It’s somewhat of a stereotype for Westerners to look at children from the continent of Asia and assume they’re all brainiacs and techno geeks.
Well…it’s kind of fifty/fifty.
I don’t mean they’re not smart – because quite frankly their average student is far more self-composed than the average Canadian student (I can’t speak for any other country, though I’ve heard Americans and Brits concur quite heartily). But they still talk back, don’t listen in class, fail assignments and tests, and generally wreck havoc and do weird shit (note: see A Fish in the Sink).
However, that other 50% of the time, I can’t lie, and I certainly will only contribute to the stereotype, they’re retardedly smart (yay ironic oxymoron!).
When I arrived, every time a student showed an impressive ability to do things well before their age level, I used to be astounded. Hell I guess I still am. But I particularly remember one girl, Mikayla, coming to my class soon after I started teaching to practice for an English speaking competition. She would have conversations with me that were surprisingly considerate and outwardly thoughtful, asking questions most adults I was interacting with at the time weren’t even asking me.
“You just arrive here in Korea?” she had said on one of the first meetings.
“Yeah, I’ve been here for…” I counted off in my head. “Five days now.”
“Wow. You must be really tire from the time difference. How many hours is it?”
…Like this kid. Seriously. I knew someone my age in Australia who asked me if there was a time difference between Aussieland and Canada. And here she was concerned for her teacher’s wellbeing – a complete stranger at the time.
Anyway, that was the first inkling I had that the kids here might be much more grown up than I was used to from kids of the same age back home.
Fast forward to many inklings later – today – when my co-teacher, JH, and I were walking down the hall to the staffroom. Some posters had been put up, and while I didn’t quite register them and was barrelling on past in my mission for hot tea on this cold and dreary day, feeling much like Arthur Dent…
…JH stopped me.
“Look, it’s, ahhh, students maybe put up election posters!”
I stopped, looked – and so they had!
My other co-teacher, HM, had told me the elections were coming up. I’d logged the information away as too bizarre to consider for an elementary school, but here I was standing in front of candidates vying for class president – and school president.
These are elementary kids!! And they’re running for elections!!! I’m just astounded. Even knowing there were class presidents last year, I guess I assumed it was super casual since I couldn’t quite conjure the image of five-year-olds dropping ballots through a slit in a shoebox after marking off their vote in wax crayon.
Maybe it’s because I was such a moon-child in elementary school that I can’t imagine there’d be anyone responsible enough to even comprehend what would be involved in presidency let alone execute it, but hey, guess it’s better to start early.
It was JH who pointed out the candidate’s vote-for-me rhetoric of adding a ballot slip at the bottom of his paper to imply you had to vote for him, because the others in the running were “Anna”, “Ollapeu”, and “Aelsa” (can you guess who those might be? Sound it out with a Korean accent – though it’ll help if you’re familiar with Frozen).
My favourite was this next guy, though (picture after story). I heard JH’s intake of breath.
“Oh! I’m surprise he is in the election, he’s a very bad student.”
She then told me about the elected school president two years ago.
“He was also a very bad student.” She clucked her tongue (seriously, I always thought this was a weird Britishism in novels that didn’t exist, but she genuinely clucks her tongue when disapproving). “He made many students angry and his teacher angry and the vice principal and principal had to fix a lot of problems he made.”
The result: impeachment. Which I find hilarious because it’s impeaching an elementary school kid. Let’s just hope he never runs for actual presidency…although it might explain Korea’s somewhat unfortunate political history (a number of impeachments, a plethora of military coups, and much dispute about corruption in the system of democracy, including protests occurring on a regular basis at the moment – click here for a list of presidents, and I’m sure Wikipedia surfing will lead you to discover all you need to know and more).
Anyway I say all this because the very bad student running this year put an angel on his poster. You know, because he’s so angelic…
I’m highly amused by all these official election procedures. Even if the posters are made with marker and glue, I’m very impressed. I wish them all the luck in their voting tomorrow!
In other elections news, I need to get on applying for my Quebec voting ballad so I can participate in making sure our poor province doesn’t fall to shit…
So what do you think of starting democracy off so early?