Don’t let them see your fear.

So I was sitting in the classroom yesterday, gathering together the materials I’d need for my elementary classes, when the kids all burst in in their usual unnecessarily rambunctious manner.

[Why, by the way? Why must children be so noisy all the time? It’s like there’s a volume control muscle that doesn’t start to develop until adolescence. I don’t think they even know they’re doing it, for I’ve lost count of the number of times in a row I’ve asked, begged, pleaded, cried and finally yelled for indoor voices, only to have the noise level immediately return to painfully excessive.]

Hey guys! I greeted them in my now almost completely American way. How was your weekend?

The clamoring started, as they all crowded around me in typical 7-year-old desperation to tell me about camping trips, play dates, skinning their knees in the playground, an outing to the movies. I go to movies! I get new robot! I sleep in tent! I go to the swimming pool!

Wowwwww! I said repeatedly, feeling really good about the daily lessons I’ve been giving them for several weeks on use of the past tense. That’s awesome! (I am going to get shot or laughed out of town for speaking like this when I go home.) You went to the movies? You got a new robot? 

Teacher! Teacher! Teacher! one of them was hollering from somewhere near my right knee. I bring a bug! I looked down uncertainly, not quite following that one. You brought a bug? You brought it where? Home? 

No, said he, thrusting a flimsy plastic container at me with a proud grin, I bring a bug! 

I mean, seriously. What parent sends a child to English class with a ginormous monster cicada thingy in a box it could probably eat through in the 5 seconds before it devours a dozen children and a teacher? I leapt up and staggered back so quickly that I stood on someone’s toes, but I did not care in the slightest. The creature was the size of a Shetland pony, and buzzing angrily in a box designed for something harmless and inanimate like fruit.

Dave, I said in measured tones, trying to keep the look of mortal fear off my face, why have you brought a bug to my class? I tried to sound the same as I do when I’m asking why they’re chewing gum. You can’t let them see you’re afraid. That’s what they want. It gives them the upper hand, like when you let out one tiny giggle when one of them’s trying to tickle you. You’ve had it, then – in under a second you will have 12 of them piling on top of you and tickling you until it is painful and you actually fear for your life. If I showed any weakness in the face of this bug, they would probably set it free and instruct it to attack me.

Buzzzzz! went the Creature of Pure Evil and Doom before the boy could reply. The children were completely unconcerned by this, as if the thing wasn’t clearly about to burst out of the box and tear the flesh off our bones.

Oh, oh… ooooooookay, I said hastily, backing away from certain death and trying to look as if I just needed something from the other side of the room, that thing needs to get out of the classroom now.

Teacher is scared? asked someone, interestedly.

N-no, I said bravely, cleverly masking the sheer terror in my panic-crazed eyes, but we cannot bring pets to class. It’s a rule. 

No, it’s not, they all chimed in indignantly. Rule number one: be nice to others. Rule number two: Don’t speak Korean. Rule number-

OK, well, it’s a new rule!! I interrupted desperately, watching the Winged Thing of Terror plotting my tortured death. I just thought of it. Take it to the office. You can have it back after class. 

Dave looked devastated. Clutching the poorly constructed and potentially fatal cage of horror, he stared up at me, his big brown eyes filling with tears. Is not a rule, he repeated in a small, trembling voice. Ah, crap. I had a sudden flashback of what it was like to bring something cool or exciting to school and have everybody crowding round to see it and ask you questions. It was your little moment of fame and your turn at being the popular one. Although he was clearly putting our lives in immediate danger with his choice of pet, this was his moment. I’d have to be a heartless monster if I took it away from him with the sudden unfair addition of a new rule.

And so I spent 50 minutes trapped in a room with 12 children and the biggest bug in the whole world, which stared at me from its punnet prison the whole time, growling and roaring and things.

That’s Monday done, anyway.


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