My job in Korea is pretty great. I am not really a teacher; I’m more of an edu-tainer. I mean, yes, I do teach. But I am rarely required to mark tests and I never have to call parents. Basically, I get to do the fun parts of teaching, like playing games and making funny voices. Because of this, most of my students like me. I’m the crazy foreigner teacher who gives stickers for homework completion and sometimes pretends to be a dinosaur in class. However, I have one class that is generally less charmed by my, ahem, quirkiness. They are at that awkward pre-teen age where although they are still very much children, they are soooo over the “being a kid” thing. I generally don’t mind doing bit of extra work with this class because it’s so much more rewarding when I manage to break through their too-cool-for-school ‘tude and get them to have a bit of fun. Even so, sometimes I find myself battling my own crankiness by the end of my 50 minutes with them.
Last week the subject of eye colour came up in that class. “What colour are your eyes?” I asked my students. They all said “Brown” in a tone that I normally reserve for phrases like, “I’m solving quadratic equations.” So I asked them, “what colour are my eyes?” and this time I even got a few eye rolls before they all said “Brown!” What a stupid question, teacher!
I was really excited about this show of pre-teen attitude because I knew that I was about to blow their minds with some truly inconceivable news. Dear readers, are you sitting down? Because I’m about to reveal the news: I have green eyes.
“REALLY, teacher?” Within seconds I had ten gape-jawed kids inches from my face, starring into my eyes. Their reaction makes sense, since most Koreans have similar eye colouring. It is logical for a Korean child who has never lived outside of Korea to assume that everyone has brown eyes. However, when one of the girls asked me, “Teacher, does this mean that everything you see is green?” I paused. I really, REALLY wanted to say yes. Instead, remembering that I was the adult in that situation, I explained that even though people have different eye colours our eyes all work the same way. Reds are still red and blues are still blue. This seemed to disappoint the students a bit. I think that I would have been a bit cooler if I was the foreigner who sometimes pretends to be a dinosaur AND sees everything in green.
Sometimes I feel frustrated because I only get to see my students for fifty minutes a week and it’s hard to feel like I’m having any lasting impact on them. However, I’m fairly confident that last week at least two or three students went home and told their parents about Meagan Teacher, the one with GREEN eyes! Maybe they do still think that North Americans eat hamburgers for breakfast and that Canadians have ice-sculpture contests in July, but at least now they know about different eye colours. Baby steps.