My third grade science class just finished a unit on space. We don't have set tests at my hagwon school, so I get to make my own. I was telling my coworker how I included the question, "Do you think aliens are real? Why or why not?" He laughed and suggested that I show them my alien registration card (ARC). I thought that was a great idea, and I whipped it out during my next class.
"Hey, guys, it's time to start class. Now, remember how I asked you on your test if you thought aliens were real? Well, I have something very, very important to show you."
I must tell you, I am not a liar. Rather, I do not lie to people. But, when I do, I sell it. And, it's never for harm, always for kidding around. But really, I sell it. Every time.
(Had my boyfriend believing I like the Jonas Brothers for weeks.)
My poor kids.
I should have looked ahead. I should have known where this was going to end up. Alas, we were doomed as soon as they started asking questions.
"Teacher, this is from Korea? How did you get this?"
"The government gave it to me. I registered with Korea when I came here from America."
"Woah, Teacher. This is not real."
"You can read the Korean on the card. It's real. See?"
"But teacher, you are not an alien."
"You don't have to be afraid. I'm not here to hurt you."
"Teacher! Stop! This is scary!"
"Guys, no, it's okay. I'm the same person I was last week."
"No. No... Oh, Teacher, I don't believe!"
"That's okay. But, I really wanted to tell you guys. I feel like I can trust you."
"But you are from America!"
"Yes, my human body was born in America."
"Teacher, please can we just read our science and play a game?"
"Yes, we can do that."
"But, wait. Teacher, why did you register?"
"Well, when I came to Earth, I registered with the American government where my human body was born. If there is something that goes wrong, I want the government to know who I am so they can help me. And, not many people know, only a small part of the government, the part that helps aliens. No one else knows."
"Do you parents know? Does your boyfriend know?"
"Teacher! This is crazy! Gasp! Your fingers are long! You have hair on your arms! Really, you are an alien! Gasp! You have spots on your arms!"
"Yes, these freckles are a map of the stars in my solar system."
"Oh! Can we see them on the internet?"
"No, I'm sorry, but my planet hasn't been discovered by humans yet because it is so far away. There are no pictures."
"What do aliens look like? How did you come here? Who was the first alien to come here? Teacher, I'm scared! Let's just do our science. .......Can you fly?"
When two of the girls said they were scared at the beginning, the entire energy in the room became static with something I can't find words for. It's what I imagine deer feel when they hear something dangerous in the forest. Taught and poised to flee. Looking over their shoulder and eyes keen and wide open. An uneasy adrenaline. A frightened stress.
The girls' energy overtook me, too. I felt their fear of aliens showing up in the classroom. Further, for some reason I felt the urgency to hold fast to what I was telling them. If everything unraveled, I'd be a goner, I thought. In the same way they felt the need to be strong humans and to stay safe, I felt like I needed to be a strong alien and to stay safe. It was weird and unexpected, but just like in all those kid movies, the lie could not stop. The lie became truth. And the truth was bizarre and amazing and so much fun because, heck yes I can fly!
To get away from the ethics of the situation and to lighten the mood, I can tell you that all of us are more comfortable with me being an alien now after a week of discussing it. Julie has looked up aliens on the internet, but she only found pictures of fake aliens. Annie hasn't told her sister our secret because she probably wouldn't believe her. Mark has asked more questions about the relationship between aliens and the government. We've talked about alien teeth, hair, food, and technology. And, my students aren't afraid anymore. I'm just afraid of breaking down and being found out one day.
On the other hand, should I have had a teacher who convinced me she was an alien, I don't think I'd begrudge her for long when I found out the truth-truth. I think I'd have to give her props for her stories.
Yesterday, I showed my ARC to another science class. These kids are a year older, and we're really close and good friends, as far as teacher-student relationships go.
First, they recognized that the English word for "alien" corresponded with the Korean word for "foreigner" on the card. "Foreign" as in "from another country," not as in "from another planet." Then, they told me, "Teacher, you are not an alien, because you are from America, and because you are pretty." Well, of course I had to accept.