Ugh, I want to feel better. Although the worst of the dreaded swine flu is over, I’ve been left with a cough that rattles not only my ribcage, but also my doors and windows. And simply going downstairs for a ten-minute chat with Clare leaves me completely exhausted, trembling, and soaking with sweat by the time I crawl back into my apartment, as if I’ve just been running for miles. I have no energy to do anything more than lay in my bed with Eeyore, hot drinks, and more American TV shows than can be good for anyone. My creativity has been zapped. Even writing this paragraph has been draining.
Which is why I’m pleased to remember that I have several pre-written posts here, from the pre-sickness days when I was full of energy and enthusiasm and excitement for the world around me. So, until I recover and am fit to live and write once more, I’ll fill time with some of those posts that got left behind in the surge of activity that was rudely interrupted by that nasty little H1N1 virus. Here’s number one…
This is probably a bad thing for a teacher to admit, but some of my pupils really give me the creeps.
My main classes are absolutely fine. For the most part, even when their spoken English isn’t great, they can understand what I’m saying. But when I take the really little ones for gym, the difference in ability levels becomes clear. One class really doesn’t seem to have any knowledge of English whatsoever – I think they only recently started the school. Anyway, they haven’t a clue what I’m saying. Even basic instructions like “stand up”, “sit down”, “be quiet”, “listen” – they don’t show any sign of having understood unless I use an accompanying mime gesture, and repeat several times.
And so they just stare at me. Wide, dark eyes, staring vacantly at me. Saying “stand up!” and receiving a blank gaze from them is similar to the eerie feeling you’d get if you waved your hand in front of a spaced-out person’s eyes and they didn’t so much as blink. Like they’re staring right through you, unseeing. Where do you go with that? I don’t speak their language, they don’t speak mine. Where do you start?
Well, with songs, that’s where. Even if they don’t understand you when you explain that you’re going to teach them a song with actions, they’ll catch on soon enough if you just start doing it. Sing, do the actions, and repeat several times until they start to join in. Then once they know the words by heart, you can start to explain what those words mean, through mime. That’s why exercise songs and “body parts” songs are some of my favourite (and most hated) things in the world at the moment. If I sing “heads, shoulders, knees and toes” one more time, my mind will die.
And yet sing I must! Because as soon as we stop singing, they recommence the creepy staring. They also like to stroke my arms. Clare explained to me that they’re fascinated by the fact that we have light, soft hairs on our arms, because Koreans do not. Poor Alex is a somewhat hairy man, so the dark, thick hair on his arms means that he either has to wear long sleeves or put up with having his arms constantly stroked and patted all day. They’ve never seen anything like it. One little girl in particular freaked me out today by stroking my arms with a glazed look in her staring eyes; another kept wrapping her arms around my neck and kissing my cheek with a really awed look on her face.
I much prefer “my” classes. They might be louder and harder to entertain, but at least they don’t look at me as if I am God, or an act in a freak show. And in all honesty, I’d much rather be cheeked, or become frustrated with a deliberately obtuse child, than stand before those creepy, unwavering stares…