Archive for the 'The Classroom Files' Category


1A: Little Freaking Zen Masters

My first class of the day is a group of three first graders. I’ve dubbed this class “1A” because I had to call it something. The system this academy uses to distinguish one class from the next is to simply call the class by the name of one of the students. This is fine and well for those classes wherein no student leaves the academy or transfers to another class; but students do migrate, and many students share the same name, so I needed a system to identify my classes. The 1 stands for first grade, the A for the fact that they are my first, first grade class.

I don’t normally like teaching kids this young, as they tend to have minimal English skills and a maximum quotient of innocent disrespect for their teachers. They’re first graders after all, full of energy and joy and a desire to play and generally goof off. But the kids that comprise this class are unique. All of them speak English quite well, and while they are all predisposed to defying my suggestions and orders, they nevertheless can –  with a strong dose of patience and perseverance on my behalf – be corralled into a semblance of order and focused education. They’re also sweet and amusing, so I like them, and feel fortunate that my days start out with them.

The three kids are Kai, Connor and Sally. They are all eight years old by Korean reckoning, which means come January 1st, 2010, they will all be nine, since all Koreans get one year older on the first of the year. In Western parlance, they are six going on seven.

Kai is the most unruly of the bunch, but he’s also an endearing fellow, in a taxing sort of way. Despite my repeated requests against such things, he keeps bringing food into the classroom, and tops and Pokeman cards and other childhood detritus. He’s not much for studying. He’d much rather spin a top on the Formica table or puts stars on the board next to his name so that they’ll cancel out the “X”es I always give him for “bad” behavior. (Three exes and you go out of the room, holding your hands above your head for three minutes) But he does it in a playful, “I can’t help myself” sort of way that is generally accompanied by a sheepish smile when he gets caught –  which is always. He’s a pain in the ass, truth be told, but when he zeros in on you – or his work, forsooth! – he’s a really beautiful kid. And that smile he’s got is just ridiculous.

Continue reading ‘1A: Little Freaking Zen Masters’