Last week, when the temperature was over 30 C (about 90F) and the humidity was at 85%, New Guy decided to wear a long sleeve hockey jersey. Due to the humidity factor and that we can only set the thermostat at 26 C, even the office was hot at 8:30 am.
One by one, as we came in for work, New Guy drew attention to his clothing choice. I was not spared.
"I wanted to wear it for the Olympics class," he said to right after he'd said it to J, S, and A. "But maybe it was a bad idea."
"Well, I don't think the kids will understand," I replied.
There's this gap. We can and do communicate with the kids, but there has to be a link to their own lives. Baseball is very popular in Korea. So is soccer. If he'd worn a soccer jersey, the kids might get it. But ice hockey is so far removed from their experience that combined with the limits of the English they know, the purpose of sweating like a drowned rat in the August heat. This is the long truth. The short truth is, New Guy wasn't wearing the shirt for the kids. He was wearing it for attention and sympathy.
The principal showed up on that day. He poked his head into my class. I was playing a spelling game with kids who don't know the alphabet and can't read in English. I'd taught them five vowels (y is complicated) and they were trying to complete the spelling words with vowels. For example, b_ _ K. Most of the classes are not very active. Olympics is active because mostly the kids play sports.
Anyway, after viewing all the classes, the principal was most impressed by New Guy who had somehow conveyed why he was wearing that shirt and sweating like a drowned rate.. Like so many other things, observing something from the outside versus looking at it from the inside equals two different things.
On the inside we see that, having lived with his parents until a month ago, New Guy is thirty-four year old child. He often mumbles, speaks fast and makes long, passive sentences. After a gazillion " we can't communicate with him," from students A. said, "New Guy, the kids are having a hard time. Please speak slowly and enunciate."
"I am," he wailed.
"Well, the kids are having a hard time," A. said. "So try to speak clearly and make simple sentences."
"I am," he wailed.
This continued forever and when it was over, he was near tears again. This is the guy the principal praising to the parents at parent camp. Sigh.
"Next time he cries, we should send him to the principal," I said to A. later.
She smiled, "I just might do that."
Have you ever been on the inside and had someone on the outside misunderstand what they observed?
M.R. Jordan is a writer, editor, sporadic blogger, and lover of beer. Lives in South Korea with her two cats, Bear and Geumbi.
Bear (Gom in Korean) then (above) now (below)
Geumbi (Gold in English)... then (above) and now (below).