I have a student. Let’s call him “Mark”. Mark is known as a troublemaker. I’m told he has a tough home-life, that his parents don’t pay much attention to him. He is known to be rebellious and disrespectful to teachers, parents and other students. He has been known to run away from home, hang out with an older crowd, skip school and respond only to bribes from his parents to go to school and do his homework.

There are stories about him from my co-teacher, including one about how he already has had sex with middle school girls. There was another story about how he sent text messages to his substitute sixth grade teacher, the second one hired after the first one quit, cursing him out and eventually leading him to quit as well. The second substitute teacher was a ‘sixth grade specialist’ who came out of retirement to try and help.

I haven’t seen Mark in a long time. I just figured he dropped out of school. He showed up in class today (the last day) and sat in the back, watching but not really participating. I said hello, asked him how he was. I saw the yellowed fading of a bruise on his right eye. I remembered my co-teacher told me how his uncle, frustrated with his nephew, beat him and gave him a black eye. She said she understood his uncle’s frustration but that hitting doesn’t solve the problem.

I had a million questions. I asked what will happen to Mark and his uncle. Was Mark going to be taken away from his family? Was his uncle going to jail? She seemed confused at my line of questions. No, it’s not something that the uncle would go to jail for in Korea, even though Mark is just a kid.

I asked if Mark (who has not attended most of the school year) will be graduating from the sixth grade and she said he would. They have no system of holding back students, so he would graduate. Whether or not he would actually attend classes is another matter. “I don’t know the future,” she said.


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