Friday, November 2, 2012

The Audacity of These Kids

So observation by parents were 'eh on Tuesday. It had to be my worst class, 2-3, and my 3-1 class, but I did the best with what I got. My lesson on conditionals was simple and repetitive enough for all my students to understand, so that was a win. So it was an open class so parents could come in and out of my room and stay or leave as they wanted. There were times I had no parents in my room, one parent in my room, and even twenty parents in my room. Oh, and when I say parents, I actually mean mothers. My 2-3 class was rowdy, per usual when they came in and weren't any different when there was anything less than five parents in the room. They're always super loud, chit chatty, and overall just disrespectful. Then there was a horde of parents that came in at once. They were dead silent. It's the quietest I've EVER heard them before. I even made a comment to them at the end of my instructions where I said, "You are all so good now that your mothers are watching you." A few of them who understood what I was saying chuckled.

Thursday was Halloween and it was a BUST day. So I bought candy from Costco in Busan (expensive since I bought so much) and hauled it back with me for these ungrateful kids. I thought I would do something nice for them and show them a little bit of American culture. I was only going to give one Dum-Dum for each student since I had a little more than enough for all of my students. Long story short, I realized how little some students respect me. It went horribly. I was trying to have a system where only one kid would take a piece at a time so I could control how much they would take. But then one kid would put a hand in, then another, then madness would ensure where there would be 20 hands in the bag. Kids were taking HANDFULS of Dum-Dums. The ones who took a lot would run away immediately after taking them even when I called for them to come back. Eventually, I stopped the madness. I was even willing to let it go. Then something happened that set me off.
I was coming back from lunch and there were tons of kids waiting for me. So I had them line up in the hallway and went to get my candy. This time, I monitored VERY closely so I only had one kid take a piece of candy at any given time. I felt a tap on my shoulder and a first year student, the captain in Mr. Cho's homeroom class who has excellent English, handed me a Chupa-Chup and said, "Happy Halloween." She's a real sweet kid. Anyway, I put the lollipop in my back pocket and kept giving out candy. Then I felt the lollipop leaving my back pocket. I turned around and there were a bunch of kids around. I asked who took it and all of them denied taking it. Kids were pulling their pockets inside out and even searching each other, patting each other down. Still, all of them claimed, "Not me, Teacher." So I said to the hall and line of students, "Someone stole my candy so no candy for anyone." With that, I walked back into my office, shut my door to all the students in the hallway groaning, and locked up the candy in my cabinet. The audacity of these students is RIDICULOUS. How dare a student steal from me. One student's action speaks volumes about all the students though.
So, this is when I decided to take action. My lesson for this week, following Halloween, in a punishment lesson. I first explain the situation to my students and then I have them write lines for the first 15 minutes of class. I tell them the main concern is that I find that the students do not respect me. I tell them I will not tolerate it. I wrote my powerpoint slides in English and had Mr. Cho translate them all in Korean. I want every single student to understand the situation so all of them will understand why I am angry and why they are being punished. When we were at Orientation, if my Korean teacher came in one day and started yelling at us in Korean, and then told me to write lines in Korean, I would be super confused and probably a bit angry because it would seem unreasonable and unfair. So, I ensured all my slides explaining the situation were in English and Korean. This gives the students no excuses for not understanding. Then I have them write lines for 15 minutes; they write "I am sorry Teacher for not respecting you. I will respect you." I was going back and forth about my feelings for this lesson. I didn't want to go through with it since I have some really great classes and some great students that I know respect me. For example, I know that none of my third year girl students were involved. So, I feel bad for punishing them. However, if I punish some kids, I have to punish all of them. Otherwise, students will claim it is unfair and I am showing favoritism. I don't want there to be any gray; it is black and white. Plus, this Korean culture of 우리 (we-ness) plays here. One student's lack of discretion leads to punishment for all.
I started this new lesson on Thursday. I think the anger in my voice when I called for their attention at the beginning of class gave them the hint it was not a fun day. In a few classes, there have been some mutters about how unfair it is, not understanding (when I ask if they understand), etc; when I hear any dissent, I give my stare in the general direction and ask them to repeat it. They never do. They know I'm angry and they understand the situation so I think they realize I am very serious and it is not a joking matter with me. So far, I've done this punishment lesson on Thursday and Friday. It's worked WONDERS so far. Some classes are more "receptive" to the story and understanding why they're writing lines than others but overall, none of my students really question my authority, once they realize I'm angry. This isn't my "most successful" lesson by any means but it is probably the best class management lesson I've had yet. This is even better than my sacrificial lambs when I first starting teaching.

Well, at least I've learned something--to be a Korean middle school teacher, classroom management is more important than teaching. Truth.

1 comment:

  1. Wow... a real Halloween horror story. I'd be intimidated if I were your student. I think it's interesting hearing your justification of the woori punishment system... it seems radically different from what you'd find in an American classroom. So do your students respect you more now or do they just fear you ? :P