Teacher is Mad


Last night over beer we were discussing corporal punishment, and I explained to them how when I was a child there was corporal punishment in the United States, but that it got outlawed about the time I went to middle school.  That must have been around 1976,  They wondered how we controlled the students without it’s presence, and I explained how corporal punishment didn’t work.  I explained how it just gave more attention to students, that they were bad because they wanted attention, and that corporal punishment just made them be bad more.  They kind of pondered this, half nodding.  One said they had only caned someone once and felt really bad about it afterward.

I spoke about the talking in the classroom, and the teacher who had spent a lot of time in the U.S. and had observed U.S. classrooms went on to explain to the others that children in the U.S. are amazing and don’t talk when the teacher is talking.  They don’t even talk to each other.  They really CARE that they don’t hurt anyone’s feelings, they CARE that they don’t offend their teachers or their classmates.  It really amazed him.  And he went on to illustrate some of the many surprising ways in which Americans are extra polite socially.  Like holding the door open for people.  That blew him away.  The other teacher’s observation was that the Korean students have no idea that THIER talking has any impact.  I think she’s somewhat right.  Each little talking circle is like its own private social universe.  They all think what they do is inconsequential.  A dozen circles all talking in a class of forty plus is enough to make you want to throw things.

So today, I did.   This one class from hell just wouldn’t shut up when it was anyone’s turn.  And this one boy was just totally oblivious to anything I would say.  About respect.  About being rude.  Most of the time I just wait quietly until they all notice progress has ground to a halt, and then they shape up.  But not this class.  The guy just kept on as if it was his social hour, so I threw a chalkboard eraser at him and pegged him in the head.  Direct hit.  Nice white rectangle on top of his head.  Ten, fifteen minutes later he was still trying to get the white out of his hair, and he was still pissed about it.  We’ll see if he talks next week when I see him.

The earlier boy class today, I had FIVE boys standing due to sleeping, and one boy sitting in a chair by himself because he wouldn’t stop talking to his neighbor.

I’ve decided Tuesday boys won’t get music or video next week.  I can’t get through the complete lesson due to having to stop and control their behavior.  I’ve also learned that lessons are more effective when we work together on the board.  But maybe for this class we will have to do some really dry paperwork until they shape up.  IN FACT, I am going to pull out one of the really long, really dry sample lesson plans assembled from the other English teachers that the ministry of education has distributed amongst the Korean English teachers so they can learn how to teach spoken English better.  That’ll show them to fuck with me.  It is too bad for the good kids in class.  One adorable cute and smaller boy with impeccable English handed me back my note card with two hands.  I felt like curtsying back to him.

The mocking has pretty much stopped.  I gave someone my kamikaze look (sorry – that unfortunate term was given me by my politically incorrect racist adoptive father, and I pull it, and the term for it, out when I can’t think of a term that pisses me off more or expresses just how pissed off I am) and then told the boy that was NOT funny and DON’T ever do it again.

My male co-teacher is still AWOL.  I have no idea wtf he is doing with all of his free time, but I have also let the other teachers know I haven’t seen him…

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2 thoughts on “Teacher is Mad

  1. I don’t think the problem of talking in classroom has to do only with the country. I think it depends of the city of the school, the generation, the dynamic of the group, ths students, the school, the age, sex and personality of the teacher, etc
    When I was teaching, I had groups of students talking non stop, groups where only few students were talking but it gave the impression that everyone, and also one group where every students were talking. It was impossible to shut them up except during their exams. I also had groups where I had nothing to do to keep them quiet, they were like angels.

    In my case, I believe I was part of the problem because I didn’t know how to be a leader and I had no authority. Another part of the problem was the students and the parents behind them. Today, kids are spoiled by their parents and it give such results in classes.

    Older teachers who had experience in teaching since more than 30 years told me that they had no such problem in the old time. They noticed the students became less attentive over the years, they have difficulty to concentrate, they are more hyperactive.
    Not difficult to believe, when I was student myself teachers didn’t need to find different ways of teaching to get our attention. There was less things to distract us.
    There are so many things that can distract the students and make them hyperactive in a city like Seoul.

  2. You are right of course. I only have three really hard to control classes – all boys. I have seven classes of boys and seven classes of girls. All of them seem to think talking is their entitlement, but most of them try to chill out because I’ve told them it isn’t acceptable and because I think my class is interesting. Granted, it isn’t fun and games like many teachers try to make it, and yet it isn’t as painful as a Korean English class would be.

    I think the problems are many: the emphasis on test scores, that this is an especially high pressure school in an especially high pressure area of the city, and that the children are totally over-scheduled. The kids I have I only see once a week, and finding ways for 40+/- students to speak English in 45 minutes is truly challenging.

    As the native English teachers, we are not allowed to discipline the children – my non-existent co-teachers are supposed to be there for that. Our classes do not get a grade. We are not allowed to assign homework or give tests. Therefore, there is zero incentive for these kids to perform and every incentive for them to view this as an opportunity as a break from the inhumane rigor of their daily academic life. That’s a really powerful aphrodisiac to overcome. Many of the brighter kids are very interested in the class, but for the majority, especially those with no hope or need to apply their English lessons, then they have no interest in speaking it. Nor do they care if they disrupt those that do. Just recently, the emphasis on English has become so amplified that civil servants and teacher promotions depend on passing the Korean equivalent of the TOEFL exam. Corporations hire dependent on English comprehension test scores. However, none of these testing methods require speaking. That any child participates at all is really amazing. The younger children are more likely to participate – by high school, their focus has shifted to preparing for the SAT’s, and those that are in high school now did not get to enjoy the pouring of resources into English education that those in primary school are enjoying right now.

    Add to that, my style is decidedly low key. That has always been appreciated by American children and I have always gotten stellar results for this attitude of mutual respect. But I am no entertainer, I am disempowered by this system, and I am also a small female. Most of the middle school students are larger than I am, and I am teaching high school.

    I’ll figure something out. I am hoping that denying the bad classes the media-rich portions and giving dry handouts for the bad classes will have some effect. The positive thing I tell them is this or that trick will help you sound like a higher level of English speaker. I tell them they are already at a high level of English reading and writing, and that if they listen to my tips and tricks, their speaking will start to match their other English abilities. As negatives, I point out the lack of respect, and I think that registers in their brains because this culture gives a lot of lip service to respect (while seeming to have little understanding of personal or mutual respect) I also know I need to find ways to employ their group and social mentality to better effect. I know that the opinions of the other students means everything, so I need to find ways which make the students regulate the class, and not me. In many ways, this is a cultural thing. Yet even the Korean teachers have many problems with this. And so they carry a beating stick…

    The older teachers observation is very interesting. It is probably true about the attention span and having less distractions of older vs. younger generations. But in the case of Korea I think it is just the nature of kids – and the full range of personalities which they represent – overlaid upon a system where their nose is held to an unrelenting grindstone. I think Korean kids are LESS easily distracted and more disciplined with their studies. The problem is my class is not seen as a serious study, because they will not be tested on it.

    My first day at this school, two weeks prior to school, I requested that my entire class be equivalent to one test attached to their Korean teacher taught English classes, and the response was incredulous. “But you’re a speaking class!” I explained that I thought it was important incentive for participation, but the idea got veto’d.

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