Monday, March 28, 2011


There is a fairly loud student in my first grade 3 class on Mondays. I like this kid - he's one of those students who doesn't at all mind making a relative ass of himself for the greater good.

His English skills are quite low, but he is among a select few who consistently volunteer to read dialogues or to answer questions in class. His delivery is something to behold - extremely loud, monotone, and staccato as all heck, but he really gives it with gusto:


I love it. It gets people laughing along with him and it helps to put the lower level kids at ease when it's their turn to contribute.

Anyway, today when his class came in, he was noticeably absent, and his classmates were looking a bit shell-shocked. A girl student approached me and told me that our favourite loud reader had gone to the nurse for some ice because in the previous period, a Math teacher had hit him quite hard across the face with a broom handle.

According to the new standards of corporal punishment in Korean schools (which you can read about in-depth at my friend's blog), whoever this Math teacher is, is likely to get some serious discipline from on high. I hope so. Though I know that this kid might have the potential to drive anyone around the bend, I can't imagine ever being in the head space required to raise a broom handle and crack someone across the face.

He's one of the most popular boys in the class, and the students seemed very concerned. He did make it into the class before the bell rang and I was glad for it. He had a visible welt on his cheek, but he quickly got into the class and I had him up with some of his friends demonstrating dialogues as quickly as possible. He's a spark-plug for the other students in his class - a show-off to be sure, but he brings home victories for his classmates in more ways than one.

Anyway, glad to see that his spirit wasn't broken today, though it was clear he had been crying before he got to my classroom. I wasn't there, but I'm confident in saying that there was another way to handle the situation - other than beating with a broom handle. Then again, I didn't grow-up here, so of course it's easy for me to say that.


Jen Davies, MA, CDP said...

Poor kid. At least his next period was your class where there was no chance he was going to suffer.

Tuttle said...

The thing is, we as teachers have all sorts of power advantages over students, why does anyone resort to physical violence? Violence is a tool of impotence and inferiority.

Robert Frost said writing poetry without rhyme is like playing tennis without a net. Which is not really tennis.

Disciplining students by force doesn't instill discipline. It just teaches the use of force.

Ultimately, they're going to have this problem until they are willing to make kids face legitimate consequences, like flunking and repeating a grade. I know it is culturally problematic, but sometimes culture just has to change.

George Bailey Sees The World! said...

Hey, guys - I agree wih you. I'm just warry sometimes of speaking out against things in this environment - especially at school. I think it's far too easy to label my pacifist rants as being those of a soft and ignorant foreigner. I think it's going to take a generation or so to reverse the effects of a sudden corproal-punishment-free existence being given to these students. Korean eachers feel like they have no power anymore, because for many of them, this was the only power they ever had, or knew how to employ. It's going to be a big learning curve for both sides.

Tuttle said...

"...a generation or more ..."

If not us, who?
If not now, when?

George Bailey Sees The World! said...

Hey, man - I get what you're saying. I'm simply admitting that I do what I can in my classroom. Perhaps you have the advantage of resembling an Anime Buddhist basketball coach and being of an age that in this culture simply You have a certain amount of automatic respect, where as I'm the guy who goofs-off with his kids at lunch time and rides his bike to school without shirt and tie.

In other words, I'm assuming that your contemporaries listen to you with more care than mine do me. You and I have been here roughly the same amount of time, but as for my side, I can report that only in my classroom have I been able to have any sway over the teachers' or students' behaviour. Speaking out directly against "The Koren Way" either causes people to get their backs up or to look at me as a quaint foreign pacifist. To them, in theory, it doesn't work.

If my classroom can be a physically safe haven for the students, then I'm at least proud of that and secure in knowing that it's making an impression. I'm hoping that if teachers see other ways of managing classrooms, then perhaps it will rub-off. I'm sure it's rubbing-off already in subtle ways. I'm what's known as the "gentle giant" in my school - even among the teachers.

I have chosen to affect through action, because in my experience, my words mean sweet f$#@-all to most of the people in charge.