Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My Wayward Lambs

One of my ESL classes at school is rather...infamous among the teachers for its less-than-stellar behaviour. Although the kids are all generally good kids when you get them one on one, put them together and it's a nightmare. I call them my "grey hair class," because I always come out of it feeling several hundred years older. The classroom management methods that work so well with other classes don't work with them. They don't listen. They don't do what you ask. They break the English Only rule constantly. They are always screaming at the top of their lungs tattling on each other. They kick and hit and pinch each other. Today, one of them lied to my face. Another swore at me in Korean when I gave him detention for talking, thinking I wouldn't catch him.
In a weird way, I'd almost feel better if they were only like this with me, because it would imply that I was simply doing something wrong, something that could be fixed. But they're like this with every teacher.
One day, in frustration, I found myself yelling at the top of my lungs, "Geez! What does it take to get through to you? Do I have to hit you?"
"Yes," they said, as if it should have been obvious.
I know that corporal punishment is still standard practice in Korean schools, but it had never before occurred to me that the kids' acclimatization to it is likely accounting for a lot of the problems going on with that class. Apparently, one of the kids I gave detention to today -- the one who lied to me -- burst into tears of happiness when he discovered he was accepted here, because, as he put it, "Western schools have no rules."
I thought that was a telling statement. To him "rules" mean "getting swacked". Western schools have rules. We give warnings, detentions, suspensions. But in my students' mind, none of these count. Rules mean corporal punishment. Nothing else gets through to them. Nothing.
As much stress as they cause me, I really do love those kids and I want them to succeed. I don't have them next semester, but I'm going to keep an eye on them anyway to see how they're doing.
It certainly hasn't been a dull semester, in any case.


Mama Nabi said...

Maybe you can tell them their fathers will be notified. I assume Korean kids are still scared of their dads?

Rora Seonsaengnim said...

It's interesting that you said that...we were just given our PTA guides. Inside are listed the students' home numbers and their mothers' cells. Their fathers aren't listed at all.

I've noticed that paternal involvement in children's school life her seems to increase with the child's age. You see a few dads around in middle school, but for high school parent-teacher interviews they are out in full force alongside the moms. It seems like in Korea, primary education is the mother's responsibility, but the father takes over in high school.