Students

Today we had what we call “leveling.”  It’s the day at the end of the term when we decide who moves forward and who repeats.  It was also the day that my fellow teachers finally felt ok enough to say something about what happened at VT on Monday, if only in an oblique way.  I had thought about it, too.  We had one student, from South Korea, who — for the entire term — had rarely spoken, sat at the back of the classroom with a ball cap on, almost always looking down, virtually never interacting with his teachers or classmates. 

I’ve taught quite a number of South Koreans.  Many of them have invited me to their homes — GREAT FOOD! — two have actually invited me to their engagement cerimony.  I was very honored.  In particular, that experience showed me something about Koreans.  They are all about respect, especially for elders and teachers.  It the exact opposite of how my fellow Americans treat teachers for the most part, sadly even my own family.

People use stereotypes to help them make sense of a diverse world.  South Koreans are typically quiet.  That’s a stereotype.  Some even think that about themselves at times — they believe the stereotype is true.  I’ve found it not to be the case.  Just this last term I taught South Koreans whom I would never be able to classify into a neat category.

Today, my fellow teachers expressed their unease about that one South Korean student.  It’s understandable.  Some students are very open in their hostility.  I’ve dealt with them.  Some students are not.  We’ve been lucky.

 This reminds me of one student I taught for over a year — I wish I had had this little blog then — I’m sure he would be around here.  He is from Palestine.  In my beginning level writing class, he wrote a narrative about what he had to go through to get a visa to study in the U.S.  He had to go to Jerusalem, the place of his birth.  He didn’t go by the rules exactly and was forced to sit in the sun for a day.   While studying here, ICE followed him.  Except he wasn’t the person they thought he was.  He was arrested and ICE accused him of not attending classes.  He had perfect attendance for the entire year + he was in our program.  ICE hand-cuffed him.  ICE took him to jail.  Did he get angry?  No.  He called the school and we helped him.

 There’s crazy talk on my local PBS channel tonight — it’s just disheartening and distracting.

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