Each day I teach a different first grade class. They all have a different collective personality, but the Friday class usually gives me the most trouble.
Once I asked them all to put their hands on their heads, and out of nowhere they all shouted, “No!” and looked at me defiantly.
I don’t think it helps that their teacher usually skips out of the classroom for the duration of English class, which she did again two weeks ago.
The teachers aren’t expected to do anything besides be present in the room, in the event of an emergency. I usually don’t mind that she’s gone, except for this day.
The kids were busy coloring their ‘V’ worksheets, drawing volcanoes made out of dong (basically, poo – a popular element to incorporate into any drawing), when several kids pointed in the back corner and squealed.
A girl had her hand clamped to her mouth, head bent to the desk. I realized that liquid Vomit was oozing through her little fingers, all over her Volcano, Vacuum, Violin and Van. Her desk partner pinched her nose shut and was saying, “eeewwww,” a word that translates over several languages. All of the other kids joined in, standing and pointing.
“Eeewwww, teacher. Eeeewww.”
The sick girl started to cry and vomit simultaneously.
“It’s ok,” I said, kicking into a teacher crisis mode that I wasn’t aware I possessed. I spotted a roll of toilet paper attached to the wall by the door.
“An ja!” I bellowed. I didn’t even realize I knew how to say “sit down” in Korean, but it worked. “Color your Vs!” Everyone returned to their worksheets, sneaking glances in the corner whenever possible.
“Here you go,” I said, wiping her hands and mouth. I folded up the soiled worksheet (Vomit begins with V! Can you say Vomit?) and dropped it in the trash, which I fervently hoped would go out that afternoon.
“Wha jung shil,” I said. “Go. Bathroom. Now.”
She scampered away.
When she returned, I gave her a new worksheet and all seemed to be well.
Until the kids were putting their pages away in their folders against the back wall.
I heard a scream and looked up just in time to see a little boy execute a flailing kick, right in the sick girl’s face.
“Front of the room,” I shouted. “Arms up in the air. Now!”
He understood me perfectly, and spent the next five minutes reaching for the sky as the rest of the kids watched Gogo (cartoon series about a small red British dragon who allegedly loves English).
The teacher returned to a child crying, another child being punished, and a host of kids who couldn’t wait to tell her what had happened.
I wasn’t surprised when she stayed in the classroom the following week.
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Today’s photo is an old one – this was taken after judging the English competition semi-finals in September. It seems that smiling is not encouraged during official photographs.