Since tomorrow is a new day of school, I find myself reflecting on some of the teaching moments that I have had here in South Korea.
The students, for the most part, are great, and I appreciate all of their hard work and dedication (I am only one of their many teachers, for most of my students attend multiple private academies--like the one I work at--in addition to their regular public school).
At the first hagwon (private academy) that I worked at, I had a student named Julie who was always cheerful and outgoing.
During the second year that I taught her class, mostly 4th grade girls, it happened that a new student joined, the first to do so in a long time.
Julie was eager to help the new student, and I appreciated the "mentoring", especially as it involved classroom language such as, "This is the homework sheet and we write . . ."
It wasn't long, however, before the new student felt like Julie was offering too much help, and a friction developed.
"You should always do your notebook writing like this . . ."
The new student complained in class, and I told Julie that her help was appreciated, but that if the student had any questions she could ask me.
Julie's efforts at "helping" continued, and the new student complained again, and I talked to Julie about letting the new student find her own way.
Julie was so eager for the new girl to be a part of the class, yet she didn't realize that her "mentoring" could be taken the wrong way.
The third time the new student complained--and it was a valid point--I asked Julie to step outside the class.
I knelt down to talk to her.
"Julie, I said, "The new girl needs to learn what to do for herself. You have done a great job helping her, but . . ."
Before I could finish, tears were pouring down Julie's face.
My heart broke.
The next week, when I was reading and correcting my students' diaries, I came to Julie's.
It read something like this:
"Today is the worst day. Teacher made me cry . . ."
I have a copy of that diary entry somewhere.
I try to remember how students might feel when I ask them to do something or when I scold them.
Thanks, Julie, for teaching me a lesson.