Saturday, October 01, 2005

teachers and their groupies

As I sit here in the office on what's been a fairly gloomy Saturday, I find myself meditating on the bizarre phenomenon of student groupies. I've seen this in the States: students who become loyalists of a given professor, faithfully following him or her from course to course (I was one such loyalist while a grad student at CUA). Although many American student loyalists generally like learning from their favorite professors, not many of them become the academic equivalent of Grateful Dead roadies.

In Korea, however, students in language academies (and, it appears, universities) can form very strong attachments to their teachers-- often to the point that they have a hard time adjusting to a different teacher's style. While it's good for the ego to know that students like you, it's not always best for the student who (especially when it comes to foreign language learning) should ideally be exposed to a variety of teaching styles, accents, etc.

This is particularly important in Korean culture: unlike in the States or in other Western countries where one hears a large range of native and non-native accents, Korea isn't that culturally diverse. Koreans, as a result, are often unlikely to be open-minded about the many shapes and sizes of anglophone reality. Some Koreans, for example, insist they can't understand speakers of British English after having learned English from North American instructors. Other Koreans report the opposite: they are unable to distinguish any difference between North American and British accents. My New Zealand buddy John, who to my ears has a fairly strong Kiwi accent, often fooled his students into thinking he was a Yank.

My point, though, is that students often resist exposure to variety. Some of my colleagues, for example, have student groupies who refuse to learn from anybody else. Some of my own students are also this way. I do what I can to discourage such an attitude, but I'm not always sure I'm getting through. In my department we have students loyal to "V," or to "Z," or to "A," or to "D," or to Your Humble Narrator.

The Freshman English course has brought in about 80 high school seniors, who have been divided into four classes of twenty each. While I find it perfectly normal to encounter students in the hall who smile and wave and say, "Hi, Kevin!", I must say I'm a bit nonplussed about two girls who appear to have developed some sort of obsession with me. I've blogged about them before: they left me a heart-covered note on a chalkboard and are apparently jealous of a gag photo I'm displaying at my work station. The photo depicts an enormously fat woman named Monica; it was printed out for me by a colleague, and I gamely wrote a love note in magic marker upon it: "To Kevin, with all my love, Monica." The note concludes with a little heart. The woman in question is hideous-- not because she's fat (I've had the hots for some curvy specimens before), but because her double chin and barely-visible neck are covered with little brown polyps known as skin tags (or, less commonly, as skin tabs).

One of the students in question, Christina, has already told me she loves me and is ready to marry me. She's also promised to rip down the Monica photo and replace it with a huge image of herself. While I find this behavior cute (it'd be cuter if the girl were seven years old), I realize that it's not something to encourage. Christina and her other, Kevin-obsessed pal have stopped by the teacher's office multiple times for no other reason than to say "Hi!" and just... well... stare and smile. I've never had a female following before, so this is novel. One of my female co-workers, "Z" from England, noted that she didn't have a similar fan club. I told her all she needed to do was grow a massive gut.

We teach the freshmen for only four weeks, then don't see them again until they officially enter Smoo. Right now, they're high school seniors who've gained early admission to Smoo. In a few months, they'll leave their uniforms at home and don the latest trendy styles. Newly made up and wearing those midriff- and butt-crack-exposing shirts and pants, they'll be a force to be reckoned with. The estrogen storm is coming.



Lorianne said...

I've never (that I know of!) had a student "fall" for me in this way...and lord knows I'm grateful for that. Dealing with the usual freshman stuff (homesickness, literal sicknesses, etc) is challenge enough.

Kevin Kim said...

Korean high schoolers act like 10-year-olds. I doubt we're looking at a serious crush, and actually suspect it's more of a joke than anything else.

But like I told "Z," just cultivate a nice, round gut and you, too, can enjoy your own fawning retinue!


corsair the rational pirate said...

You said:

"Now I need to find some young, nubile nipples on which to smear the cream."

Hmmm. Seems like you are getting your wish.

Anonymous said...

I once had a seven-year-old student (back in the days when I was not only insane enough to teach English, but to teach it to seven-year-olds) who had a crush on me and told me that she wanted to marry me. Yes, it was cute, and I didn't have the heart to tell her that I was engaged.

Come to think of it, she'd be nearing high school senior age now...

My God that makes me feel old.