Thursday, October 14, 2010

Curious Alice

(Playing the role of "Lauren Teacher" I'm ready for your questions!)

Alice is one of my favorite students.  She is smart, sweet and affectionate.  But, that’s not what has won me over.  It’s her unrestrained curiosity – about the world and mostly me.  She has no filter.  She asks whatever is on her mind, whenever it pops into her mind.  This could be in the middle of a lesson, but the curiosity must get the best of her…she interrupts with a question.

One day her simple question actually had an incredibly complicated answer.  Calling out “teacher” to get my attention, I see Alice pinch together her adorable nose to make it pointy.  She then asks in a nasal voice why in America are noses like this – why is my nose like this?

Okay – I’m not in a position to discuss race or ethnicity with any group of 6 year olds, let alone ones that barely understand English.  Please understand that part of this class involves doing charades in order to explain concepts to each other – drawing pictures is also a staple.  So, I take the easy way out.  I say it’s because I’m from America and some people look different there.  I show them a map and how far America is from South Korea.  Another little girl then asks; is that why your eyes are green and mine are black?  And what about my yellow hair?  My appearance is an unending source of fascination for my students.

Luckily the map soon diverts their attention.  They mention how big America is compared to South Korea, and I can see they are concerned.  I explain that both big and small countries can be good countries.  They are happy with this answer.  Since America is my “home” they ask if I go to America on the weekends.  So, I explain how it’s too far and I must take a plane to get to America.  Again, they seem satisfied with this answer.

And then I get hit with another bomb from Alice.  In her broken English Alice says “Teacher, why in America, English and why here, Korean?”  Translation -- why do we speak different languages?  Wow, what an excellent question.  I won’t go into my answer, because I’m certain I failed miserably.

And so it goes….one answer leads to another question.  With Alice, this could go on for an entire class.  Typically, I field a few questions and then manage to steer my small class back to the lesson at hand.

But, I have to admit, everyday I look forward to this class and to seeing Alice.  What questions will she ask me today?  Of course, the better question is, will I have an answer?


  1. I am certain you did NOT fail at answering the incredibly complex and difficult question of why any language is a country's designated lexicon of choice. Funny enough I just gazed at "The Story of English" in my own library this weekend and though, yet again, "I really need to read that". Many of us still have no answers to that question.
    Can I just say, side note - I love this project, the turn you life has taken, your writing. I know I fail to comment often (ever) but I really love it. I love your insights and explorations. I am also, honestly, very jealous. Such a wonderful experience you are having - continue to embrace and enjoy it!

  2. Tricia -- thank you so much for the positive feedback! I'm glad you're enjoying reading about my fun times and foibles. Oh, and you'll need to get around to reading the "Story of English" so you can give me a cliff notes version!