Had another two hours of free talking with two 2nd grade girls in my office today. I was really impressed with them (both their English level and their general level of maturity), and so here are some of the comments they made that stuck with me.
“I asked my mom to buy that book. But then I didn’t read it. So, I hid it [to avoid Mom getting rid of it].”
“I want to read. But it’s hard to act. I just think [about reading].”
“I think how hair looks is not important. My hair is curly. So I have ponytail and pins. My friends think stewardess.” (She opts for a very tightly-pulled-back bun every day without fail.)
“I think hair quality is very important. I am not patient to grow my hair. My patience is about 2 months. Then I cut it.”
On Adventure Time, the bizarre Cartoon Network show:
“I think that show is very weird and a little crazy. When I see that show too much, I think it is not good for my mental. I think it has a deep view of the world under the weird stuff, and it is scary. I think the creators of that show just write everything they think, no filtering.”
On Korean education:
“I want to study abroad. I hate Korea. I hate tests. We take too many tests.” (Note: the “I hate Korea” comment was strictly in the context of a 14-year-old who is worn out with the constant pressure to study, study, study. Upon further conversation it became clear that she loves her country.)
On social pressures:
“My favorite teacher asked me to join Debate Club. I didn’t want to. But I said yes, because I didn’t want to disappoint her. That teacher asked another student to join and that student refused, and the teacher thought it was strange. So I said yes. But I hate Debate Club! My favorite teacher does not teach the club. It’s a different teacher. I have to debate in front of many 1st and 2nd grade students, and the teacher will grade me and the students will vote who was better. And if I get a bad grade I will be so embarrassed, because 1st grade students will think my thoughts are not good.
“On Club Day we watched a movie. But I didn’t know we had to write a debate about that movie. So I quickly wrote during lunch, just roughly. And the teacher read it and said it was bad. She said it was worse than a 1st grader.
“And I really hate that I don’t have any friends in club. There are only 2 other girls in the club, and they are very close, so I can’t talk with them. Why did I say yes? I was stupid!” (She was almost tearing up just talking about all this, and I felt so bad for her – she is so sweet and bright and smart, and I completely sympathize with her predicament in this club.)
In my mind, these are some very mature and sophisticated thoughts for a couple of 14-year-olds – which they’re expressing in a second language, no less. The conversations I have with my middle schoolers display a very different level of maturity, mindset/outlook on life, and set of values/priorities than I would expect to find in a typical American middle schooler.