Security Desk

Getting a Korean boy to stand up is really strange.   They REALLY don’t know what’s going to happen to them.  They look bewildered, apprenhensive, hurt.  Now – try to make them LEAVE their desks!

Try.  I mean.  Motion.  Say it’s OK!!!  Show them where to go.  Encourage.  Come on!!!.  They start.  They move a shoulder, part of their body heads in the right direction, but their feet stay put.  Some look longingly at their desks.  Some of them actually hold onto their desks. Ay dios mio!!!

Holy crap.  If I can’t get them out from behind their desks for the first supposedly fun game/exercise, how am I going to get them to exchange in dialogs?

Turns out Korean students stay in one classroom, their home room ALL DAY.  They sit in the same desk, in the same room, for the entire year, and they’ve done this for their entire lives.  By asking them to get out of their desk and move around, I am radically fucking with their culture.

I asked the other teachers about this (most of whom understand English well and some of whom can speak well enough to be interested in talking with me) and they say that they like this system because they get to form close relationships with students and also keep tighter control of the student body.

And about that control:  many of the men always have their stick with them.  Their beating stick, that is.  It’s 18″-24″ long, typically wood and typically about 3/4″ in diameter.  One of them has a paddle that has been signed by each of the students.  A couple of them are very rustic and crooked and extra evil looking.  None of the women teachers seem to have this stick – perhaps they get a male teacher to do this.  I’m a little confused, as in earlier conversations my co-teacher said beating the students was no longer allowed.  Maybe that means beatings that result in trips to the hospital…At any rate, I have seen one corporal punishment already, with a boy spread eagled, leaning against the hallway wall, the teacher whacking their behind.

They say that even for group work, they don’t have the students move, but just turn towards the desks behind them.

And soooo, I am facing teaching head on with total culture shock.   Because the students never change classrooms, their desks are much like we have in elementary school – with a personal storage space beneath and all their belongings in them.  We’re talking each desk is its own home, it’s own security blanket.  To get them to leave that and open their mouths in front of the scarey foreign speaking girl is just too much!

Strangely, though, the girls have absolutely zero problem doing this same thing.  I think they see these breaks from the norm as an opportunity for social interaction, which might be what the boys are shrinking from.  Incidently, I found out the boys and girls are only separated the freshman year.  The teachers say the boys are just too focused on getting a girlfriend the first year, so they keep them separated until they are more worried about studying for their exams.

Lord help these kids if they make it to an American University!  Of course, that is my mission here.  Mention the word university and you will immediately have their attention.   I played them some music.  We played a fun game, I let them ask me all kinds of questions about myself, and then I handed out a syllabus, as if we were at a university class, explaining all along how they are used, how they must wring all they can out of their university professor, and how it is up to them if they learn, how they must ASK.  But first I must get them out from behind their desks.

I think we’ll play the behind, in front of, beside, on top of, desk game next time.  (I just made that up, btw)

Oh, btw, I now have my own desk.   IN one of the teacher’s offices.  Day after day, teacher after teacher would ask, is it TRUE you have to sit in the Vice Principal’s office?  Yes.  Gasps all around.  That is terrible!  Everyone was very concerned for me.  If anything, that decision has made a lot of people want to take care of me.  Someone rallied in my defense (I know not whom) the day I couldn’t get to my coat because the Vice Principal had left for a meeting and locked his office.  Anyway, it was presented that it would be a continued hassle for him, and he agreed that maybe room should be made elsewhere for me.  So it’s nice to have other people around me!  Nobody translates anything for me, they’re all working on their own things, they come over and ask me the same things, and then move on.  I can’t remember their names, etc.  But two have really taken pains to talk with me and have mentioned me coming over and having dinner.  So that made me relax so much.  It’s going to be okay.  I’m still going to essentially be alone and isolated, because they all have their own lives and family, but at least I won’t be in solitary confinement!  Yayy!

MUST start Korean lessens as soon as possible.

Had a surprise audience with the principal yesterday.  He told me how pleased he was to have a native English speaker.  And then he went on to point out that the high school’s tag line is global leader and how very important it was that I teach the students about leadership and other cultures and that my students could be the next Barrack Obama or Ghandi, so I must do a very good job.

Sure, no pressure!  For someone with a 3 week TESOL certificate!

And then he told me I was very pretty and he gave me a flashlight with the school emblem on it.

Welcome to Korea

I’m going to walk across the street and find an alley to smoke in now.


Well, I found out even the teachers don’t leave the campus all day.  I was told it was okay for ME to leave campus during lunch, because I am a foreigner, but that Korean teachers are expected to stay at school.  I often get asked how long have I been in school and was admonished the other day for going straight to class instead of showing up at the teacher’s room.  So now I have to be in the teacher’s room ten minutes early so someone can note that I showed up.  Similary, if I have no classes in the afternoon, I am supposed to stay in the building until the last bell rings. No problem.  I am guessing other foreign teachers in the past have merited babysitting, and it doesn’t matter to me if I do lesson planning here or at home.  Except it’s hotter than hell in the teacher’s office.

3 thoughts on “Security Desk

  1. Guess what… I had a corporal punishment once.

    When I began to read about the men holding a stick, I was thinking to ask you if beating the students was stil allowed but as I read further, I saw it’s not.

    My teacher was a female and she had that such stick with her. The two other teachers of the classes on the same floor were also female and they also had the stick. I found my teacher more severe than the others. One morning the teacher was late, so some boys went to the 2nd floor. They saw the waxed floor all shiny. (At that time, we had to use slippers inside of the building and the floors were so clean that you could eat on them). They came back to tell us that, so some other kids went to slide on the floor. Just when I was climbing the stairs to go to slide myself, the teacher arrived.
    Three or four boys, another girl and me, we were punished. She hit us the palms of the hands. Can you imagine, kids of 1st grade beaten like that only for going to slide on the floor? I found later that it was nothing when I was at the orphanage. We were beaten every day only for speaking.
    I’m glad that beating the student is not allowed anymore.

  2. and hey. I went to my former school. In 2001, I went there with my sister but since it was during the summer, it was closed, so we could only stay outside. In 2003, I went there alone (I had my cellular phone with me when I needed to call someone to translate for me). Now, they don’t put slippers inside so the floor was matt. The kids were excited, talking loudly and friendly with their teachers. At my time, kids were calm, quiet and teachers were treated like gods by the students.

    I was lucky for being able to visit my former school. I learned that all the buildings (there were three buildings, four at my time) were going to be destroyed. I saw the new building being constructed on the playground.

  3. Well, I’m actually kind of confused – because I saw some paddling, but I was told corporal punishment isn’t legal except on the hands – unfortunately, the same way you were punished.

    Back when I was a kid, we were paddled in schools as well. I think the end result was that the kids that got paddled just acted worse…the paddling wasn’t that bad and actually they liked the attention.

    I looked up the law on corporal punishment. It’s not prohibited at home, but here is what it said for schools. This was written in 2008 by the National Assembly.

    “According to the third/fourth state party report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2007, the Education Law (2005) takes into account the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but we have been unable to establish whether or not it explicitly prohibits corporal punishment in schools. Corporal punishment is prohibited in schools by government policy. The Regulation on Primary and Senior Middle Schools states that education should be conducted by positive influence, explanation and persuasion, and related materials have been distributed by the Ministry of Education.”

    So the way I read that, you can’t hit elementary and middle schoolers. But it doesn’t say anything about high school students, and it just says that it is “policy” and not law…so there’s room for a little or a lot of beating to keep going on.

    I think what I’m surprised about more is the feeling that it’s needed. It seems like every day I am walking down the halls, and some teacher has one student aside in the halls, giving him the riot act. Every morning when I arrive, there are 3 or 4 students in some stage of some disciplinary process. And this is at a private school – I’ve been told the public schools are much worse.

    Well – we can only wait and see how this new policy plays out in the upcoming years as those kids get to high school. Will they be better behaved and motivated? Will the high school teachers still be carrying beating sticks? I can do nothing but watch…

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