The hazards of teaching teenage boys.

It's funny how quickly your day can change, when you work as a teacher.

There's this one class. You all know the one I mean. It's been a struggle for a few weeks now, but I came down really hard on them two weeks ago, and last week they managed to get it together and do a good job. Today, their computer was broken, which means the entire lesson plan is shot to hell, and I'm left with nothing but my mouth, my chalk pen and the board. Their homeroom teacher, who is also an English teacher, was nice enough to hang around and ask me if it was okay. I thought about it for a minute and decided that, even though their level is really low, and even though we've been having some problems, it should be alright. I told her she could go.

And for the most part, it was. One kid would not stop turning around, so I moved him. And he still wouldn't stop turning around, so I moved him again. I told the kid behind him that time that if he even looked at this kid, there were going to be serious consequences. There were a few times where I had to call the class to complete silence, but I did so without losing my temper, and we got through it. It weren't easy, but we got through it.

They were working away on their assignment, and I was having to do a bit of policing to make sure they were on task (a bit more than I generally like to do), but we were doing okay. Until I noticed one of the trouble makers in the class nudging his friend, and then motioning behind my back when I turned around.

Now, since this is one of the lowest classes (if not the lowest) I teach, they are aware of how much I understand in Korean. Because, although I don't speak it in class, they will often times call out answers or ask questions in Korean, and if they can't get it together to rephrase in English, I will go ahead and answer them, or say it for them in English. So they know.

Rewind to this morning. As I'm headed out of my apartment building, I realize I forgot to put on my standard undershirt, the industrial strength kind that makes sure that even if I'm touching my toes, you can see nothing. Since it's been colder out, I've been wearing a thick, heavy sweater over my clothes at school and haven't had to worry about such things. But it's not cold today. It's alright, I thought. I'll just have to be careful how I move today.

Apparently I was careful enough, until seven class rolled around.

I had clocked on to the fact that the kid was up to something, and that it had to do with my physical appearance, but I wasn't sure what it was. There was nothing being said out loud that was cluing me in, so I just watched the students carefully for a while without letting on that I knew something was up. Which was probably a mistake, in retrospect.

It didn't take me too long to figure out what was up when students who never ask me questions started calling me over for help. By that time, class was nearly over, so I called both the student who couldn't get the direction he was supposed to be facing right and the little fucking pervert up to the front and told the others there wouldn't be time for stamps today.

I took the two to the teachers' office and explained to their homeroom teacher what had gone down. As I explained the second student's offense in English he couldn't understand, my body language tipped him off and his face went white as a sheet.

I was doing alright, blowing it all off as one of those stupid things that sometimes happens until the homeroom teacher showed up in my office ten minutes later. She said, "I'm sorry. I should have stayed in class." That statement is something that I just don't like to hear. I don't like to think that there are things that the Korean teachers can control that I can't, or that won't go on if they're there. It upset me. A lot.

To top it all off, I sent Busan a message about it in English on my way home. Maybe you can see what happened sooner than I did. I said, "A student looked down my shirt today. I feel quite blue about that. I haven't had that kind of disrespectful thing happen in a very long time. I would prefer they swear in my face."

His answer: "What did you wear?"

I lost my shit a bit, with that response. What the fuck kind of question is that? It doesn't matter what I wore -- I am their teacher. I kept my response brief: "Fuck off."

"Um, you got hurt. It's okay. You must look good in my eyes."

Are you fucking kidding me? At that point, I was ready to have a royal fucking fight. I told him to leave me alone for the rest of the day. He went silent. I decided he couldn't possibly have said that, that there must have been a misunderstanding.

I looked back at the messages and suddenly my memory was jogged to this past weekend, when Busan had asked me about something -- I can't remember what -- but if I looked down him. Meaning, if I was looking down on him.

I quickly sent him a message apologizing, and explaining the mistake -- I didn't mean that a student had been making fun of my shirt. I meant that he had tried to see down the front of it. And of course, he answered back with a much more appropriate response: "Did you kill him?"

So. My students got under my skin today. But at least my boyfriend didn't suddenly come out as some kind of weird, blamey misogynist.

That's something, right?

Tomorrow's a new day. I just wish it was easier to blow this shit off.


Katherine Koba said...

Blegh, the hazards of ladyparts. =/ What a little creep.

But yay for boyfriends who aren't blamey misogynists!

John from Daejeon said...

I've had the opposite instances happen to me as a male teacher. Over the years, several junior high and high school girls, and even some boys, have tried their best to get me to "get" caught looking down their tops and bottoms. I understand that many are not only raging with hormones, but also succumbing to peer pressure, and seeing what they can get away with in terms of pushing my buttons, verifying their attractiveness in their own eyes via mine, establishing their place in their society's pecking order, and, sadly, those just hoping for any kind of attention whatsoever.

But what should, and can, I do about it? In the U.S., not only can it mean my job, but it can also mean jail based on anything a student says or makes up. This is why I am all for CCTV recording my classes; however, my school district back in Texas would not allow it because (in the school board members' minds) the recording infringes on the students' rights even though false accusations have led to major problems in the district before.

Yes, kids most definitely need protection from those evil men and women that might, and do, prey on them, but they also need to be kids and make those occasional small mistakes to get set right for when it really matters--when their lives, and health, are on the line. --See this week's Dateline NBC--"My Kid Would Never--Stranger Danger": http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032600/#/47046952

But they also need the occasional reassuring touch on their hand, arm, shoulder, their face to wipe away tears, or even a hug to show them that they matter and are cared about by at least someone when they are at their lowest.

And as angry as I get when they pull their worst nonsense on me, I realize, in the back of my mind, that I wouldn't want to change places with them and have to go through this beyond PC, no teacher/student contact at all mandate that they are going through in today's current school system . And while kids have a lot of cool gadgets, gizmos, and toys these days, their lives are just as hard as ever (if not harder).

Esti said...

Just want to say thanks for this post. Had a similar thing happen to me yesterday, and because of this article I confronted the situation, instead of usually 'avoiding' it or pretending i didn't hear the comments.
I spoke to the student with Co-T translating and he looked really ashamed after realising how he made me feel in class- after creepy comment about my boobs.
They know its out of line- we should remind them of the boundaries when they cross the line.