Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Devil's in my Class, and She's Eight.

Now that I've been at my school for more than a year, the kids are quite used to me, which is good in some ways, and very very bad in others. They know what to expect from me pretty much, and seem to have a sense of how far they can push me until I'll react. On the other hand, they've learned HOW to make me react, so if they're ticked off at me they are likely to do the things that make me go all crazy.


Some of the kids are very friendly with me. Too friendly. Like, they treat me as one of their own. If I tease them a little or make a joke, sometimes they will try to beat me up. They're small, but some of them are quite strong! While I enjoy the level of comfort they display around me, I dislike having little handprints bruised into me. Likewise, I'm not keen on being felt-up, which doesn't happen TOO often actually, and it's usually the same couple of students who will reach up to squeeze my merchandise. Thankfully, they're little 8 year old girls, and not my male middle students. The fact that I can't speak Korean, and the kids know it, makes for a different relationship between me and the kids, than my Korean co-workers experience. I'm quite aware that the kids will try to get away with a lot more with me than they'd ever dare to with the stick-wielding Korean teachers.

I have one little student, Willa, and I worry that she might be the devil. I should have named her Damiena or Lucy, short for Lucifer, but we already have a Lucy who fits the profile, though not as appropriately as Willa. This kid looks quite angelic, she's pretty and quite bright. Her language skills are above average in her class. But, she also looks somewhat disinterested. Disengaged. (Disenchanted?) She's affectionate, and will often greet me with a big hug, or she'll hang off me when I'm at the water cooler or talking to another student. She has also hauled off and smacked me one - HARD, when she sees me. I've scolded her and yelped in surprise when she catches me unaware. One day she slapped me hard while I was standing talking to the boss, causing me to screech right into Karen's face, only to turn around to find Willa grinning at me. I asked Karen to tell her in Korean to cut it out, but she hasn't really complied.

I think the worst is when she uses her little fingernails on her thumb and pointer to try to remove a small piece of skin from my arm. That shit HURTS! She's had the students seated next to her moved by the Korean teacher, because she has abused them as well. Elizabeth, came to me a few days after Willa joined her class (she transferred from another class) and said, "Jenny, Willa is MEAN!" I said, "I KNOW!"

One of the little boys brought a pile of those little monster-space-alien-demon-dragon-whatever collector cards to class and was giving away some of his doubles today when I entered the classroom. All the other students were pleading with him, a la, "gimme gimme gimme" and when he gave Willa two of them, she smiled, accepted them, and then calmly tore them into little bits. What's that about? The little boy, who is admittedly very sensitive, broke into a screaming tearful tantrum.

Psychologists and sociologists have proposed that children aren't born evil, they're conditioned to be so. You think? Willa concerns me.

One day in class, though, the kids were drawing pictures of their families. Willa's included her mom and dad, her and her little sister, and one boy in a big yellow circle with wings. "Who's this?" I asked Willa, and she explained through gestures and drawings that it was her brother, who died after he'd been hit by a car when Willa was just a baby.

I've wondered if the grief that must have occurred after that has culminated in the Willa we have today. And so, I try to go a little easy on her and make sure she knows I'm not angry at her, but at her behaviour. Then I lay some positive reinforcement on her, telling her she's smart, or giving her shoulder a squeeze or her back a pat. Maybe she's not the devil. Maybe she's just sad.

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