Noreabang [NRB]

I was recently trying to explain to a friend exactly how amazing Noreabang (pronounced NO-REE-BHAANG) is when he said to me “Yeah, I went to Karaoke night at this pl-” SHUT UP. Don’t even compare the holy grail, the sweetest heaven that is noreabang to your stupid thursday night at T.G.I Friday’s.

Noreabang is a tradition. It is a culture. It is a release.

SINGING SONGS IN A ROOM IS FUN.

It is one of the best things in South Korea and in actuality one of the best things in the UNIVERSE.

Everyone does it in Korea. Drunk English teachers sing their faces off till 6am following a hard night of drinking, blowing off steam so we can teach better come Monday. The hardworking Korean students sing at 4pm in between school and academy. Boys out on the lash. Girl’s night out. Families. Entire school staffs. Drunk ajashis(old dudes).You can’t go wrong, come one, come all.

READ THE WORDS AND SING ALONG. IGNORE THE RANDOM RACING CAR, FIGHT OR SOAP OPERA FOOTAGE THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SONG WHATSOEVER

Noreabang literally translates to “singing room”. They have them all over Korea and elsewhere (I’ve seen a couple in L.A). Instead of going up in front of a whole bar, you enter a private room. They range from cheap and basic rooms to lavish penthouses. The cheap ones usually have a couch, a worn carpet, a crap tambourine and a mic. And they’re still very capable of giving you an unforgettable night. Personally, I love NRB so much that I have no problem coughing up a little more dough for a straight up luxurious experience. Ironically, I usually did this at Luxury, a chain of upscale noreabangs.

LET IT BE

We did it BIG at the Lux. This palace of song spared no expense flying in marble from the Taj Mahal and snacks from the GS25. They also featured huge bay windows overlooking city lights, wall to wall black leather couches, at least 4 tambourines and nice cozy slippers. The message was loud and clear, HEY NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKERS, WE KNOW YOU DIRTY SCUMBAGS DON’T TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES AT YOUR CRAP APARTMENT BUT THIS PLACE IS MUCH NICER SO TAKE THEM OFF AND TRY ON THESE KOREAN LOAFERS and even though my heel stuck out the back of the loafer by about 4 inches…it was comfy as hell son. It really was. The only downside w Luxury was they didn’t allow outside alcohol. I didn’t mind the rule until the one time they enforced it. NOT COOL. I had to take a tambourine home to even the score. Still, they were good people and I remember them fondly. Some people don’t know this but there is an even higher level of NRB. Unfortunately, I never made it there. A friend who shall remain nameless (*DAVE*) told me all about it. At certain noreabangs, guys go in and sit around singing while “helper girls” sit with them, all the while flirting with them,feeding them and pouring drinks into their mouths. (In Dave’s defense, his school took him. Every other day. For a year. He didn’t like it but the culturally sensitive Dave didn’t want to offend anyone.)

DON'T STOP BELIEVING

People approach singing in different ways. It’s fun to see different styles on the mic. Some people just yell every song the same way. Others sing pitch perfect renditions of your favorites. Some are nervous, some are crazy, some are crazier, some are better than others. Some hold back a little and others let it fly. I always loved watching people sing. I really felt it let me know a lot about them, like what songs they liked and how drunk they were. The drunker the better, by the way. THAT IS INDISPUTABLE. For the best and most honest performances, one has to be wasted. Or at least buzzed.

I BELIEVE I CAN FLY.

Americans have football. Brazilians have futbol. Koreans have noreabang. I’ve been stunned by Koreans singing. They’re truly next level. I’ve seen teachers from my school put tissues in their noses and ears and jump around on tables. I’ve heard dudes deliver note perfect renditions of all kinds of English and Korean songs from ballads to rap. However, the all time number one performance I ever heard was my friend Hee Hoon singing “Lately” by Stevie Wonder. He gave me chills, he was that good. It’s not just that he sang it perfectly but he sang it with such overwhelming emotion.  I had never even heard the song till that night but it is one of those things I will never forget. Later on, I would find out that Hee Hoon had been born a poor, blind, black child.

KOREANS BLOW FOREIGNER MINDS AT THE NOREABANG
NICKELBACK.SERIOUSLY. CANADIANS.

The whole thing is about letting loose. When you lose your inhibitions and swing for the fences, it doesn’t get any better. It doesn’t matter what you sound like. And don’t discount the fact that when you go all out with your friends and let it rip on the mic, those are friends for life. It’s like serving in a war together, it’s like winning a championship. That room is the locker room and if you’re in there, you’re part of the team. Now, are you going to pull your weight or are you going to choke? You’ve got to look into that foxhole (couch) next to you and see if that soldier (singer) is locked and loaded (mic + tambourine) and then make a pact that you will be there for each other (band). Trust. Songs. Drunken.

____________________________________________________________

SWEET HOME ALABAMA.
9 TO 5
JANGSU ELEMENTARY SCHOOL FAREWELL PARTY
ONLY HAPPY WHEN I'M NOREABANGIN'

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Dear K

Dear Korea,

I miss Cass. I miss Hite, I even miss O.B. I never thought I would, but I do. I hated O.B but damnit, I miss it now. I guess that’s a “don’t know what you got till it’s gone” situation.  I miss walking everywhere and getting stared at. You really made me feel like a bigshot,  like someone special.  Like a D-list celebrity. Since you’ve been gone, I’ve been wearing ridiculous outfits in a pathetic, desperate plea for attention. Nobody notices. The other day I wore one of those animal winter hat thingys I bought in Bupyeong, hoping it would cause a stir. It was 80 degrees and sunny but no dice. These people are so de-sensitized. My size and stature mean nothing to them. And curse this melting pot of a society, I don’t even stand out a little. For God’s sake, I fit right in.  Sucks to be me, K. I miss the adulation from the kids. All I had to do was walk down the street and they loved me. I saw myself as John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever swaggin down to school each day. Over here, I leave home and feel like John Travolta in Battlefield Earth. The other day, a friend and I went down to the park to play tennis. He’s awful (which makes me feel great), I was really channeling my inner Federer. As I crushed the one and only overhand smash of the day (and my life) , a car passed and a male voice yelled out “FUCK TENNIS!”. We cracked up instantly and were immediately grilled by the father of three boys at the next court. For the next two games , we tried to hide our laughter looking away from him and his little tennis prodigies. A similar incident had happened once to a friend in Colorado and I couldn’t help but think that would never happen in Korea. I don’t like understanding what people are talking about K. With you, I never had any clue what people were yelling about and I liked it a whole lot better. The other day I had to listen to a Puerto Rican woman haggle over the price of a box at the post office and it was really painful. Let’s hope I recover soon. Let’s hope she never needs a box again. Likewise, I hate people understanding what I’m talking about. With you, I could listen to music and feel free to sing along to the f-word, n-word, b-word, motherfucker and what have you. And nobody was EVER offended. Ever. I miss that freedom. My co-workers here would be all up in arms if I sang along to some 2Pac or Em.  I really miss the kids. They were superior to my new co-workers in every way. They were cheerful, they always high-fived me and two of them gave me Peppero on Peppero day. I don’t miss Peppero though, it’s a gimmick and it’s overrated.  I do miss Donenu, Galbi and Seaweed Soup. That was some good eatin’ and cheap too. I miss those nights where I would deliberately eat as much as I could, risking spontaneous combustion just to see how much it would cost. I miss paying 8,000 won ($8) for a meal that could stuff Andre the Giant. I definitely miss not tipping anybody. And I really miss saying Yeogeeyo. That was fun. Maybe my favorite Korean word. I used to say it with such swagger that waiters would drop everything and come ask me how I speak Korean so well. And I would tell them to quit lazing around and to go get my fuckin food. And they would. I miss getting excellent service, free ‘service-uh’ and THEN not tipping. I miss the several bottles of cold water provided when I asked for water. Korea, when I left you, I went to Europe and she charged me for water and then charged me to piss too. I ain’t sayin’ she’s a gold digger but she ain’t messin’ with no broke n-words.  K, you were so kind that you never taxed my ass. You didn’t tax beer, you didn’t tax cigarettes, you didn’t tax meals. Goddamnit, you didn’t even tax my salary. I miss that feeling. The only two certainties in Korea, death and kimchi. Lately, I pay sales tax, income tax and all that stuff George was talking about on “Taxman”. That’s another thing I miss. I miss downloading things at the speed of light. Remember that time I downloaded the entire Beatles discography in 2 hours? Or how about when I got the first three seasons of 30 Rock in one day while I was at school? Over here, I’ve been trying to download Freaks & Geeks for a week and I’m still at 14.7%.  K, you never gave me less than 110%. Well, you did enroute to completion but I always knew you’d get there. Here and now, I can’t be so sure. It’s gotten to the point I’m thinking about (gulp) buying the dvd. You see what I’ve been reduced to?  I blame you K.  I was in the city the other day and I flagged down a taxi. I walked up to the door and instinctively tried to pull the handle from the top like I did with every one of your cabs for the past 18 months.  But I couldn’t grab it from the top because of it’s awful design.  Where there should have been a hole for my hand to slip in, there was metal. I stood there in the rain for a few seconds examining the door handle and cursing the moron who chose to go with a handle that could only be opened from the bottom.  Thanks for making me reach down and come back up to open the door you putz. K, you’ve got some short people over there but you also realized that the average person is taller than the fuckin door handle on a taxi.  So, you offered a choice on how to open that door. Wanna pull from the top? No problem. Bottom? Whatever floats your boat.  God, I miss you. You were so efficient. Sure, you were a little screwy sometimes but who isn’t ? I was sick the other day and I went to the doctor. This guy charged me a cool 20 bucks like it was nothing. Then, the medicine cost another 13 bucks. I got misty-eyed and thought of you and me and our arrangement, 3 bucks for doc, 3 bucks for meds. Plenty left over for a night on the town.  Speaking of soirees, I went out here the other night and it was so weird. These “bars” here close at 2am. Nerds. By the way, over here, HOF stands for Hall of Fame, I thought that was kind of cool. If they only knew. First Ballot, son. I sure miss getting wasted for 10 bucks. Those 3000 CC pitchers are not that common here. God knows I’ve been looking, but I guess I’ve been missing them.

___________________________________________________________

Smart.
Idiotic.

Update

A Topsy Turvy month by any standards, this last one was a doozy. When last I wrote, I had decided to not continue at my school. After that, I changed my mind and decided to continue at my school having spoken to my co-teachers and being assured that the future would not suck. But it did. The very near-future sucked in fact and so the mistake the establishment made was to double cross me too early in the game, in fact leaving me time to pull off a dastardly backstabbing of my own. And so six days after changing my mind for a 4th time, having signed a contract to stay, then voided it and now signed it again…I was about to change my mind again. 

I couldn’t even keep track of my own decision anymore.

My school was understandably upset and confused by my lackadaisacal approach to contracts. As they dangled my contract in front of me, pointing out exasperatedly that I had just signed it a few days earlier, I only watched absentmindedly, repeating my time proven mantra of 

 “It’s my fault. ”

And it was. But either way, at the very last hour, using connections made at a Open Teacher Class or some pageant of a class, I had a connect who gave me a 2 week extension. Which I used fully to finally make a decision to teach elementary school next year. It will be in Korea, in the same town of Incheon, just another ‘hood. Hoping it goes well…It starts september 1st and until then I am just gonna enjoy my summer holidays and last days at Dongam Middle School and Gangseogogori. In the end, I really love Dongam school and some of the students are just amazing but the administration and system have just become so difficult for me to stomach that it would have been impossible for me to go through the same process for a second straight year. It’s not been a bad process, it’s been rewarding but trying as well. In all honesty, the prime difference is that a TON of colleagues I loved left the school between the first and second term and that’s left me feeling that the experience at Dongam is not getting any better.

 

I just feel like a change.

Learning About Teaching

Fourteen days ago, I extended my contract to stay in Korea.

Eight days later, I changed my mind and voided that contract.

By doing so, I won’t have a job as of September 1st.  I usually would think nothing of not having prospective options but for some reason, I am annoyed about this. I am not worried but I feel that at this point of my life, I should have a more concrete idea of what the hell I want.

Like always,  I have no idea. This infinite process of trial and error continues…

I am now certain that I don’t want to be a teacher. I reached this conclusion because I have the same problem now in Month Ten of this job that I had in Week One. I constantly take out my frustrations about the staff and administration on my students and it’s grossly unfair to them. It’s not a conscious decision but I am often frustrated with the system and I then wind up snapping on some fifteen year old kid.

This happened again last week. I was tested and angered by my co-teachers and some students from 9am till 2pm and shortly thereafter I flipped out on some poor kid who wasn’t even misbehaving or being noisy, but couldn’t understand me.  He was  sitting there quietly and not tearing his paper in half like I had asked about ten times and demonstrated twice.  I told him to look around. He didn’t understand me. I told him to look at everyone’s papers half the size of his. I shouted and shook my paper frantically. He stared at me, completely bereft of emotion or understanding. I ran to his desk, picked up his paper, crumpled it into a ball, threw it in his face and threw him out of class. I still cannot believe I did this. His only mistake was not understanding me. Which isn’t a mistake. He didn’t do anything wrong. Two minutes later, I went outside and he was facing the wall and visibly upset and confused. I told him to join the class again. When I brought him in, I couldn’t even look at him and I had to leave class, disgusted with myself. It turned out he is one of the most quiet boys in school and I still can’t get him to say a word to me.  I apologized to him after class and told my co-teacher to tell him in Korean that it was my mistake and I had a bad day. But really, who cares? People have bad days. That doesn’t give them the right to displace their anger and humiliate others. That kid probably thinks I’m a total asshole and he is right. Cos to him, I have to be. How could I not?  If you think about it, the only thing I taught him that day is that it’s okay for adults to become angry and throw things at children. Not my finest hour.

If  I can’t control myself then I am no better than a child and probably worse than half of them. Two weeks ago, I felt that leaving school was quitting on my students but I am now absolutely convinced that they will be better off with a new teacher, some one who will almost certainly be more patient, committed and able to make a difference.  Since I told my school I am leaving, the teachers have all been complimenting me a lot. The staff asks me to stay and the word they all use to describe me as a teacher is “sincere”. That means a lot to me because I think sincere is one of the best things anyone can be in this life. Although I am nowhere as efficient as I wish, for the school to recognize that I have given my sincere best everyday is very gratifying. Still,  I realize that sincerity is not enough. Far from it.

Teaching is great. The joy of getting something through to someone is very rewarding and trumps any “success” I have had at any other job. This job has left me looking forward to having my own children because  I would love to teach them, but while doing something else for a career.

It’s strange knowing I will probably never see any of these boys again. I wonder if they will achieve their dreams and what they will be like when they  grow up and have girlfriends and things like that.

I wind up missing everyone . I miss everybody. Leaving all these boys behind is going to be difficult. I imagine I will wonder about them the rest of my life.

I suppose being a teacher is about giving it all and then letting go.

It’s a tough business. Maybe the toughest there is. Too tough for me.

KOREA 2: THE SEQUEL

Time flies like an arrow.Fruit flies like a banana – Groucho Marx

It has been 6 months in Korea.

I can still remember sitting on the plane moving here, not just the experience, I remember the faces on the plane, the fabric of the seats, the hot, muggy Incheon air when I arrived. I remember all of it down to the music i was listening to. I can recall that sensation more clearly than i can recall last month. Korea has been a blur, the days turn to months and minutes to memories. You only realize time passing in the context of big changes like the seasons, holidays or through the people and places you know. For example, this week , school has been transformed. The academic year ended. Students graduate. New kids come in. Teachers and friends bounce. New people show up. My desk was moved. Don’t underestimate the importance of your desk’s location. I was loving life in the corner of the second office. I had been left to my own devices in the back of the lesser used office. It was the equivalent of being in the witness protection program. Now, I’m going to be sitting next to the vice principal in the main office. The new semester is like a sequel. I know the setting. I know the cast of characters. I’m still the protagonist. I still keep the beat. I still run these streets. A month ago, on some days I craved something fresh. I definitely got it, this semester is going to be different. Four out of my five co-teachers have left. Twelve out of the fourteen people in my old office have left. My whole camp’s under seige and i’m fighting Jason Vorhees. While they leave for all kinds of reasons, I’m still excited to be here. I’m looking forward to the next six months. Hopefully, I can be more professional and learn from the mistakes I made last time around. One plus is having a new set of students who have never seen me before. It’s like a blank canvas. You never get a second chance to put on those first strokes. Last time,I was green and didn’t really know how to go about it. This time, I hope that I can be better. Instead of attacking, I’m going to counter-attack. I’ve learned that how you use your energy is very key in teaching. I used to exhaust myself by stressing and trying to control things. Now, I’m very comfortable in anarchy. Controlled chaos. I know the angles a little better now.

Like I said, it’s the sequel.

I even told the students last week, I’LL BE BACK. I am hoping this term will be a sequel on par with T2 or The Dark Knight. Not a pointless and painful rehashing of the original semester but a fresh and new take on things.

I’m back and this time it’s personal.

Ill BE BACK
Don't believe the poster, IT IS PERSONAL

breaking outta incheon

As December and January came, I found myself in a solid routine. I was reasonably satisfied. Then a funny thing happened…

 

It came in the way of a holiday. Holiday itself was a somewhat huge issue. When I came to the K, I figured my vacations would all be exotic locales like Japan, Cambodia or Mongolia. However, I chose to spend my first real holiday in Korea by going to a little place called India. Not only had I been there before, I had lived there. I promised to visit my family and so I was committed to going there well before the holiday came. As the time neared, I was quite envious of people who were going to the Philipines, Cambodia and elsewhere. I sort of regretted that I chose India instead of venturing into new lands…

 

However, a twist of fate changed everything. Originally, I was scheduled to have a 2 week break and I was to arrive in my hometown of Bangalore on Jan 24th. I have always loved Bangy but I don’t love it as much as I used to. It’s grown so much that I hardly recognize the town anymore and there are so many new people there that the pleasure of seeing familiar faces disappeared many years ago. Although I was excited to see family and friends, I wasn’t ecstatic about going to Bangy for 14 days or so…

Then… On Jan 15th, I was informed that nobody had signed up for my Parent’s Camp which was scheduled the week of January 19th to the 23rd. I was quite surprised since I had already taught a few of these mothers two months ago, they sounded excited about the camp and one of them was Gung-Ho. That is not her name, it means that she was quite enthusiastic. So, when I was informed, I had to take a good hard look at the man in the mirror, did I lose these parents because of a poor showing during my previous lessons? Were my teaching methods not effective??? WAS I DOING MY LEVEL BEST TO IMPART KNOWLEDGE ON THESE PARENTS??? COULD I LEAVE EARLY IF THE CAMP WAS CANCELLED??? I ignored the first few questions and attacked the one about whether I could leave early… Now, my principal and vice-principal do not speak English. I do not speak Korean. So, I made Meeyoung, my stalwart co-teacher act as an interpreter and we went into hostile territory to see if we could negotiate my early release. At this point, I resorted to being my crafty self. In a calculated move, we waited until the vice principal (who could be described as ornery or a prickly pear) was away so that we could directly ask the principal (who you could say is cuddly or a regular pear). Korean schools are like the armed forces in that you always ask your commanding officer first. However, him being a bit of a prick, I felt quite smart waiting for him to be M.I.A and then going straight to the big dog. But the best laid plans…

 

As sunset approached, I tiptoed down the empty corridor. I ducked into the main staff room, it seats about 12 teachers and on one end sits his majesty, the vice principal himself. I asked the teachers where he was and they informed me that he had gone home. Meeyoung and I sprang into action and went directly to the principal’s office…time was of the essence! I opened the door to the promised land and smiling, I pleadingly said to the principal “Anyong Sa-heo” and then pointed at Meeyoung as in “She’ll tell you the rest.” However, as Meeyoung started filling the Princy in on my status, I saw the silhouette of a man sitting on the couch in the back of the room. It was my arch nemesis. He was glaring at me with a look of absolute disdain, similar to the look that Ivan Drago gave Apollo as he landed the death blow. I was sort of uncomfortable. Then, the principal smiled at me and gave me a thumbs up. Euphoria!! I felt like a million bucks (U.S) and then the prickly pear interrupted my happy little moment. He launched into a ten minute barrage of rapid-fire Korean and peppered Meeyoung with little phrases and loud ass exclamations. I stood in the middle of this back and forth and I began to suspect the VP wasn’t wishing me a safe journey or recommending a nice hotel. As we stepped out of the line of fire, Meeyoung told me that the evil troll had vetoed the Princy’s thumb and that he was now holding me hostage, unless the Incheon Board of Education could convince him that I was not doing anything wrong by leaving early. I called the board and in a rare moment of brilliance, they said “Why would we care what you do on your vacation?” I paraphrased this to my VP as “They said I should go.”  I added that the reason I was leaving early was for my cousin’s wedding and that my cousin is more like a brother, A TWIN BROTHER, okay?? I cannot emphasize how close we are…

 

We had to sit and listen to the VP fume and sputter about how we tried to go around him, I told him that I looked for him first but he was AWOL. In the end, I walked out and screamed like Mel Gibson for I too had fought like a warrior poet and won my FREEEDOMMMMM…..to leave a week earlier than scheduled.*

Now, I had 3 weeks to work with in India and the ideas were coming, there was a wedding to attend (the wedding of a buddy I met through my best friend) and it would be in a tiny village in the far north, in the land of Punjab, an area as foreign to me as Mongolia or Bolivia. What’s more, I was going with that best friend from schooldays, a loafer cut from the same cloth as me. Things were shaping up. I wasn’t sure we would even reach this wedding, but I knew we’d have a blast trying.

 

* But, my VP informed me, I had to bring back a copy of the marriage certificate…I’m telling you, I am dealing with a lunatic here.

 

The next week, the day before I was due to leave, the VP came running into my staff room, his short little legs gamely taking long strides and he fired some angry words at Meeyoung and left. I thought to myself, I am so happy I am out of here tomorrow. Aaah yes, I need a break.Then Meeyoung explained to me that, he had just come in, on the eve of my holiday and said that I could not leave now because ….wait for it….. ONE MOM had called and said she was interested in the class. I laughed and said “That’s a shame because I’m not going to be here.” We had to go have a sitdown with our little Napolean/ Kim Jong-Il/ VP again and in this meeting I said “Tell this nutcase I AM OUT.” I think Meeyoung’s translation was more like “He is begging you for permission, it is a very special family event.” In the end, the little despot made a huge production of it, but all I could do was laugh. I was feeling good, my mind was in India already… and the next day, the rest of me as well.

 

 

To Be Continued…

 

the joke’s on me (leggo my ego)

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.