Today I made my students do an assignment where they had to write me a letter telling me more about themselves. Since I'll be doing a bi-weekly writing class with them, I wanted to get a sense of what their writing is currently like. I figured this would be a good way to learn more about them while getting a better idea of what we should be working on during class.
Well, sure enough the letters were a bit of an emotional roller coaster. They were hilarious at times, but mostly they made me feel sad.
My students are around 15/16 years old. Since most of them aren't from Mungyeong, the vast majority are currently living in dorms at school. In their letters, most of the girls wrote about how they miss home, and how they really just want to leave school and go back with their families.
They also wrote about how they are tired. In their first week of school, many girls said they are already studying until 1 AM. It's just INSANE. I don't care how long I have been here, the never-ending studying will never become normal to me.
Living away from home is hard enough at such a young age, but the added enormous pressure makes the situation that much harder.
It really broke my heart to read some of the letters, but I think knowing that these girls are all away from home for the first time is making me bond with them that much more. Sometimes I just can't turn off those maternal instincts (even though I'm not old enough to be the mother of any of these kids...)
So, when you hear people talking about those amazing Asian schools that America needs to compete with, please keep in mind the price that is paid for those high test scores. This is not the life I would want for my children by any means whatsoever. Never mind the TYPE of learning they do, but that's a whole different can of worms.
But really, when you hear those stories about the amazing students in Asia, remember high test scores come at a high price. For my students the price is happiness, their intrinsic desire to learn, and their relationships with their families to name a few. These are real consequences, and ones that I really hope people here will eventually begin to talk about and take seriously.