In 2009 I was a 4th grade teacher in Seoul, Korea. My class was primarily made up of Korean students with the exception of one…Owen. A young American, Owen was many things: brilliant, awkward, and opinionated. The kid had a comment for everything, and many of those comments could not go unrecorded. With personality and innocent humor, Owen made my teaching year very colorful.
I fondly kept a list of “Owenisms” as I called them in a journal. Recently, I came across them. Here are a few.
- Ms. Martin, do I look Goth to you? (he was simply wearing all black that day)
- I think it’s outrageous that this school doesn’t have escalators! (the school had four floors)
- You’re just like my mom! You always make me do something else after I finish a task.
- Ms. Martin, I may be going through puberty because my voice can’t reach certain pitches. I’m not growing any arm hair, but I do have peach fuzz. (He didn’t; he was ten)
- Jinsoo (a classmate): “Women are weaker than men.” Owen: “Well, that’s insulting!”
- In the future I’m gonna start a riot.
And my personal favorite… in answer to the question: “Does anyone know what a conscience is?”
- Yeah, a conscience is the small voice inside you that you always ignore.
Just like that. Matter-of-factly. How did a fourth grader know that?
At a moment when cloudy things are finding clarity, I stop at times to listen. What is my conscience saying? Can I make out that teeny voice that was background noise all along? Trusting intuition has never been my strongest skill. Guess I’ve been afraid to “be wrong”. But, what’s that anyway?
Being wrong is one of fear’s favorite outfits, strutting around, seemingly untouchable. It’s old, outdated, and boring. The truth is that we’re only as wrong as we decide to be. What are we afraid of really?
I don’t know the answer to that yet. These weeks have revolved around that question a lot.
If only Owen were around to share with me a profoundly honest answer.