An aspect of teaching that’s been tricky for me is making the transition from the schoolboy who laughed at everyone (yes, EVERYONE, and this has been proven) to occasionally being laughed at by my students. Often, for no apparent reason. Some of them laugh their heads off when i say “hello”. A lot of my students simply find it hilarious that a guy of my epic proportions is teaching at their school in Korea. To put it in perspective, it’s akin to Hulk Hogan walking into your middle school to teach French. It’s a reality show without cameras. I am a sort of D-list celebrity around school and thats not a good thing. Two months in, the staff marvels at how the students still seem amazed everyday to see me walking down the halls. Kids routinely scream “Hello Seed-a teacher!!” as i walk to the bathroom. AND the same kids yell it on my way out. I wonder about them sometimes. They see me on the street , walking to school, and they are shocked every time despite me taking this road everyday. In fact, this experience has given me a tiny inkling of what it would be like to be a celebrity. I think it would suck. Of course, the money would be nice but still I can say firsthand that having all eyes on you gets tiresome sometimes. Well, for me anyway.
Either way, back to the question of laughing. My entire life i have valued laughs over anything else. If i stay home and laugh my ass off on the phone and you go to a club and meet the hottest, flirtiest cheerleaders around, I will still feel i had the better night because odds are i had more laughs than you that day. (I’ve been told that’s lame already) Still, nothing drives me crazy like students laughing in my classes. I try to pull the old “Share the joke with the class” thing but they can’t explain it in English and it’s even worse when they do so in Korean, the entire class starts laughing and i still have no idea what the joke is.
One day, I was pointing at a photo in our textbook of a boy handing a girl a book. I asked out loud “What is he giving her?” A 7th grade boy who is particularly loud and goofy yelled out something in Korean and laughed. He began to laugh and not knowing any better, so did I. Then, the entire class erupted into laughs. I thought “wow, this is what it’s about. We’re all learning and laughing. This is what education is about.”
However. Then. My co-teacher walks up to me and whispers “He said “Penis”.” Good one, lil buddy. You made a dick joke in class and got teacher to laugh at it. Kudos. It was way too late so i just let it go. Needless to say , that class thinks seed-a teacher is so down.
A few days later, i had a fun run-in with a particularly annoying student. From week one till now, roughly week 7 or so, everytime i look up at this kid, he is cracking up. He is just always giggling away and burying his face in his chest when i look at him. I’ve probably checked to see if my fly is open in class about four times because of this joker. So, yesterday..two minutes into class…i look at him and he is laughing hysterically and he looks down at his book as if he is reading. Still, knowing all the angles, I see he can’t keep his head still because of the violent laughter consuming him. I call on him and he just bursts out. Ha Ha Pal. I kick him out of class. The entire class is a little surprised because I haven’t even begun class yet. haha that was funny to me. So, I go out fifteen minutes later and i say to him “Okay, just tell me what’s so funny and i’ll let you in.” He says “sorry”. I say i don’t care about sorry, i just want to know the joke. Part of this is that i really really want to know the joke. I could use a laugh, you know? Finally, my co-teacher comes out and i tell her i won’t let him in until he tells me the joke. She looked surprised but played along. She tells him what i said and he replies. She just starts laughing. Exasperated, i say “WHAT DID HE SAY!!??”
She tells me. He said ‘I’m just a happy person. I love to laugh.”
Well, i had to let him go. That’s the best answer he could have given me. Why? Cos i’ve used that answer with my teachers and it was true when i said it. Nobody ever believed me but it’s true. When you like to laugh, sometimes you don’t need much of a reason. The smallest things set you off. If he’s like that, i give him props. Cos the world needs more people like that. And he is seriously laughing so much, there cannot be that many funny things going on.
So, after that I began to think I shouldn’t care if these guys are laughing in class. I really don’t want to be the guy who tells them not to laugh. Still, i had to swallow my pride a bit to let these guys chuckle away class after class. They might be laughing at me cos I KNOW they aren’t laughing with me. Still, I let them because i like the vibe better than if we are all serious. And, also they respond to me a lot better if I laugh with them. Later that week, i was mid-lesson when i noticed the boys in the front row all huddled over the worksheet i gave them. Problem was they were having way too good a time. I walked up to them and saw a curious drawing. Lo and behold, here was a pig standing up on it’s hind legs and it had thick, black, curly hair on it’s head. As far as caricutures go, it was an A. However, for a split second, i wondered how to handle this. Then, i had my first genius move as a teacher. I proceeded to “help” them with the worksheet and ignored their drawing. Literally, i wrote down notes and answers all over the paper while they squirmed and kept looking at each other nervously. I approached the drawing and wrote all around it while acting like i didn’t know it was supposed to be me. I did this for about ten solid minutes and one kid looked like he was about to faint. Probably, because another teacher would have given them a beating. I kept smiling really cheesy smiles and asking them for answers while they prayed i would just go away before seeing it. It was just heavenly. I got such a kick out of it that i hope it happens again. Soon.
So, turning the corner and realizing i don’t want to be too controlling has been great. The only negative aspect is feeling like i’m not in control, that maybe i don’t have their respect. Well, then came sports day. About 50 parents and teachers lined up for the tug-of-war and then my supervisor came up to me as i was taking pictures and told me to get out there. As i walked out, hundreds of students on both sides of the field started chanting my name. ‘SEED-A!! SEED-A!!” It meant a lot to me that they cared enough to do that. That’s never happened to me before and it won’t happen again. I felt like i have established something with my students, whatever it may be. Tug of War was another crazy story but i’ll leave that for another time…
What I’ve learned is that laughs are always good. If it’s you laughing or getting laughed at. No more penis jokes though.