I'd been teaching Yura since I started in May. That is until I returned from Christmas vacation to find her name removed from my attendance sheet. I also taught her brother and was sad to see he, too, was gone. For two months there was a hole in my classroom. Students come and go at hagwons, so it's not strange for a kid to be in class on Monday and gone forever on Tuesday. But Yura and Dongwook (her brother) were different. They both contributed so much to their respective classes that I sometimes felt lonely without them. And none of the other kids had seen them since they left.
Then one afternoon I saw Yura and her mom in the hallway. Yes! Maybe this meant they would be returning. I spent the better part of two class periods chatting with her mom and watching Yura play hide and seek with my fourth graders. Mrs. Han said they pulled both Yura and Dongwook because their Korean was suffering. WTF?! And then she said she thought Yura wasn't smart. Oh, I was having none of that. I then spent the next 20 minutes trying to convince Mrs. Han that her daughter was very intuitive and perceptive. All she cared about was Yura's poor math scores. Whatever. She still invited me and Tracy, my co-teacher, to dinner at their house the following week.
Dinner was interesting. And the Han's are poor. Mom works a few days outside the house and Dad has a PhD from Texas A&M (Yura was even born in the states), but clearly any money they earn goes straight to Yura and Dongwook's education. The tiny apartment was barely twice the size of mine and every single space was crammed with books and DVDs and games. We had bibimbap and some hallabong oranges and then we baked some cookies Tracy made beforehand. Tracy also taught us how to play the board game Othello, then we played a round of Scrabble, where Yura kicked all our asses!
It was really cool to see Yura and Dongwook interact, especially since I'd read SO many papers Dongwook had written about how much he hated his sister. I mean kill her and plant her head on a stick kinda hate. But she idolizes him; followed everything he did. He was so patient and kind with her, totally not what I expected.
The best part of the night was when Mom pulled out all the old picture albums. Up to this point Dongwook had been sorta quiet and reserved. I think he was a bit embarrassed to have his teachers at his house. However, he really opened up when he got to show us his house and school and friends in the States. I think he realizes how different their life was in the US.
Anyway, Yura and Dongwook are back at school and I couldn't be happier. And now I've been invited to go ice-skating. Wahoo!