Towards the end of my Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have a double dose of middle schoolers. The first dose is the worst part of my week. It's a class of three girls and three boys: two of the boys are too cool for studying, and the third is a good student but succumbs to the peer pressure of dicking around with his friends rather than, you know, trying to learn.
The girls are all quiet. One of them is new—just started today new—so I can't blame her much. One of the girls seems to have a questionable grasp of English compared to her classmates, so again, I can't find it in my heart to get pissed off about her. And the last one speaks really good English and makes an effort, but I think the atmosphere of the boys' indifference and the other girl's inability is just so soporific that she can't even be bothered.
But this isn't a post about that class, except to say it's physically and mentally exhausting and every time I leave I wish I had some soju to take the edge off.*
Contrast this with the class immediately following, which is thankfully twice as long.
There are just two students** in this one: Annie and Kristin, both of whom are sweethearts. Annie will get a profile entry later on, as well. I ask them how their weekends were (on Tuesdays) or what they'll do on the weekend (on Thursdays) and they give me answers. If they're not doing anything special, they'll at least complain in English about how they have to do homework.
Kristin's English is at a higher level than Annie's. They are both in the advanced class, but Kristin graduated because she did well on the level test. Annie is in the advanced class because her mother mother complained to the hagwon that she's been at the school so long, she SHOULD be in the advanced class.
She is quiet and exceedingly curious. At least, she is really good at thinking up questions to ask me to avoid studying—and I'm all too happy to field them and go off on a tangent because as far as I'm concerned, they're in my class to practice speaking, not to mindlessly plow through their book. Sometimes the textbook has really great discussion topics (CSI! organic food! New York City!); sometimes they're awful (franchises! India's economy! aging populations!). So we've talked about American food and how it's different from Korean food, popular English names, movies, and so forth.
Aside about the names: I looked up the popular baby names on the Internet (their classroom has Internet connectivity) and topping of the boy and girl lists were Jacob and Isabella, respectively. I died a little on the inside, but then asked her why these names were popular.
"Is it a movie?"
"A movie, and a book. You definitely know it. They're very popular in Korea."
"....Ah! Twilight! 'Isabella' is 'Bella'?"
"You got it."
"Where is Edward?"
Edward did not place anywhere in the top, thank God. I double checked.
"Nope, no Edward."
"Why no Edward?"
"I guess...Edward is a very old name. It sounds like a grandfather name. So, even if everyone loves Edward, the name is still too old to use."
Whenever I show videos in class, Kristin (and Annie, as well) is interested and entertained. She laughs and verbally reacts to things: "Oh, wow!" "Ah!!" "Oh my God!" I show the same video in the middle school class just to break up the monotony and I'm lucky if I even get an appreciative "huh."
I guess the best way to put it is that Kristin doesn't seem to have acquired the world-weary teenagerly cynicism that middle and high school students all over the world are famous for. There's still things in the world that hold wonder and amazement and humor for her. It's refreshing to talk to someone over the age of ten with that kind of attitude. That's why Tuesdays and Thursdays, while in some ways are my most stressful days, are also my favorite.
*And I don't know, maybe it makes me a bad teacher, but I go in every class smiling and cheerful and asking about weekends and I'm met with dead air. It's not like I'm not trying, or that I don't care. Maybe I'm just an awful teacher who doesn't realize she's awful.
**If it sounds like my classes are ridiculously small, this two-student class is a weird aberration and the only one of its kind. I also have classes near the typical hagwon maximum of twelve or thirteen, so it's really all over the board. Offhand I would say the average is about six.
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