One Day At School

by Bonnie 

Sae Hae Bok Man Hee Ba Du Se Yo

My sonís preschool class vigorously planned a celebration of the Chinese New Year. No one seemed to know anything about Korean New Year customs. A bit reluctant because of my limited knowledge, I nonetheless took the plunge and volunteered to lead a Korean New Year activity for the class. The one Korean woman with a child in the class shied away from any involvement, so I went ahead on my own.

The morning of our special day, we arrived at school with Ericís han-bok (which he was refusing to wear at all), 30 purses made from cotton for the children to decorate and thread with satiny cord, a few pictures, and lots of pennies. I saw my Korean friend there and self-consciously hoped I wouldnít totally butcher the language I was attempting to teach.

To my surprise, when she saw Ericís han-bok, she asked if I minded if she ran home to get her daughter's. She did, and as a result, Eric decided it would be all right to wear his, too. What followed was a wonderful morning.

The children drew on and threaded their purses. I transported the children via pretend plane to Korea and told them a story about two children anticipating the holiday. Eric and Alice proudly showed off their han-boks to a very admiring audience of their peers, then I explained the bowing and the words, while Myong Ja, Aliceís mother demonstrated and corrected my pronunciation! I was surprised that every child in the class wanted to try bowing. (Of course, the pennies helped.) They loved it, and, even a few days later, children came up to me saying "Sae Hae Bok Man Hee Ba Du Se Yo".

We repeated our performance for the other class, and the greatest rewards were the pride in Eric and Aliceís faces, the new friendship with a Korean woman and the delight with which all the children learned about a culture different from their own.

(Next year Iím going to be really brave and try having them make Mondoo!)

  cultures : Korean New Year
  school and education : celebrating cultures