4.2 Fall 2022

September 17, Debate snacks

“The other girls are good at studying.” Seoyeon, one of my debate girls, told me as she and another girl, Gahyun, led me to the vending machine at the high school campus. It was my second attempt; the first yielded shadowy abandoned hallways with no snacks in sight.

“They’re smart. They always make the best grades.” She added.

Gahyun nodded sympathetically. But then who were the two sweet girls taking me in an adventure to the vending machine?

I scoffed.

“Grades aren’t everything.” I told them, knowing how little their other talents might be valued in the environment of Korean high school that emphasizes endless studying and academic competition at the expense of emotional and physical development.

Take for example, Gahyun, who has improved dramatically over the last nine classes. She went from barely speaking to independently talking at length with excellent grammar. And coming on a snack adventure!

As for Seoyeon, she is someone you want around, and someone you want to be around. She’s tall and blocky with a short boy’s haircut, the charming image of a teenage girl who loves her friends and her sports. Despite her favorite class being PE and her passion being women’s volleyball, she is the funniest and most detailed kid in class. She’s positive and good-natured. Her answers are whimsical, humorous, and imaginative in turn.

In fact, all my debate kids this year are clever and hard-working. I just hate that some of them feel inferior because they don’t match Korean standards for high schoolers.

I wish I could have time like this with every student.

We eventually made it back to the classroom, where I announced at large, “We finally found the vending machine. When you told me it was on the first floor, you neglected to mention, it was outside.”

There was an immediate oh, followed by a sitcom style moment of laughter. I was close to putting my hands on my hips and looking into an imaginary camera like a suburban housewife, as if to say, these silly kids.

I’m lucky they’re mine, for the little time we have left.

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