Water Balloon

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Usually I don’t write long pieces because if I was the reader I wouldn’t really bother or my attention span isn’t mature enough to handle lines and lines of texts.  However once I get inspired (usually once in a full moon) my brain tends to give me a speech and lays everything out for me.  I’m not sure why, but maybe it’s because I feel so strongly about it, or it may have been a time where it changed and made me a better person like the time I was with Mr. C in Jeju Island.  Anyhow I wouldn’t write anything if it doesn’t benefit you, the reader too, so here it goes.

Before teaching at my school, I remembered during my orientation that a guest speaker asked all of us who was going to teach at an ‘all boys middle school’?  Well, yeah that will be me…why? He came up to me…shook my hand and simply said ‘good luck’.

Ummm…thanks?

An all boys middle school seem to have a negative reputation in Korea and whoever got to teach them are seen as someone who got the short end of the stick.  Well, the truth was it WAS a little bit like hell in the beginning and things kind of got progressively worse.  It was to the point where I really didn’t know whether I was teaching or babysitting and was deciding whether to call it quits or not.   I blamed the boys a lot for turning the school into a zoo and complained to the teachers because I did not know what there IS to do.  I kept on complaining because I didn’t know the solution.  Me, being inexperienced, young, childish, selfish, freshly graduated…there was no direction to go forward somehow.  So my solution was to just ‘not care’ and go by the motto ‘teach your best and not care about anything else, because that’s all you can do and there is no way to communicate with these children’.  And so living by this, I taught, ignored the students outside of class, and didn’t care.  Discipline?  What can I do? I can’t speak Korean to them…even if there is a Korean teacher translating, the meaning does not come across the same way.  It’s useless…why bother trying?  Leave it to the Korean teacher…there’s nothing I can do….students don’t care, I don’t care…all is good!  I will only talk to ‘civilised’ students a.k.a the whizz kids.

So that’s how I spent my time at school for about half a year….ignorant, and a little irresponsible, it really did keep me away from suffering too much stress.  I kept on teaching, talked to some students at times, but never really cared for them…and that seemed ok.  I’m doing my job at least.  I tend to play the victim too when I speak to my friends outside of work and make them feel like no experience and position could be as bad as mine.

or so I thought…

So this happened one day a group of students were doing some charity event and the game was that if you hit a target with a water balloon you will get a prize.  Well that target happens to be one of my students FACE!  OHHHHHH how long I have waited for this!  This particular student was actually smart but lazy.  Because he’s really cunning he sometimes feels like he didn’t need to attend to my after school English classes and make up excuses like he needs to go to basketball practise but instead he goes HOME!  Cheeky little bugger.  So I picked up the water balloon and aimed at the center of his face whilst thinking about every joke he made in class, and every lesson he bunked off.  I decided not to aim at his face at the end so I intentionally missed…but to my dismay it went *smack* and water was all over his face and clothes.  At that moment…I felt something…like someone just made a dent in my heart (cliché I know but bear with it).  Ouch…

I saw him all soaked, wiping off all the water from his face and felt like I just hit my baby cub.  Haha…I immediately got a dry towel and wiped his face clean and apologised, yet I couldn’t stop laughing and smiling either~ It wasn’t a smile of malice, but rather I finally realised something.  It was literally a life changing moment.

I actually care for these kids.  And the times where I hated my kids…was my fault.  It was me who was ignorant…and inexperienced.  I had no clue what I was doing.  Just a stupid NOOB.

Over time, through harsh moments and simple moments you really don’t realise that you are making an invisible bond with your students.  Even if it is unintentional it is there whether you like it or not.  You are affecting these children’s lives whether they accept you or not….it forms and over time it gets stronger.  But the ‘realisation’ of this is where the bond reaches its full potential….more like the invisible bond evolves into a physical form (ahhh its hard to explain…you get me right?).  So once I realised that these students are my babies…the whole experienced changed.  As cheesy as it sounds , and I apologise in advance if I made some of you vomit in your mouths, but I started doing everything at school out of love for the students.  Teach them with love, discipline with love, counselling with love, punishing with love.  And this may sound crazy but the students will be able to tell too…they KNOW you are doing this because you care for them…or hitting their hands with a stick ten times is fine for them, because you are caring for them.  Punishing a kid with anger has a different feeling compared to punishing a kid with love.  Miraculously over time, they start to love and appreciate you back.  They come to my office to talk to me more…or just stare at me.  We make jokes, I pretend to get angry at them, talk about difference between girls in Korea and in England (so funny).  I look forward to every class I teach and you get to notice each of their charms and humour.  I miss them so much at times I will go out of my office and volunteer to monitor cleaning duties.  When I scream at a student with a red angry face, I turn around as I finish, smile and think “these children are so cute”.  Not only do I talk to the whizz kids but I got to know the ones who weren’t interested in studying either and learn their story, dreams, and aspirations.  Anyone who tried to insult my students I got really defensive too…

Not in a million years will I ever imagined to feel sad on my last day at work.  It was really the day where it hit me…I realised I have affected their lives just as much as they have affected mine (well maybe they affected me more).  It was a strange feeling…yet I felt like I got something very valuable out from this experience.  Yes the chocolates, the letters, and leaving gifts as well…but more, I felt like these kids taught me how to truely teach and love students.  Your mindset and choices really determine your experience and relationships with your student.  And they don’t have to know…because they already can feel your true actions and intentions.  Having a bad experience at school…is only the teacher’s fault.  Some of you might disagree, but in the end…YOU are the teacher…and YOU are responsible for their learning.

Anyways this post really is a dedication to them…to thank them for being awesome and giving me one of the most valuable and precious experiences of my life~ (enter heart sign)

Well, I will shut up now and will promise to not write as much until a long long long time.  To all the teachers out there whether it is all boys, all girls, co-ed…hope it’s going well?  I hope you all can have a great and valuable experience just as I did.

If you are having a tough time…well maybe all it takes…

…is one water balloon.

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9 Comments on “Water Balloon

  1. your text is so cute and the pictures are amazing!
    it’s so inspiring to hear that a water balloon had so much (positive) effects! I really think teaching is a wonderful thing to do, all the more if the children are difficult, because they need it more, which makes your work worth more!

    btw just now your story reminds me of all those movies where the new teacher has to discipline the ghetto kids to save the football team or make them win a break dance competition Haha
    ok those are a bit stupid. initially I thought of ‘The Chorus’ a French film with similar story line, but much sweeter !^^ u might want to check that out!
    x

  2. Ken, I’ve been following your blog for awhile and this is my first comment. I have to say that although I think you’re a good photographer, it’s a pity that you stop being a teacher. A teacher in photography, someday? And why are you so shy of long texts? It’s hilarious to see you keep excusing yourself :p

  3. Read. It. All. 🙂 Loved the post, teared up a little and everything LOL.The truth is, I wish more people in positions of power realized what you, that you affect people’s lives and that is a great responsibility that can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.You got it right, it’s not just about doing your job and making it OK in your head to ignore a situation right in front of your eyes. And yes, I do agree that the teacher is directly responsible for an impossible atmosphere in class.

    So what is next for you now that teaching is over? Are you just gonna focus on studying or start a new job?

    • I am focusing a lot on Korean nowadays to get the TOPIK qualifications. I am still teaching but at a different place and hopefully do a bit more volunteering too!

  4. Good on Kit for promoting your blog or else I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise. I loved your post. It’s heartwarming to see the camaraderie between the students and you. This brings back memories when I was a relief teacher at an all boys middle school nearly 20 years ago. I was not that much older than the boys I was teaching, trying to control the rowdy kids. I met some of them years later in New Zealand.

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