m a r k a n d e y a

Strangest classroom experience ever…

Posted by Brian on March 25, 2007

Today in class, I went through the strangest experience I’ve ever had in a classroom.

Towards the last 5 minutes of a low level class, one of my male students asked if he could have a few minutes to address the class. Figuring it was some sort of school project, such as a survey or presentation, I said sure and gave him the floor. To my surprise, he stood up and went to the front of the classroom, pulled out a piece of paper, and shifted his position so he was facing one female student. He then began reading from his prepared notes.

“Sunmi, it’s been 2 months since we started studying together. I’ve learned how special you are and I think I love you.”

He then went on for a few more minutes with some mildly poetic musings on her kindness, generosity, and beauty, closing with one more “I love you.”. Once he made it through his notes, he broke into Joe Cocker’s You are so Beautiful to Me, then into a Korean ballad that I didn’t recognize.

It’s important to note at this point that I never noticed anything special about these two students when they were together, and that they were *not* a couple prior to this confession. It came completely out of left field.

Sure, it sounds somewhat romantic, perhaps like something you might see on a Korean drama. But it was really weird and very uncomfortable for those of caught in the middle of this gushing display of professed love. When he first started his routine, we thought it was some silly gag, so a few of us chuckled. Then, when we realized he was deadly serious, the other students put their heads down and stared at their desks. Meanwhile, I tried to say calm and respectful while sitting behind the student. The female target, poor girl, was obviously embarrassed beyond belief; I’m surprised she didn’t up and flee the classroom in panic. But she sat there as best she could and made it to the end.

He finished his confession of love at the 50 minute mark, bringing the class to a finish. Still stunned, all I could do was ask if there were any questions. No hands were raised so I fled the classroom as quickly as possible in order to avoid the fireworks that I assumed were about to break out.

Unfortunately, while the guy obviously has balls of steel and a romantic streak in him a mile wide, I can’t help but feel he was way out of line doing what he did. He put the girl and the rest of us in a very difficult position and no doubt has successfully created a very awkward classroom environment for the rest of the week. That’s assuming everyone shows up, of course, which I seriously doubt at this point. If the girl says “no,” will she want to be partnered up with this guy for an activity, and vice-versa? Will the other students want to be caught in the middle again? I might be more lenient if he had done it on the last day of class, which would have made it easier for everyone to say goodbye without a lot of hurt feelings. But as it is now, I have 4 more days of class to go through with these kids.

My supervisor agrees  that I should have stepped in as the teacher and put a stop to it before it got out of hand. I think he might be right, so I plan on talking to the girl tomorrow (assuming she’s there) to make sure she’s OK and maybe offer an apology for letting it happen. And if she’s not there, I just might call her.

I’ll try to update this post tomorrow after I hear how it developed after I left.

BTW, how would you have handled it?

Update: Well, I just finished that class and, to my surprise, both the pursuer and pursued showed up. Things were very awkward in class so I abandoned my lesson plan halfway through and went to game mode. We played one fo my favorites, the Category Game.

I spoke with the girl after class privately and told her that I was just as shocked as she was and that I was sorry I let her get put on the spot like that. She said she was OK, but that she didn’t like the guy that way so she had turn him down. Ouch!

One commentator below said that I should have asked the guy what he wanted to talk about before giving him the floor. This is an excellent bit of advice and something I will be sure to do next time.

7 Responses to “Strangest classroom experience ever…”

  1. Kevin Kim said

    I would have been the only person cheering this dude loudly, then I would have asked the guy and his woman to remain after class for a little chat. I have no idea what I’d say. Because I would apprecate how mortified the girl was feeling at that point, I’d do my best to take as much embarrassment as I could upon myself, perhaps by (1) arrogating to myself the role of faux minister/priest, (2) offering some priestly counsel they would both find corny and foreign and useless, and then (3) sending them on their way to an uncertain fate.

    Your supervisor is probably right to think it should have been stopped, but… HOW, exactly?

    Your approach is probably better and more sensitive: talk only to the woman. She was the target of this display, after all. If the guy is brave enough to do what he did, he doesn’t need coddling from anyone.

    Good luck.


    PS: At a guess, the girl isn’t going to be in class. The guy might not be in class, either, as he now has time to ponder what, exactly, he has done.

  2. Lorne said

    I think your supervisor was correct in that it should have been stopped, but how exactly is a delicate question. One wouldn’t want to chop off the guys’ balls for what he had done, since romance is something I find lacking here, but then again, public declarations of love are usually based on something other than fantasy. [Every example I have seen from a band member professing undying love for another has been heavily choreographed.] I guess you could have stopped him as soon as you were uncomfortable and suggested that this continue elsewhere/elsewhen and let her have the chance to run before it became public knowledge. However, I also say this with the advantage of sitting at home and preaching from an armchair. I suspect she will not be back though and that will be the last anyone at your school will see of her.

    As for getting the hell outta there, it was a natural reaction to a conflict that does not directly involve you; a reaction I am guilty of myself on several occasions. I would, however, have had to fight the urge to see how this played out. Hell, it might even have worked! It is hard to say during this day and age what makes a K-girl swoon, at least based on the dramas I have seen. As the teacher though, I think you should have captain’d this sinking ship down to the Davey Jones’ locker and been the last outta the room. Let us know what happens tomorrow!

    Oh, by the way, if this was a low-level class then who do you think the “Cyrano de Bergerac” was behind the scene?

  3. Very interesting story. But since you asked …

    Does this parallel someone standing up in front of class and simply insulting someone for five minutes, or embarrassing someone for five minutes?

    You would probably have interrupted that, right?

    The reason you didn’t interrupt this was because you thought “He doesn’t mean any harm”? Or you simply were put on the spot? Which is understandable.

    I suspect that your first act is to discover what he has to say before you allow him to speak. When he tells you, suggest to speak to him after class and don’t allow it.

    If he insists on the surprise, your next act is to explain that he should be prepared to be interrupted by you if you feel that whatever he says is inappropriate, which it was.

    You interrupt once you see that someone is embarrassed. Either ascertain that the girl doesn’t mind continuing. You may want to take both of them out of the class briefly for this question, so as not to embarrass the boy publicly.

    Or, you simply take the boy out and say that this can’t continue unless the girl also gives permission.

    In fact, the entire class really needs to give permission; what if the little speech is intended to embarrass a third party you don’t even know about? Who may not even be in the class?

    Romantic as this may be, it is too rife with trouble to be allowed to continue, IMHO.


  4. Charles said

    I am going to agree with Yehuda’s words of wisdom here, and add a few words of folly of my own. These “public confessions of affection” are a staple in film and television, and I think some people get the idea that this is the right way to go about doing things. But it’s not.

    Now, just to clarify, do I think asking someone to marry you on national television, say at a ball game or something like that, is wrong? No, I don’t. But there is a huge difference between asking someone to marry you and unilaterally confessing your “love” for someone for the first time. In the former case, you already have a history together, you already love each other (hopefully), and most of the time (at least in my experience) you’re pretty sure the other person is going to say yes–otherwise you wouldn’t be asking the question. A proposal of marriage, despite the fact that it usually ends up being one person asking the other, is something that those two people have been working on for some time, so it’s really an act by both of them. Doing it in public may seem corny, but if it is done right no one is embarrassed.

    This “Hollywood” confession of love, however, is completely unilateral. Not to say that we should avoid confessing our love for someone–heck, we’d never get anywhere in the world if we didn’t–but it’s not something that should be done in public. It is a very delicate situation with great potential for awkwardness and embarrassment. In fact, I’m just going to come out and say it: if this fellow truly loved this girl, isn’t it more likely that he would have considered how she might feel being put on the spot in front of all of her classmates? Is this what you do to people you love? Mortify them in public? No, it is not. And if he truly had balls of steel he would have told her one-to-one, not in front of an entire class. I know it seems like it’s braver to do it in front of a group of people, but it’s not. Why? Because you’re forcing everyone in that situation to share in the awkwardness rather than dealing with it yourself.

    I’ll go one step beyond Yehuda and say that this was not romantic at all. Romantic things make you feel good. How many people in that classroom felt good? Perhaps this is what the media would have us believe is romanticism, but it is not true romanticism.

    Should it have been stopped? Yes. How? With extreme bluntness. As soon as it became apparent what was happening, I would have said, “This is not the time or the place. This is something that should be done in private.” To be perfectly blunt, who cares how he feels? He has no right to put that poor girl and the rest of the class through something like that.

    There, I said it. Probably the harshest comment you’re going to get here, but I think it is important that we divide the reality from the BS. These saccharine pipe dreams of “romanticism” fed to us by film and television make me ill. Mr. “Balls of Steel,” you want to be truly romantic? Try putting the object of your affection first in your thoughts. Unilateral confessions are always going to be awkward, so make it as easy on the object of your affection as possible. If she really does care about you, she’ll say so. If not, then you should give her an easy way out. Why? Because it’s not all about you. At least it’s not supposed to be.

  5. iheartblueballs said

    I’m waiting for the day when the reaction of the average Korean woman to this kind of tired act will be to point and laugh at the offending douchebag, perhaps calling him a dickless wonder and telling him to shut the fuck up and sit down.

    Maybe then the old “Keep chopping at the tree until it falls” bullshit will die a much-needed death.

  6. I am sorry but I laughed when I read this piece – I just couldn’t get the rendition of You are so Beautiful to Me in broken English at of my head. Great story though – well written.

  7. Brian said

    Thanks for the great comments, guys!

    As for the next time a student asks if he can address the class, I’ll ask him what he wants to say first.


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