Friday, August 15, 2008

The Phonebooth

Yesterday, I was in class teaching a short lesson on reading business English to my writing class. Outside the classroom, kids could be heard playing and roughhousing. There's a special camp at the university every summer for kids to learn English, and I assumed correctly that it was them. I've never been involved with the class and never intend to be.

The kids started to get a little louder, and then suddenly there was a loud crash. I stopped, and all my students looked around at each other. Then the wailing started. It went from a whimper up to a bawling scream. A student sitting my the door was looking pretty shocked, and I told her to go see what had happened. Out she went. As soon as she opened the door, the cries got louder, and it was clear that something wasn't right.

She was followed out by a few other students and, after a moment trying to decide what to do, by me, too. There were about 20 kids outside in the hall standing around a phonebooth in the hall. It wasn't a regular phonebooth per ce, but instead was simple a place for students to go into so they can make a phone call on their cell phones without being disturbed or disturbing anyone else. It had a folding class door. I said had because that door was smashed to pieces on the ground and a small boy, maybe 10 or 11, sat inside. He was the one screaming out.

With the crowd around him, it was hard to see what was happening. Not only were the other children in the way, but students were coming out of the other classrooms and joining the crowd. The student that I had sent out to see what was happening was trying to get the remnants of the door open to get the kid out, but he was resisting. As she slid the door open, I got a clearer view: he was huddled over a bloody fist.

The student pulled him out of the booth and a teacher from another classroom asked out of the student milling around to find her teacher. By this time, a man from downstairs had come up to see what the commotion was. One he got upstairs, he called 911 (or rather 119, which is what you call in Korea). The boy was ushered downstairs and the children sheepishly followed. Once they moved, I could see the inside of the phonebooth, which was splatter and smeared here and there with blood. Broken glass was scattered all around in front of the booth, also speckled here and there with blood.

Since I knew we wouldn't be able to start class again right away after that, I have my students a 10-minute break to calm down and get all the chatting out of their system before starting class again. During the break, I got the details of what had happened as pieced together from various people who had talked to the boy, talked to the kids, or been in a classroom close enough to hear:

The boy got into the phone booth while playing around. One of his friends had thought it funny to hold the door shut to trap him inside. The boy inside got mad and told his friend to let him out. The friend refused, so logically, the boy inside decided it would be a good idea to punch through the glass. He did and got cut up pretty badly, mostly on his hands but also on his forehead.

As I started up class again, the ambulance came and took the kid away. We could hear the scraping and clanking of someone cleaning up glass as we finished our business reading.



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