An Uncomfortable Moment

I had a weird moment with one of my coteachers yesterday during class.  He didn’t have time to look over my PowerPoint presentation before class, so he didn’t have a chance to review it and ask questions.  This is generally not an issue because he speaks decent English and has spent time in America.

I was flipping through my presentation and he was helping me explain the teaching points.  He is good at this because he does more than simply translate what I say to the class.  He answers their questions and fills in things that they don’t understand.  Then we reached this photo:

The picture is a bit small in this format. The writing on the port-a-johns reads: "Honey Bucket."

I mistakenly assumed that the Korean kids knew what portable toilets were.  Several hands went up as soon as the image popped up.  Mr. Hwang started answering questions in Korean.  A few of the kids nodded, indicating that they understood.  A few of the kids still looked confused.

After a minute or two of questions and answers, everyone seemed satisfied with his explanation, except for one girl.  She raised her hand again and again.  At some point during one of his exchanges with the girl, I heard the Korean words for “honey” and “container.”  She kept asking questions, becoming frustrated with him.  Finally, Mr. Hwang grew impatient and told her (in Korean) to sit quietly.

I leaned over and asked Mr. Hwang what was going on.  He said, “she is very confused.  I tell her that the honey go in the big box to store it.  She is disrespectful, making jokes about a toilet.”  I didn’t know what to do.  The girl obviously knew that it was a toilet, but I didn’t want to out him in front of the class.

He seemed to sense that I was uncomfortable and said, “Uh oh.  I am wrong…yeah?”  I told him that he was.  To my surprise, he was gracious about it.  Most Korean teachers are quite concerned with saving face.  Without missing a beat, he apologized to the girl and admitted that he was wrong.

Until next time.


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