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28.2.11

"It all started off as a joke. Someone remarked in class — Mr Clark, he might speak up if you agree to shave your head.

"That led to the Tae Woong Project, which was launched about three to four months back," Clark told Gulf News.

"We distributed flyers to the whole school explaining the challenge. If Tae sang in front of a crowd, I would let him shave my head," he continued.

Every week, on Thursday, a 500-strong crowd including pupils and parents of primary classes gather for the school assembly.

"Every Thursday, we would ask Tae if he is up to the challenge yet."

He wouldn't respond.

Finally, at the assembly two days ago Tae made it. He sang the Korean national anthem.

"There was not a dry eye in the audience. It was the most moving experience I have had."

The teacher admitted that it was not an easy feat for him either, especially since he had inhibitions about revealing his psoriasis affected scalp.

For facing his fear, Tae will be an inspiration to all other pupils, Clark added.

"I was a bit scared and nervous," Tae said.

Asked if he would ever sing on stage again he said he's not sure.

Getting rid of his hair certainly wasn't one thing William Clark signed up for when he decided to become a teacher.
But today, he's happy that he went bald for a cause — putting an end to his 10-year-old pupil's grave fear of public speaking.
The daring teacher and his Korean pupil, Tae Woong-jeong, are part of the GEMS World Academy, located in Al Barsha.
At the beginning of this academic year, Clark got fifth grader Tae as his pupil. Initially, when Tae refused to speak up during group activities or present his ideas in front of his class, Clark assumed it might be due to language difficulties.
However, once Clark read through Tae's written work and saw how well he interacted with his friends, the teacher realised the real problem — intense fear of public speaking.
Tae had been with the school for two years. By then, most teachers had given up on getting him to speak, although their curriculum places much significance on the skill.

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