Submitted to the Vice Principal of Baekyoung High School on 9/24/2009
I have three boy’s classrooms which are behavior problems, making it impossible to conduct a speaking class. Speaking classes are inherently chaotic because students are learning in an atypical way, and that is an exciting opportunity for many of them to socialize. Some students try to capitalize on this opportunity, ignore the Native English Teacher’s lesson, and abuse the teacher if the lesson interferes with their socializing.
To stop this disrespectful behavior I threatened the boys with dictation of English. Dictation is not only painful, but it is also good practice for listening exams. They chose dictation over behaving, unfortunately. These boys have no respect for visiting foreigners, for women, or for teachers in general. I do not make rules to be broken or make threats I don’t carry out. If I were to do so, then my words would mean nothing. And so we have dictation…
In every class now, I have the students tell me what the rules of class are before class begins. After several weeks of this, a few classes no longer need to recite the rules and they just automatically follow them. This is the goal, and this is the process. Once I am confident they can behave themselves, then I know I can do many of the TESOL communicative activities I was trained to do. Because these teaching techniques require a lot of student movement and participation, it is imperative that the students respect me prior to starting these activities. So we are almost there, except for the three problem boy classes.
I asked the boys for the class rules (which every other class has been able to tell me) and heard none. The class would not take their seats, they were continuing to socialize ten minutes into the classroom, and the student in question (I did not get his name during all of this, so I will just call him “the boy” from now on) was especially defiant in the amount of talking and sound level of talking he continued to do – both while I was speaking, after I told him to respect me as the speaker, after I told him again, and after I told him again.
I told the class if they could give me one class period of dictation following the rules, then I would drop the scheduled dictation for next week and they could enjoy going to the English Zone when it is completed. But the students today did not seem to care that they could have the last punishment dropped: they continued to make my class their social hour or sleep. The amount of total disregard for everything I said was too much, and I got a stick from the back of the room and started to hit desks where students were sleeping. The boy in question continued to ignore me when I told him to stop talking. I told him that if he didn’t stop it, the entire class would get another dictation.
I told the students to get out paper and pen and only about half a dozen did so. So I had to yell very loudly to get out paper NOW. Several students started mocking me and copying me. I told them that it was obviously their choice to keep getting dictation, and they could have had next week’s dropped if only they had been respectful. I warned them that if they continued like they were, I would add another week of dictation as punishment.
I proceeded with dictation, and the boy continued to talk. I then told him to shut up. And he continued to talk and laugh at me. Because he was the leader in this, I decided to punish him.
- I told him to get on the desk and he responded by putting his forearms on the desk. (the boy is smiling and laughing this whole time)
- I told him to get ON the desk and he stood up and then lay on the desk.
- I told him to get ON THE DESK on his knees, and he sat on the desk in a comfortable position.
- I told him ON YOUR KNEES and he pretended he didn’t know what knees were. (the boy started playing sick and making jokes so the entire class was laughing)
- I told him to put his arms up in the air, and he told me his arms hurt because he was late.
- I told him I didn’t care what happened when he was late this morning: I wanted his arms up in the air. (the boy defiantly laughed at me, was being a comedian with whatever he was doing with his arms, and the entire class was laughing)
- I told the boy to go out in the hall. (the boy started sticking his head up through the class window making faces)
- It is at this point that I left the classroom and decided to take the boy to the Principal. (the boy laughed and said okay and was happy to go to the principal for some reason)
- So I turned him around and took him to the Vice Principal instead.
Teaching in Korea is very different and challenging – the students are very immature, the classes have about 10 more students per class, the students have no respect for anything but the exams. This is difficult enough for Korean teachers, but Native English Teachers do not believe in hitting and violence, we are not allowed to do so, and we do not have the power of grades. We essentially have zero power. Neither do I believe in bribing children or treating them like best friends – we are role models and authority figures, whom children should respect because we know things they need.
I need (and all NET’s need) more support with these most difficult students, because the culture is soooo very different and because we are stripped of all power.
I would also like to add that 75% of my classes I enjoy, I feel the students are learning a lot from me, and that even though we may have small difficulties on occasion, they are learning a little more about real respect, other cultures, and global perspectives.
Please find some appropriate punishment for this boy, so that the other students know that it is NOT OK to disrespect a Native English Teacher.
Sincerely, Leanne Leith
Btw, the English Zone is beautiful and I look forward to having a dedicated environment free of the student’s normal distractions.
I was just called to speak with the head of the department about this incident, and it has been determined that the boy will be given a second chance. The boy was asked to write an essay about why what he did was wrong, and was told that if it happened again he would be punished. I told him I was very unhappy and disappointed with this decision, because now the entire class will know they can always get a second chance. I told him it is critical that a native English speaker get support regarding discipline matters. I told him this is why there is a discipline problem in Korean schools, because there are no real consequences for improper actions.
So I guess that seals it: goodbye Baekyoung High School.
I will write up my formal notice tonight…