In a rural town just a few meters from the Pahang River, there was a lot of fuss in a local school.
The new teacher, Mr. Karofsky, had flown all the way from the land of Big Ben just to meet students of a different culture. Now that’s the tricky part. Mr. Karofsky has no idea what to expect from a Southeast Asian country.
As an English teacher, it was his job to be culturally competent, but he was about to make a big mistake on the first day of the job.
Young and lanky, Mr. Karofsky stood like a giant with yellow hair gleaming over his class of Form 3 students. He wondered how he could create some rapport, but no matter what he said, the students just stared at him and talked to one another in low whispers.
Sweat trickled by his eye.
He couldn’t point out what they were saying, but he heard the words ‘Love Letters’.
That’s it! What better way to gain the student’s interest than by writing letters? Not only that but love letters!
He wrote ‘Love Letter’ on the whiteboard as big as possible and all the students stopped chattering and stared at the board.
“Now,” he said, “why don’t we all write love letters? Here’s how you do it.”
He continued scribbling on the board. “First write dear ‘someone’, then write an introduction. For example, ‘how are you?’”
The marker pen squeaked and a loud ‘bop’ came off when he hit the full stop.
“And you just sign off with your name. My Name is James Karofsky, so I’ll write, ‘from your lover, James K’. Now it’s your turn.”
The sound of plastic and paper followed as students pulled out their test pads and pens. In utter silence, the students wrote profusely. Mr. Karofsky had never seen anything more intense.
By the end of the lesson every student had written at least two pages each and Mr. Karofsky was satisfied.
Despite the grammatical mistakes and brash spelling, he thought he had done a wonderful job and hoped that he could get them to speak English next. However, the sun had only shined for a brief time.
Not so long after, a few students were in a large verbal fight. In fast slurs of Chinese mixed in Bahasa Malaysia two students brawled, but Mr. Karofsky had long been on his way smiling and looking at the large harvest of writing from his students.
He went down the stairs, walked a while and passed the fountain, and waved at a colleague. Then he arrived at the teachers’ office and the cool AC air met him at the door. He had just sat down and had a sip of water when he saw something unsettling.
The phrase ‘Dear Samantha’ appeared in two different letters. Then Ms. Nisa came into the office, followed by two boys, and they were approaching him.
“Mr. Karofsky,” she said, “I hear that you taught class 3C to write letters?”
“—Yes.” He tried to hide the stack of paper. “Love letters are highly inappropriate for a classroom setting.”
“These two boys were in a fuss because of your lesson. Now deal with them.”
The two boys were breathless and sweaty.
Mr. Karofsky was light-headed. But when it ended, he was still grasping his water bottle and he stared straight at the wall for 13 minutes. He made himself a cup of coffee and opened a tin of biscuits.
In a moment of realization, he found long cylindrical chocolate biscuits in the tin, the same ones the students were eating in class, and they were Love Letter biscuits, as said on the tin.
Mr. Karofsky laughed painfully and closed the little tin. He ate his Love Letter biscuits and drowned his unfortunate first lesson with a cup of fresh brew.