Sarah Carey

SarahCarey“Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

If you grew up in church, you might remember this song from Sunday School.   Though I thought “Did you really have to use the word ‘yellow’ and ‘red’?’” this song rang out to me yesterday during a discussion with a student.

At my new English Lunch Club, a handful of some of my most eager students joined me for lunch, The objective? Just speak in English while we eat yum-yum chicken and rice. Some of the students have a very good control of the English language, while some know very little. Regardless of their ability, my students love learning English and practicing with me.

Towards the end of the lunch period, one of my students said that she was on a diet. This is not unusual in Korea. There’s plastic surgery on every corner. But this student was talking about how she wanted to take medicine so she would be skinny. She wants to visit the United States, but she said she was afraid she would be laughed at because she was short and Korean.

I’m not too easily moved, but this broke my heart.  I quickly told the student that she was not fat and that she didn’t need a diet. I told her that the United States has Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Mexican, Black, European, African, fat, skinny, tall, and short people. You name it. We’ve got it. I even told her that in the USA, if two people of different colors love one another, they can get married. My student was shocked at the diversity in the United States. She even asked “Really?!” at the thought of there being so many kinds of people in one country.

If you didn’t already know, Korea is a homogeneous nation. Around 97-99% of people born in Korea are ethnically Korean. So, when a foreigner comes around, it might be easy for a Korean student to assume that all Americans (for example) are tall, with pale skin, and blue eyes. This is even easier to believe if their teacher fits this example.

So when I told my student that the USA has lots of kinds of people, it possibly changed her view of the world. I told her that because she was Korean, that lots of people would want to get to know and learn more about her. The USA is not just a far-away land of pale, blue-eyed people, but a wonderful mixture of almost every nation on the planet.

Yesterday, I think I may have made a difference.

That’s why I became a teacher.

-Sarah Carey is from  Mackville, KY, and is  teaching in South Korea