Sluggish Friday and the Best Use for a Pencil Case

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It’s pretty rare for me to post twice in two days as still can’t quite shake my University established ‘writing = work’ ethos despite graduating 3 years ago. Consider this a minor blip owing to surreal circumstances.

My final lesson of the week is a 3rd grade class I haven’t seen for two weeks owing to the aforementioned crazy timetabling. As per usual they were introverted beyond help, unwilling to participate and (if I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt) nervous to speak english to me for fear of making mistakes. Coupled with it being the 6th period of Busan’s most beautiful day so far, I hardly need tell you it was slow going. I ploughed through the lesson regardless, trying to con them into speaking english whenever possible and making do with the few broken phrases they were offering up, checking the clock with increasing suspicion as time stubbornly refused to advance. Even after the mid-term review, two games of Battleship and a confusing digression I think was something to do with the students’ hilarious nicknames (‘White Tiger’ and ‘Big Show’…the latter being the most accurate) I had 8 minutes to kill, and very little to accomplish. As I considered taking the fidgety, disgruntled buggers for another trip down vocab memory lane, my co-teacher saved me in the least expected way possible.

“This is ______’s * class?” she said, eyeing the register. They all nodded and stared toward one student in the second row…I hope I never need them to cover for me, they’re bloody awful at it. I looked over at the boy in question, who I don’t think had spoken more than a word for the entire lesson. He looked resigned rather than worried, and afterwards I suspected that he knew what was coming all along. “He is a very good singer” my co-teacher told me, as if no further explanation was necessary. She began to clap and chant something in Korean, which was quickly adopted by the 39 students who weren’t the boy in question. He looked suitably embarrassed and my English aversion to any kind of awkward social situation began to battle with my curiosity as to what would happen next. To my surprise, the latter won out and I found myself clapping too. Eventually my co-teacher offered him five extra ‘well done’ stamps for obliging, which I would have found to be a flagrant mockery of the entire reward system if I wasn’t so curious to see what he’d do. Was this normal? Was it a common occurrence for talented children to be bribed and shown off in front of the others? Will they be bullied or revered for it??

* [insert Korean student's name here]

I soon realised that my concerns were unnecessary. Having secured his stamps, the Chosen One marched to the front of the classroom (nobody had demanded he do this) and launched into a phonetic rendition of Ne-Yo’s ‘So Sick’, which he sang into the pencil case he had decided to bring with him. It was during the second verse and approximately his 75th K-Pop hair flick that it dawned on me: I need to start bringing a camera to class.


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