[note: this was originally an email from the time before blogs. Well, before Roblog anyway. I originally sent it out in December of 2002, and I present it to you with no changes or editing, other than a snappier title than "December 2002". Enjoy. ]
Dear Friends and family: This is not quite a Christmas Card email, but it might be the best you get from me! Enjoy!
One thing that I love about this job is the people I come in contact with the most: my students. I am leaving this job for a new one, and the students are the aspect of Kosin University that I will miss the most. I would like to introduce you to one of them. Not my best student. Not one I've grown very close to, either. I do, however, consider her to be one of my more visible successes.
Hei-Jin (pronounced hay-`jean) showed up in the third week of a 16 week semester. She was a very quiet, mousy girl. Glasses, hair with a tight wave, big shoes that went out of style a couple of years ago. She wouldn't look directly at me, and hardly spoke. She came in late, so she had to sit in the first seat made available in our circle of twelve students and me. As it turned out, that was next to me, because I was the first to move a bit and pull a desk in. I gave her a syllabus, and told her to talk to the other students about what was necessary to do in my class, including the journal.
She didn't talk to anyone. She didn't get it. She didn't do the work, and we were approaching midterms. One day I dragged her into my office and insisted that she do a journal. As usual, she didn't look at me, muttered something, and ran away like a nervous horse escaping a corral. I thought that would be the end of that, but the next week she came to me in my office and gave me her journal! She put it on my table and left without saying anything, but I thought it was pretty impressive that she had done that much.
When I looked at it, I found something amazing. Instead of just writing about her day-to-day activities like most of my students, she wrote about her feelings! Her spelling was pretty bad, and her grammar was out to lunch, but her feelings came through, sometimes very clearly.
I talked with one of my coworkers who has been here a long time, and he remembered HeiJin. He said that she dropped out a couple of years ago. She had been a shy student, but not a complete basket case. My department head told me that she had had some mental problems. And from reading her journal and homework assignments, I gather that she doesn't have the best family life in this country of dysfunctional families.
She slowly responded to me, more and more. At the beginning, she was reluctant to sit next to me in class, but by the end it was her expected seat, and she always moved towards it, even if she arrived before I did. She also became capable of talking to me, and even glancing at my face as I talked to her. I found that she has a pretty smile, though it is usually fleeting. Her speaking and listening skills (in English, of course) are still very low. But she wrote a Christmas card for me, one of only two cards I've received from my students.
She wrote the following in her daily English journal. The only instructions for the journal are to write down what you think and feel. This is the only thing I've seen in my three semesters of teaching composition that looked like a poem. It was inscribed in a large smiley face with a very small, but friendly smile. I believe that she is a tortured soul. Tortured by her family, her surroundings, and herself. I am honored that she opened up to me.
There is bench. Anybody isn't in there. But the bench is alone.
It can loneliness. I can go sometimes.
Some day. Sky is higher and higher. Day is warm
Sun is blinding. Anybody was no I sat there
Now. it is not lonely
Bench many tell. Merely is quietly.
From what time, like it. I want to be
alone. It is state empty. It's not busy.
It's garden of mind. If need easy, look
for there. comfortable. Look for there, comfor-
table. How are you (getting on)?
-Moon Hei Jin
I never see her talking to other students. As far as I know she comes to school, studies, and goes home. When asked to write about a funny or scary experience, she wrote a scary experience. It involved explaining to her mother why she had a textbook that she couldn't afford. I don't believe she misunderstood scary, I do believe that her life at home is not at all pleasant.
If you believe in prayer, I ask you to pray for her. She will, in all likelihood, fail every class this semester except mine. For ethical reasons, I cannot consider giving her a better grade than a "D". I don't believe she will be able to study at Kosin University next semester. I don't know what she will do. I'm sure she doesn't know, either.
Pray that God will bless her, watch over her, and protect her.
I miss all of you, especially around Christmas. Be thankful for what you have.