Seven classes is not good for Teacher's soul. I had three more students crying today. Why? They ignored me when I told them to move from a back table to a front one.
It's okay, because they made me cry back. Not until the last one of them left office, of course. The second the door closed behind him, my face was in my hands. The difference this time was the "some meeting" with the other English teachers after work, one of whom had the main culprit in her homeroom class last year. "He's just mean. A mean student. And his mother thinks he's perfect. It's terrible. It's not you fault."
I finally, finally got a chance to vent about my frustrations with the after school classes, and feel like I was really being listened to. From now on, their behavior in my after school class will reflect on their English grade. Now I don't feel like I'm grasping at straws -- like I have to go to such extreme measures to keep things under control. The other teachers reminded me that they get disrespect from the students all the time -- that's why the office is always full. It's not just me who has bad classes, and who struggles to to remain in control sometimes. I am expecting too much. And I will learn as I go. And the most important thing is to remain calm, always.
Two of the three from today were apparently drawn into some sort of misbehavior pact by the third, the one who came with me to the office on Friday. He just won't let this thing die. I had a chance to really talk to those students and I think I will never see an ounce of trouble out of them again. One, I nicknamed Comedian when he was disrupting class with his jokes before. Today, after being screamed at by a Korean teacher on my behalf, he struggled for a few minutes and then managed to apologize in English, "from my heart". I put a finger under his chin and moved his tear-stained face upwards toward mine. "Hey. Funny guy, right? Comedian?"
He gave a little laugh. "Neh."
"I like you. I don't want to fight. I believe it is from your heart. So we won't fight anymore, right?"
He smiled. "Neh, Seonsaengnim."
The other one had to stop and start three times with his apology because he couldn't stop crying. Finally, the best English I've heard out of a student yet (after consulting with Coteacher in Korean about how to say what he wanted to): "First of all, I want to say that I am so sorry for my ignoring to you today. And, now every class... I want to.... best student. I will be best student.... for me... I will be best student I can be. For your class. Really, best student I can."
Coteacher told him in Korean that I was American and he should look at me when I'm talking, not down. He lifted his face. When he made eye contact, he immediately started crying again.
"Hey, hey. You are the best student. You are an excellent student. You are smart and you listen and you have respect. Do you understand? You are the best student."
Nearly sobbing at this point. "I don't think so, Teacher."
"I do. I know you are a good student. You know I know that, right? I know you think I don't know the students. I know you. You know that I know you are a good student, right?"
"That's why I worry when you sit at the table with Jong-min. If I have strong emotions, it's because I know you are an excellent student. I have strong emotions about that, about such an excellent student ignoring me. Do you understand?"
"Neh. I'm so sorry, Teacher."
To the infamous Jong-min, what could I say?
"Hey." He is forever unable to meet my eyes without fidgeting and squirming. There's something genuinely not right with this kid. And he hates being made to look shamed in front of me. "You. I know about you."
I found out last Friday that his homeroom teacher made him take the after school class, even though he really didn't want to in the first place. She used my class as a bargaining tool in the first place, telling him he could stop going once he made it to first rank in his homeroom class. Now, he has achieved that position. But she has decided that he should finish the term, anyway. He feels like a promise has been broken to him, and that's why, just when it seemed I had finally gotten him under control, he's suddenly started acting out again -- he's taking it out on me, and my class.
"Listen. I know. You are number one in your class now, right?"
His eyes gave a flicker of surprise and met mine for just a second. "N-neh...."
"So. You don't have to come anymore. You have to finish this term. Three more. Three more classes, right? Three."
"Three classes. Only three. You and me for just three more classes. They can be terrible or they can be okay. Let's just finish. We can do three more together, right?"
"Okay. So let's finish, together, and then it's over. No more trouble. No more time after school. No more office. Okay?"
I hope to God that actually sunk in. But this is not the kind of kid who listens to reason. As I explained to my co-teachers over coffee, this stopped being about the class a long time ago. From the second he walked in the door, I knew the kid had a chip on his shoulder -- I just didn't know it was about his homeroom teacher, and not me. He was never happy just sitting and quietly ignoring me -- he wanted to cause trouble, disrupt everything for everyone else. It started out being about his will versus his homeroom teacher's -- now, it has ended up being about his will versus mine. Today was about payback. I got the best of him last class, but he wasn't willing to let it end there. Today, he decided to drag two of his classmates down with him. I won't tolerate it. He will be isolated if decides to continue -- not me.
Calm, cool and collected. Calm, cool and collected.
God, this job builds character. Or drives people to new levels of madness. I'm not sure which. But I have no choice but to endure. I'm going to try to stop focusing so much on this one class, which is easily becoming everything. Which is completely ludicrous.
Tomorrow, I'm meeting R (who will, from now on, be know as C, as I learned his Korean name) at the station because he wants to give me a copy of a movie. Don't ask me. I'm just going with it. Saturday will be my first Korean wedding, and then the meeting with the 'cultural exchange' group. Oh. And Thursday is another "business trip" -- another thing to worry over, since 'Gil' has apparently requested to accompany me for the afternoon, instead of Coteacher. Great.
Stress. Why is my life becoming so Korean? And how to so many foreign teachers consider this a vacation?