Children, it seems, have always felt chronically repelled by my presence, more or less. I have nothing against children – especially when they’re three or four years old. Still cute and cuddly yet without too much mischief to cause a pain in the ass. I actually like children, and although it usually takes time, once they warm up to me, they (probably) like me too.
The year before law school, I was mentally at a loss. Confused, out of focus, blurred, foolish. Detached. I had no idea why I wanted to go to law school. I had no idea what to expect, and frankly, I didn’t care. I was teaching English in Seoul, making decent money, not a worry in sight. I was accepted to some no-name school in DC, but it was in the top tier, so I couldn’t complain, given my utter failure on the LSAT.
My shifts were from 6:30 am – 10:30 am, and from 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm. “Odd” is the least I will say about that schedule. Given all my free time during the day, I volunteered to teach an after-school English class at an elementary school in a poorer neighborhood in Seoul.
As an aside, Korean households spend an inexcusable amount of money on out-of-school English education, in addition to all the other out-of-school tutoring expenses, in preparation for the college entrance exams. This could very well be a future post, an exposure of the ridiculous English education system (and secondary education in general) of Korea.
These kids could not afford the hefty price tags on private English tutoring, so we brought our classes to them. I was in charge of ten or so fourth-graders. Adorable. Absolutely delightful. Loud, obnoxious, annoying at times – all of that was true. But I had a blast. Many of these kids were living below the poverty line, some even had head lice. If it wasn’t for the after-school programs, most of them would either be home alone or wander the streets, for there was no one at home to care for them.
Let’s just say that the lessons were not on the forefront. On a good day, we would go through about half of the material I prepared. The rest of our time was spent laughing, at everything and about everything. These kids were so bright and full of life, as if life’s hardships have not yet left a permanent dent in their beings, their souls. If I had one goal during my tenure there, if I could instill one takeaway point in all my lessons, it would be to implant and encourage the hope that they could blossom into anything they imagined.
So, as I ran by a group of toddlers after escaping the office on Halloween night – zebra, pumpkin, hamburger, they were all there – I reminisced those days. Our games, our crafts, our pictures, our ice cream. Our laughs. I wonder where they are now, what they are doing. Are they still in school? How are their studies? How has life treated them? In the midst of societal and familial chaos, I pray my children have the guts to dream on, to hope, to strive, and to not take no for an answer. I pray that they may take life by its horns and laugh at its face.
I miss my kids.