Date: 10/6/2017, Categories: Taboo, Author: JuneFernan, Source: LushStories
I liked all of my students, even the rowdy boys who disrupted the class and distracted others, even the girls who sat as far back in the corners of the classroom as possible so they could use their phones. I could never be hard on them, considering they came to the academy after grinding out a full day of school. Instead of spending their afternoon eating snacks and unwinding in front of a television, like a young student is supposed to do, they had to grind out another three to four hours of learning a language that was incredibly difficult for them. They were all exhausted, agitated—anything but calm and focused. Along with that problem, there were the social norms and parental pressures operating under the surface. The rare kid who was overweight had a much tougher time being accepted in this country. Schooling was made so competitive that anyone who couldn’t ace a test while sleep deprived was deemed inferior. That’s why I tried to be a relaxed teacher who went easy on the students. They were under enough pressure without me trying to intimidate them. One student in particular became my favorite. I didn’t want to have favorites, but nevertheless, she stood out from the moment I learned her name: Jisu Oh. It was my favorite of all the feminine Korean names. It sounded like the name for a woman warrior in a fantasy novel, though this Jisu was anything but that. She was inexplicably shy and quiet around everyone in the academy. Unlike the kids who had trouble fitting in ... because they were overweight or had a bad case of acne, Jisu was beautiful—at least by American standards. Perhaps the others thought she was too strange, with her perfectly trimmed bobbed haircut, and how she always buttoned her uniform shirt to completely cover her neck. And she was quite thin. I taught her in an advanced course for senior high schoolers every Wednesday and Friday night, with only two other students in the class—both boys who constantly chatted with each other and mostly ignored her. A few times, when they paused in their chats and glanced at her, I sensed they were poking fun. She barely returned their glances. Maybe they were asking harmless questions that she didn’t care to answer. As I got to know her throughout the class, her personality slowly began to emerge for me. On Fridays, the students went straight to the computers in the lobby, where they recorded a five minute speaking piece. They would come into the classroom one-by-one so that I could listen to it with them and make corrections. She would always enter the room last, pause at the door, lock her heels together, and give a proper bow in the way the students were expected to greet their teachers. Every time she did this I would tell her she shouldn’t bother to greet her American teachers this way. After the fifth week she paused at the door awkwardly, then decided to wave and say with her slow and quiet voice, “Good evening.” I was making progress with her. Maybe soon she would be entering the room ...