Crying a River for my Zombies

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Yesterday, in the privacy of my one-room apartment, I cried like a baby. One of my classes had consistently started out something like this:

I come into the classroom and set things up. (I don’t have a classroom of my own so I hover from class to class).

Students start coming in one by one.

“쌤, 저 오늘은 공부 할 기분이 아니에요.” (Teacher, I’m not feeling like studying today.)

“쌤, 저 오늘은 그냥 잘래요.” (Teacher, I just want to sleep today.)

I tell them, “I’m sorry you are feeling that way. Could you please get your folder?”

“쌤, 오늘 그냥 매점에 가요. 누구한테서 간다고 들었는데.” (Teacher, let’s just go set some snacks at the convenience store. I heard from someone that we are going today.)

By this time it’s quite clear to me that most of them don’t want to be in class. And class hasn’t even started.

Still, I sucked it up and gave them our Social Contract test (a test on classroom behavior expectations).

All of them were surprised about it.

I had told them last week about it.

So I told them I was going to make it open book. Everyone sounded relieved and they started at it.

One student wasn’t doing it; didn’t have his folder with him; didn’t have a pen. A gave him his folder and pen. Should I stop doing that? Anyways, he still seemed kind of zoned out but then started doing it. Then I told them that even if they didn’t finish, we would go over it together. And if you hadn’t finished, you could just write down the right answers. Suddenly the student who wasn’t prepared complained that he had started doing it but now he could finish it and went to sleep.

After the test, were doing Soccer verbs motions in Spanish (called TPR) and I asked him whether he was going to do it or not. He didn’t want to do it. I gave him the option of staying and doing it or of going to the principal’s office. He chose the latter. I wrote him a note and sent him away. (He came back after a few minutes saying that the principal wasn’t in his office.)

But this is just the beginning.

Doing verbs TPR with the rest of them was like doing TPR with zombies. Two of them were drifting off to sleep so I asked them to stand up so that they could wake up. I felt like I had to beg them to do the TPR motions. It got to the point that I couldn’t think straight because I was getting emotional. What I remember is that my head was all muddled up because I just wanted to cry because of frustration.

After I barely got done with all the verbs, I asked them if they wanted to play a game that would earn them all candy if they simply participated.

Silence.

Zombies staring at me.

So instead of doing the game, I told them we were going to fill out a verb chart that I had prepared. (These zombies were good at doing mindless stuff.)

I quickly wrote everything on the board and tried avoiding eye contact with them because I knew that if I looked at them, I would burst out crying. Then I went to the teacher’s seat, which is somewhat protected by a barrier, and tried to compose myself. From my fortress, I asked again if they really didn’t want to play that game. Reluctantly, they said they wanted to play.

So I went back out of my refuge and played the game as I tried hard not to cry. As soon as the zombies finished the game, I congratulated them and asked them to come and get their candy. It was like telling zombies I was giving them zombie food. They were suddenly alive and quick with their motions.

As the zombies were eating their brains out, I left the room.

My tears were too strong. I went to the bathroom and composed myself. A few minutes later, I went back to the classroom and told them they were free to go.

I came home and cried maybe two or three rivers. It was good. To just cry. They totally don’t get how much their words and attitude get to me. My students’ attitudes broke my heart because I really enjoy being with them and teaching them, but it seemed like it wasn’t like that with them.

And to think I have been doing this to God in a much greater degree! That is why I cannot be resentful of my students’ attitudes… because I did much more than that to God many more times. And God forgave me each time and embraced me each time. Those who have been forgiven much, can forgive much. I have been forgiven and loved beyond what I deserve. And if I have received this kind of forgiveness and love, who am I to not pass on the baton?

(Edited journal entry from October 28, 2014– my first year of teaching at HIS)

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6 Comments

  1. Makes me think of all the teachers I ever had. I had one geometry teacher in 9th grade. He was a great guy, but we all pretty much dreaded going to that class. So he gave up life lessons, and made crude jokes in between just to keep the class going. I went to class just cos of him, really. I wasn’t a big geometry fan. I remember one day, he said he had lost a friend, and the class became dead quiet. Nobody wanted to be there, nobody really wanted to do the work except for maybe 2-3 good students, but we listened. Instead of starting the lesson, he went over the 5 stages of grief, and how we’d come across that in life someday. Being a teacher, I suppose, is hard work cos you have to keep it together for the kids. But remember, it’s okay to show weakness. Kids are still people, and aren’t always callous and oblivious to feelings. This entry is from October 2014, clearly you came out better. Trials and tribulations make it that much more sweet when a child comes over with a smile and a ‘thank you’, yeah? 🙂 Heem nae yo! ~Mishell

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    1. Thanks for the advice! I have been learning to be more emotionally vulnerable with my students (something which I still find hard to do!), and it’s been showing some good fruit. And yes, I forget all hardships when students flash their beautiful smiles and tell me about their day, or share a precious snack they have. Go ma uo! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your story-telling ability – I can FEEL the pain of the classroom – and your honesty. And then, in a blessed abrupt shift, you turn it all around as an insight about God. Ah, lady. You are good for my heart. Please keep writing.

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