“The nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” (M.Gandhi)
I’d like to tell you a true story about the greatest human being on Earth. I spent a year teaching children English as a second language in Seoul back in 2007. One of my classes was a group of seven kindergarteners aged four and five. Apart form being the brightest and funniest human beings ever met, they were also the best teachers I ever had. One of the boys was a little older than the others. He was a lovely boy with the mushroom do of the Beatles and the attitude of a rock star, disruptive to say the least. He got from mainstream government-run schools which is how he ended up in our expensive, private school, YBM ECC.I’ve only been there for a couple of month then, and as I never taught kids before, I had just begun climbing the steep front cliff of learning. Not mentioning trying to adjust to the dramatically different (and I’m not using that adjective lightly) culture of South Korea. So this little boy presented me with some more challenges such as how to control him, occupy him and dare say even try getting him to absorb a bit of knowledge. Since the children in this particular group grew up bilingual my job was to help them learn various subjects such as reading, writing, mathematics, biology, literature and art. (Yes, the Koreans do take education very seriously.) At the beginning of our daily lessons I was just happy if ‘Kingkong’ (the nickname of his own choosing) wasn’t bugging the other students and observed how they reacted to him. Some ignored him, some stared at him with mild impatience until he stopped fooling around. But, none of them treated him with disrespect. They were neither rude nor critical. Interestingly I noticed them looking at me expectantly. Now, being a high functioning Aspergirl (although at that time I didn’t know it) I am not the best with humans which in this case served me perfectly. I observed more carefully and longer than NT (Neurotypical people) normally would. The children were clearly waiting for clues from me on how to react to Kingkong. At first I just tried ignoring his ‘flare ups’ and got on with the programme. The pupils have tests to complete at the end so their learning is measured. One day a couple of weeks later we had “The Life cycle Of the Butterfly” for lesson. (It’s chrysalis not pupa! OK?! …they were smart I tell’ya) They had to listen to a CD and visually follow it in their picture book. I asked Kingkong to help me put in the disk and push play on the CD player button. he sat next to me and with a great deal of concentration he completed the task. Even followed the book quietly for four minutes! Most could complete all the pages but he couldn’t quite catch up. One of the little girl nicknamed Candy, (don’t ask me why Korean parents give their tiny princess silly stripper names but they do) the smartest person I’ve ever met, walk over and looked at Kingkong with her bright, brown almonds and said “Come sit next to me and we do it again”. then she looked at me expectantly. So we played it two more times, then filled in the word gaps and coloured in the right parts of the pictures. Altogether it was a really fun lesson. The next morning Kingkong’ mum and dad were waiting for me at the foyer. they were really happy and told me that this was the first day that their boy completed his written assignment and told them that he “loves” school. He was a completely changed kid. From there on he sat next to Candy and all the other kids helped him. When he acted out; they were incredibly patient and calm with him. Candy would start singing the “Wheels on the bus go round and round…” the Kingkong would calm down. The episodes were getting increasingly rare. They all graduated from kindergarten with flying colours and an amazing stage show. But I learned the most from them. The greatness of an individual is measured by how he or she treats society’s weakest members.
Kingkong took this picture. Candy is sitting in the front row wearing white hat and it’s me in the middle. I truly miss them all and hope they’re managing to hang on to their greatness!