I just got a text message from one of my students! All it said was "Hi, teacher," which is about all most of them are comfortable with saying, but still, so precious. (Boy, are they every comfortable saying, "Hello, teacher!" I probably say hello to different students at least a hundred times a day, and that's not counting the students who follow me down the hall shouting, "Hello, hello, hello, hello!" From the moment I get off the bus in the morning to the moment I get back on the bus in the afternoon, I'm bombarded by students who want to practice their very limited English on me. It gets kind of old, especially when I have kids shouting hello to me out the classroom windows when I walk into the building, but at the same time, it's kind of heart-clenchingly precious.)
By now, all of the fifth graders have my cell phone number. I thought they all already had it, but this week one of my little fifth grade girls came up to me with a slip of paper and asked, "Haen-deu-pon number, teacher" (haen-deu-pon = handphone = Konglish for cell phone = God, I'm glad I knew what the meant before the first tiny Asian child sprung it on me) and when I wrote it down for her, I was instantly mobbed by twenty more students who wanted a piece of the action. This is the first time any of them have actually used my phone number, but hey! They're *using* *English*! Normally it's like pulling teeth to get them to actually use the English I know they know, so I'm all sorts of proud of which ever child this is. I'm sure I'll find out on Monday.
There's been an explosion of English from my students this week. The little girl who taught me to say rabbit has been coming by the English classroom to talk to me during class changes (she wants an mp3 player for Christmas and she went to church on Sunday) and when I was walking around the room during a game, one little boy who was counting in Korean gave me a guilty look and went, "Um, one, two three!" A group of children came by the classroom Friday and spent ten or so minutes asking me questions (do I like kimchi? do I like lice (I assume he meant rice)? do I like Korea?). None of these are my brightest students (the ones who clearly have gotten a lot of English education outside of school) and all the conversation is very basic and very formulaic, but that's okay. These kids are communicating in a different language, a language they've only started to learn, and just being willing to try and communicate is half the battle. I can't really articulate how proud of these kids I am and how happy this makes me, but after two months of having students parrot my words back at me and being treating like this creature in the zoo - fun to look at, but something completely alien - I feel like I'm actually making a difference in some of these kids' lives and education.