5.17.2012

The hazards of teaching teenage boys, part II.

So, I'm standing there and I'm thinking, this is it. I'm going to end up with a bruise on my face or a black eye or a fractured wrist, at the very least. There's no doubt about it, and there's no way out but through.

Eonjin and Gyuseok. They run in the same circle, but they're uneasy friends. Gyuseok is the looser of the two cannons, for sure. He's one of the students who constantly sleeps, and last year we had a little altercation, when I woke him up and told him to sit up and at least take a look at the book for a minute, while I explained the assignment to him. He pushed my hand away, and when he looked up at my face in reaction, I saw on his face a crossroads -- admit he was wrong and apologize for pushing my hand, or stick to his guns? He made his decision and cussed at/in front of me (we were unable to come to an agreement about which it was, with my opinion being that it ultimately didn't really matter) instead.

Following the aftermath of that situation, Gyuseok still sleeps. All the time. But every time I walk past and pat him on the back, he sits up and yanks the book away from whatever student is closest to him (he never has his own) and tries to focus his eyes and nods and follows along while I walk him through a question or two. As soon as I walk away, he shoves the book back at the other student and face plants back down on the desk. But I appreciate the effort.

Eonjin is one of those who's a bit of a man already. And I don't mean just in body. There are some students who look at you in the eyes with a clear kind of logic that's not incredibly common at their age. Eonjin is that kind.

The bell had rung and I was busy setting up for class, and half-heartedly shouting for them to get into their seats, when I heard the usual profanity-laced nonsensical shouting shift a bit in tone. My head snapped up. Gyuseok was in the hall shouting through the window at Eonjin, who was in my classroom. Eonjin was still smirking, but Gyuseok's face was nothing but serious. A few more tense words were exchanged, and Eonjin's face changed. He went tearing out off for the hall.

Every other fucker followed. Three full classrooms' worth of them.

I knew straight off if I tried to touch Gyuseok at all, he was going to end up touching me in a way that he shouldn't, and the situation was going to escalate to a place it didn't need to go. I shouted at the other students to grab Gyuseok and got a hold of Eonjin instead.

It was an odd experience. Eonjin was looking past my face, hurling insults at Gyuseok, but when I called his name, his eyes would snap back and focus in on mine. He would smile, a bit embarrassed and say, "Yes, Teacher. I'm sorry. It's okay. I'm sorry, Teacher." And then his eyes would snap back to Gyuseok and his entire demeanor would change.

It wasn't strange because I've never seen it before, but rather because I have, on drunken male friends when I was in much the same position. It was odd to fall back into that old position, but with my students on the other side.

I've broken up more than a few fights since I started working here, but the students have usually been either around my size, or significantly smaller, sometimes so small that I could have easily just picked them up and physically removed them from the situation.  Even my male friends who tend to occasionally drink too much, or the boys from my neighborhood back home, have always been around my size.

Standing between Eonjin and Gyuseok, I realized this wasn't going to be quite the same.

I glanced up and down the hall, and saw no one. The other students were doing a decent job of holding Gyuseok back, but had little to gain by pulling him fully away from the situation, thereby putting an end to the most exciting drama to occur all month. This was much more fun than sitting in class, where they should've been. I started slowly backing Eonjin into the classroom, but as Gyuseok realized his situation was getting away without resolution, he escalated his shouting and swears. Before I even knew what was happening, Eonjin had somehow slipped out of my hands like a fucking eel and, without so much as brushing against me, completely circumvented me to be standing face to face with Gyuseok.

Or he would have been, had not the tiniest female teacher in the school gotten there first. Eonjin almost slammed right into her.

In the confusion of the moment, both boys stepped back. The other teacher grabbed Gyuseok by the collar and told two other students to assist her in dragging him away. I got Eonjin by the shoulder and pulled him in the opposite direction.

And just like that, it was over. 

2 comments:

Tokeri Japan said...

Wow, that sounds tough. I'm still confused about what started the altercation, but it's crazy how quickly words can set people off at that age. I hope things are calmer for you soon....

On another note, I've seen in some of your posts that you have kids who don't want to settle down when they get in the class. I used to have that problem too. What I did was have worksheets or a prompt ready for them before the kids even come in the room, so they know to start on that without me saying anything, the minute they enter. Usually it's something quick that takes about 5-10 minutes to complete which they learned in the last lesson. Your school year has already started, so it might take a while for them to get used to it, but I know it works wonders for me.

I'm no Picasso said...

What started was that during the break time they'd been out in the hallway flinging water from the water fountain on each other, and it went a bit too far. Gyuseok got angry, which Eonjin thought was funny, until Gyuseok went too far with the name calling, and then it turned serious.

Stupid.

Also, they're alright once I get them all actually in the classroom. It's just that doing so takes a good hard minute, because they're used to their other teachers coming in five to ten minutes after the bell, but I'm usually there a few minutes before. I've gotten used to that. Because the thing is, just as in this situation, even if I've got my boys all in the classroom, the two classes on either side are still running rampant and poking their heads in through my windows and shouting, because their teachers haven't shown up yet. It doesn't even get quiet enough in the building to even pretend to teach until five minutes after the bell.

They know it pisses me off, so most classes at least make an effort, but they're hardly going to be like, "Oh, today is Liz Teacher's class! Better stop practicing my break dancing moves in the hallway and get to my seat." It's a dream that will just never come true.