This morning, I brought in a mess of cheese, crackers, juice, and figs for my noon Current Events class to consume. Around 11:15AM, I saw one of my Pronunciation Clinic students dipping into my big red Costco bag, examining its contents item by item, without any fear of being caught. I thought this was pretty fucking brazen, but I held my temper and approached her with my usual loud, blustery, humorous routine, acting the part of the scandalized merchant who has caught a shopper rifling through the wares in the back room.
"Oh! Please don't take this the wrong way!" she said in Korean (o-hae hajimaseyo-- literally, "don't misunderstand").
Why the Korean? you bellow. Why isn't she speaking to you in English? A number of reasons, actually. One is that her own English is awful; she lived in China for a year and speaks great Chinese, from what I've heard, but her English needs some major surgery. Another is that she's not one of my regular students (i.e., not one of my Level 2 students), so I feel little obligation to push her to speak English with me. Some teachers have a standing policy about speaking English to all students all the time, and I respect that. It's just not what I do. That brings me to the third reason for speaking Korean with her: selfish bastard that I am, I try to seek out opportunities to practice the tattered Korean I have.
This student is hilarious, actually; she's Student Number One in the pronunciation class (all the students are numbered; this makes it easier for me to assign file names to the audio recordings everyone makes for me), and on the first day, she failed to understand when I asked, at the beginning of her very first audio recording session with me, "What's your student number?" All she had to say was, "One," but instead she gave this weird little gasp as if she had just caught me whacking off. My response to this sounds far worse on the recording than it did in reality. I leaned closer to the mike and repeated, "What's your student number?" in a strident voice that eerily reminded me of the way my dad used to sound on those rare occasions when he was pissed off. On the recording, I sound positively scary; in real life, I was smiling and feeling rather amused by how flustered the student was. I really need to put that recording up on YouTube.
Anyway, I cheerfully needled the poor girl about her brazen rummagery, calling her "thief!" and questioning how she'd been raised. She laughed-- a show of how mortified she was, not of how she appreciated my cruel sense of humor. I stopped busting her balls after a while, but I did want to make it very clear that you just-- don't-- root-- around-- other-- people's-- shit. I ended my harassment on an ominous note: "Don't ever do that if you go to America!"