Category Archives: Surprises

‘Her mouth was trash’

It was another night of grading papers, and I was getting a bit bleary-eyed as I read English reports from my students. I perked up, however, when I read one paper.  The student was reporting on White Princess, a movie he had seen.  He wrote, in part:

White Princess looks beautiful and handsome.  But she is very bad girl.
She said, “I kill you, a**hole.”  Her mouth was trash.

The asterisks are mine. After all, I run a family-friendly site here.  Students can be full of surprises, even when they’re aspiring pastors and missionaries.

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Unexpected blessings

This semester will soon come to an end.  Hubby and I are planning our final classes and preparing final exams.  We enjoy teaching, but we’re beat!  I’ve graded a ton of papers.  I expect my students to improve their English-speaking skills AND learn how to write a good sentence.

Today I was fighting fatigue and grading papers when one student’s paper brought a smile to my face.  My class recently studied how to use adverbs.  I assigned follow-up homework:  Write a poem using adverbs.  You can imagine the groans I received!

I believe that pupils will rise to your expectations if you give them a chance, and my kids did not disappoint.  One of my students, Josh, submitted this poem:

The Lord in the Morning


Waking up in the morning.

Alarm clock sings loudly.

My soul sings to the Lord peacefully.

The sun rises.

I whisper my love to God sweetly.

Having a shower.

I confess my sins to the Lord.

He washes my sins clearly.

Taking clothes.

The spirit comes to me slowly.

Every day …

I could sing of your love forever.

— Josh Kim

Sometimes we teachers wonder if we’re getting through to our students, especially those of us teaching English as a second language.  Josh’s poem is a burst of sunshine and an unexpected blessing.

Students and surprises

I have been in South Korea for three months.  My, how time flies!  I’ve seen some wonderful improvements the students’ English skills.  This is especially true of the freshmen, many of whom who had no clue what I was saying the first day of class.  They didn’t even understand me when I said they had a five-minute break or that class was dismissed.  Now they understand my jokes.

Teaching English to first-year college students is no picnic.  In both teaching and learning, students and teachers must overcome communication barriers.  Even assigning homework isn’t easy.  Typically, I’ll repeat the assignment a couple of times orally, and then I write it on the board.  For students who still don’t understand, I’ll allow Korean translations among the students.

In my intro class, many students did well on my midterm.  And several students flunked it.  It was a wake-up call for those young men and women who hadn’t put in the time studying.  However, I didn’t focus on that.  I told the shocked students that even though they hadn’t done as well as they wished on the midterm, it was possible for them to earn a good final grade if they worked hard.

I prayed for these students at the beginning of every class.  Each of them has God-given gifts, but I felt they needed to be reminded of that.  From time to time, I’ve surprised my students with assignments they thought they could not do.  They surprised themselves when they did a good job.  I never doubted them for one moment.

Today was my students’ day to surprise me.  A couple of girls stopped by the office to tell me that they were waiting for me in the cafeteria.  They had “treats” for me.  I walked over to the special dining area to find that the students had prepared a feast — homemade kalbi (beef) and potatoes, grilled chicken, mandoo (dumplings), fruit, and assorted drinks.  The students also brought trays of the regular school lunch and went to get my husband so that he could enjoy the festivities.  My husband called the surprise a “love feast.”

The food was simply delicious, as were the beverages the guys brought.  (I didn’t eat much of the school lunch.)  At the risk of sounding cliché-ish, I could feel the love.

After lunch, the students crowded around to take pictures with hubby and me.   The kids said they thought that I was a really good teacher and that they had learned much from me.  Also, since the end of the semester is near, the students asked for words of wisdom.

I looked at my husband.  He said, “Don’t look at me.  They’re talking to you.”

I reminded the students that they all had God-given gifts.  I told them that I remembered the first day of class, when they clearly had no idea what I was saying to them.  Now, I said, they are students who touch my heart with the writing and conversation skills they now demonstrate.  I told them I would miss them.  One student said that she hoped I would remember their names.

For me, these students put a face on Korea.  Yes, I intend to remember their names.