4.1 Spring 2022

May 6, The cool teacher

A tittering came from one corner of a fifth grade classroom.

“Teacher,” informed one girl student, “this boy said he’s a cute girl.”

The boy in question stuck to his principles with an “I said what I said” shrug. Note that week later, he would pretend to be a chicken and manage to do all his work with only his elbows sticking out of his T-shirt sleeves.

The other kids started giggling at his mistake.

“So he wants to be a cute girl? Okay, that’s fine. Hello, cute girl.” I said, playing along.

Hi wiggled his shoulders while the a potential rising tide of mean-edged chatter loomed on the horizon.

“Listen,” I started, before the joke became cruel, “in Abigail teacher’s class you can be whatever you want. He wants to be a cute girl? No problem, I don’t care.”

I have several sixth grade boys who are intensely invested in playing as girls, to the point where they run around clutching their male classmates and crying, oppa!

I let any students play any character during showtime; we’ve had excellent male grandmas and charismatic female princes.

The gender divide in Korea starts far before puberty, often actively encouraged even by teachers who have insisted to me on many occasions I should play games in girl versus boy teams.

Sometimes when we’re reading together I ask the girls to read and inevitably some boys will chime in in high pitched voices and much less often some girls will talk like a pack a day smoker.

My class is a time for imagination, creativity, self-expression.

“와, 멋있다,” sighed some of my students. So cool.

“Who, me?” Asked the boy who started the whole conversation.

“Ugh no, not you, teacher,” corrected a girl in the front with disgust.

I am cool. A bunch of eleven year olds said so.

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