I could feel it in my bones when I woke up this morning, today was going to be shitty. I just didn't know to what degree.
Today, something deep, deep inside of me absolutely snapped. If there is one thing I will never be able to tolerate in this lifetime, for better or for worse, it's being disrespected. It started when a class of third graders decided to ignore the fact that I was telling them to be quiet, because the co-teacher wasn't in yet. Normally, they would never dare. But it's the field trip week, and all bets are off. That was the end of the end for me, however.
With them, it took nothing more than for a certain change to come over my face, and for me to step back from the podium.. I can't help it. Sometimes this shift just happens and I am immediately scary. The "ya... YA!"s started then, and eventually the entire class was holding completely still, 100% silent, no one daring to even breathe loudly.
"I... have had... enough. Do you understand? You. Be. Quiet. Now. Understand? UNDERSTAND?"
Going through the halls, I felt my attitude completely shifted. I was no longer there to meet and greet each student. The first graders were running up and down the hall outside the English Zone slamming doors when I came up the stairs after lunch.
They froze immediately at the sound of my voice, and turned to look, but when they saw it was the foreign teacher, they started to giggle and shout "ya! ya!" at each other, mockingly. Another door slammed.
"YA!!!! What do you think you're doing? STOP. NOW. Understand?!"
They sulked off down the hall. Better to get this clear now, before I start to teach them.
Then. The nightmare class. This is where things really crossed a line with me. They weren't being anymore terrible than usual, but there's this baby at home that I'm missing, I'm tired and I'm stressed out. And I've reached my fucking limit with half-formed human beings thinking they have the right to push me around. Badass no. 1 and no. 2 started in, tossing a pen back and forth. The look happened again.
To No. 1: "You. Hallway. Now."
There wasn't the usual pandemonium, whining, screaming, begging, and refusing to budge that usually goes along with this suggestion. He marched out straight away. I left him there. I got three minutes back into my lecture and he decided to turn on one of the computers in the hallway. The students started to pay more attention to this than to my lecture. Snap. Out into the hall I went, with rolled up worksheets in hand.
"ON YOUR KNEES! NOW!"
He couldn't believe what he was hearing, but he dropped.
"ARMS UP! NOW!" I whacked his right arm with the rolled up worksheets. He raised them halfway over his head. "ALL THE WAY! UP! UP! NOW!" He raised them all the way. "DO NOT MOVE! UNDERSTAND? UNDERSTAND!?"
I walked back into the classroom and resumed the lecture. Two minutes later, No. 2 tossed a pen across the table. "YOU. HALLWAY. NOW!"
He went straight out, without any protest. The boys left inside gawked through the window, as though they couldn't believe what they were seeing. "ON YOUR KNEES! ARMS UP! UP!!" I swatted at his legs with the papers, as he was still sitting back on his heels and not properly kneeling. He sat up and raised his arms over his head. "YOU TWO. DO NOT MOVE. YOU MOVE, WE GO TALK TO THE PE TEACHER. UNDERSTAND?"
I took one more swipe at No. 1 with the papers: "Arms UP!" As I turned to go back into the classroom, I saw one of the student PE teachers standing in the hallway in mid-stride, gawping at what was going on. I caught eye contact for just a moment, and he quickly bowed and ran off, down the stairs.
The rest of the class went alright, but once when I turned away from the board, I caught No. 1 touching the computer monitor. I went out in the hall and said, simply, "You and me. After school. PE teacher." And went back inside.
After class was over, he actually tried to leave. I couldn't fucking believe it. "You. In here. Now." No. 2 had not budged an inch since I put him on his knees, holding his arms straight above his head for nearly a full 20 minutes. "You. Go home. Have a good weekend."
No. 1 followed me back inside. "Pick up the trash." When he had finished that, I took it the trash from him and said, "Erase the board." When that was done, "Push in the chairs." As we went out into the hallway, and I turned to lock the door behind me, he turned as if to go. "Ya. Where are you going? We are not finished. Didn't I say we would go see the PE teacher?"
Tears began to brim in his eyes, and he squirmed in place, trying to find the words in English. Finally, he just looked at me, helpless. "Teacher. I am sorry."
"What can I do? I told you, you do this, this happens. You made a choice. Not me. You. Your choice."
He squirmed more, as the tears started to fall.
"There's no other way. I told you. The end. Come with me."
I took him down to the office, where the tears continued. The tears, in public, in front of me, in front of the third grade students, seemed to be more punishment than the PE teachers could ever dish out. The office was brimming with third graders, all being lectured by various homeroom teachers. Behavior was definitely at an all-time low today.
Coteacher got halfway through our translated lecture, when three students with the most horrified looks I've ever seen on any face came running, screaming into the office. They shouted something in Korean, and all of the Korean teachers immediately went white. People started running everywhere, and Coteacher rushed to the window, leaning out.
I followed. When I leaned out of the window, I saw something that I don't think will ever leave my mind -- a third grade student laid motionless on the sidewalk below. He had jumped, or fallen, out of a fourth floor window.
I don't know how to describe what happened to my heart. There's only one other time I've ever felt that way.
I was at work until nearly six tonight. I keep wondering how this is supposed to be temporary. How this job is supposed to be something you just pass through. How I, as the foreign teacher, am not supposed to care about my Korean students. How I'm not supposed to become invested. How I'm not supposed to feel any of this.
The student is alive, by the way. I saw his foot move one second before Coteacher really lost it. "He's moving! He's awake!" We'll have to wait until next week to find out what really happened.
On my way out of the building, I came down the stairs to find three third graders with their feet up on the window sill, balancing on their hands. They had obviously scrambled to get back into this position, when they heard a teacher coming down the stairs. When they saw it was only me, they relaxed and fell to the floor.
"Ya. Feet up." My tone was so exhausted and benign that they didn't understand what I was saying the first time.
They scrambled back into position. I walked past them, toward the door. "Have a good weekend, guys."
They struggled to lift their faces up from their awkward position. "You too, Teacher! See you again!"
"See you again...."