Korean kid smiling

In order to start some friendly competition in my classes at CDI, I started writing all my students' names on the whiteboard and making a little smiley face for a happy point and a little sad face for a sad point. This worked magnificently, and the game evolved even more when I started drawing hearts, kings or queens, skulls, dogs, cats, bears, foxes, and a few other sketches.

Let it be known, I'm a crappy artist. I can barely draw a "Jo-La-Man" (Korean for stick figure), but when the kids see all types of cartoons next to their names they don't really seem to care how perfectly they're drawn.

The same children who mocked my clothes, hair, and face soon began complimenting me on my coolness and style. One day I noticed how much my students loved Angry Birds. It's a game where you put birds into a sling shot and try to knock down pigs in different types of structures. The game swept the nation, continent, and world. The Angry Birds themselves didn't look that difficult to draw, so I gave it a shot. After maybe a million tries or so, I found I could make one circle, a half circle, a triangle, two more half circles, some hair, two angry eyebrows, and BOOM! Angry Bird. I knew the drawing wasn't great, but anybody could tell what I intended to draw.

The next day during homework check, I drew Angry Birds on my good students' papers, and nothing for the other kids. Wow! My little twerps went bananas! Crazy! Wild! Berserk!

Pretty soon I started giving regular Angry Birds to boys, and girl Angry Birds to girls. What makes a girl Angry Bird? A ribbon in her hair, duh! So easy, but so loved.

Never had I used a motivational tool as successful as this one. The kids started raising their hands to answer and ask questions, just to see a circle or triangle Angry Bird next to their name or on their papers. They relished seeing my drawing on their work. The same children who mocked my clothes, hair, and face soon began complimenting me on my coolness, style, and—of course—handsomeness.

Korean class with KC

Soon, kids would do all types of chores for me: carry books, hand out stickers, and other monkey-work. I had found my "thing."

When I started at the university, I didn't feel like my kids gave a shit. That's because they didn't. Then one day out of habit I drew an Angry Bird on a pupil's good homework. She sat up straight and showed her friends. Her friends literally jumped out of their chairs to stare at her gift. They asked, begged, and pleaded for me to give them one.

I was more surprised than anybody. "Uh, you need to earn these Angry Birds. I don't just give them away," I told them.

My university pupils clamored and brainstormed and plotted to earn these Angry Birds. Suddenly, my kids gave a shit.

One boy who gave a speech on "Why smoking is cool and helps you pick up chicks" did a great job on his homework. He received an Angry Bird that day. He pointed to his new addition and told me, "Casey Teacher, I have five Angry Birds now." I looked at him, nodded, and smiled. "Good job," I replied. But then I thought, Didn't you just spend two years in the army? And don't you spend all day drawing anyway? Can't you just draw your own damn Angry Bird?

But to this day, nothing I've done comes close to making the kids work hard than an Angry Bird drawing. Not grades, stickers, prizes, or longer breaks. Well, maybe longer breaks, but Angry Birds saved my teaching career.