and what will happen to him: whether his hyperactive and highly-sensitive nature is just him being young, or if it's something more permanent to his psyche. He's obviously incredibly smart, but—like Travis, though perhaps not as severely—very sensitive and just different as well. I hope he's always as curious and as unflappable for his future teachers as he was for me.

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