The Little Things

4 Nov

Yesterday one of my fifth graders–we’ll call him Eager Ernest–approaches me and issues a request:

“Uh, Kimchi teacher?”
“Can you tell me where the bathroom is?”

The question seems to stumble out his mouth and he nods his head as he says each word the way one does while concentrating on reciting something from memory.

Now Ernest is one of my lower level students, but he probably gives more effort than the other kids in his class. He’s the kid that, during role-play exercises, waits until the end to volunteer so he can practice a bit, making absolutely sure he says his lines correctly. Everyday before class he comes in early so he can personally greet me with the same stock english greeting all Korean elementary schoolers learn:

“Hello. How are you? I’m fine thank you. How about you?”

Still, I’m a bit confused at his question in the hallway. Why the hell is is he asking me where the bathroom is when he knows perfectly well that it’s located mere steps from his homeroom?

Nonetheless I direct him towards the bathroom at the end of the hall. He shakes my hand and thanks me before running off.

Climbing the stairs back to my classroom, I’m still struggling to make sense of the whole exchange. Then as I sit down at my desk, I finally get it.

Ernest’s request for directions to the bathroom had nothing to do with actually finding out where it was. He just wanted to have a conversation with me in english and ‘where is the bathroom?’ is one of the few stock english phrases he knows. It was as if he just wanted a to chat with an old friend, albeit through a limited vocabulary. As I responded to his question he listened attentively and even looked in the direction I pointed, giving a few nods of the head to indicate that he understood.

Without knowing it, Eager Ernest might have shown me that I’m actually doing more than just drinking soju and deskwarming here in Korea–not a bad revelation at all.

It’s the little things, my friends. Pay attention to the little things.


Kimchi Dreadlocks


4 Responses to “The Little Things”

  1. Jasmine Woodson November 4, 2010 at 9:31 PM #

    Although I always enjoy all of your posts, this one made me say “awww”. It’s very evident that your students really dig you. One might even say they’re becoming attached to you. I’m sure it will be bittersweet when it comes time for you to leave. BTW, you sure you weren’t supposed to be a teacher? Just asking. At any rate, follow your heart and keep up the good work!! Love you~

  2. Nombuso November 5, 2010 at 8:51 AM #

    Hi Mr Locks!

    Shout Out! I really enjoy your blog!

    I had a kid say, “Teacher your’re fashi-mumble mumble”. My response “Oh fashionable?” He nodded eagerly that he was able to pay a compliment and impress me with his vocab. ITs the little things indeed 🙂

    Keep Writing, We’re reading!!


  3. Mike November 5, 2010 at 10:23 AM #

    Hey. It’s always the little things that add up and add up on the ledger that you take with you everywhere you go.

  4. Purps November 11, 2010 at 10:03 PM #

    Yes, that was definitely stock English that Tony and Zeeto taught him in Grade 4/5. I just taught that lesson today. You were supposed to say, “I’m sorry” like you didn’t hear him and then give him the directions after he repeated it by saying “go straight, turn left/right”…LOL.
    I love how eager some of the little ones are. That was cute.

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