Hardcore Sem.

I put my hand through a pane of glass at school today.

I wasn't angry, but I was playing angry. It was immensely difficult to keep up the facade after that happened. You see, my formerly angelic second graders have been taken over by the old teacher who turned last year's second graders into total nightmares as well. When I come into class now, they stand on their desks and shout the Korean equivalent of, "Hooray! No grandmother teacher today!" Punks. While I'm glad that they're initially happy to see me, they have a difficult time adjusting their behavior appropriately during our class time. I'm not the grandmother teacher -- I don't tolerate nonstop talking every time my back is to the room, or incessant class-wide jokes in Korean which derail the lesson. Jokes in English? Sure. We can do that. In Korean, not on.

There was a particularly nasty little nest of them today, and after asking them twice to stop talking, I moved one away. The nest persisted, so I moved another up to the front in The Special Chair. Three of them -- the first two I had moved, and one who was left at the back, then proceeded to form a triangle of nonsense. I called the class to attention, and told the three that they were to see me in my office after school. That's not something I have to do often, and is in fact something I've never had to do in front of the second graders before. Their faces turned to shock and then mild terror. Teacher please one more time. Teacher please! One more time!

No. You had 'one more time' when I moved you. I asked you twice to be quiet before that. One more time already happened twice. No more times.

Well. I offended their fragile little pubescent egos, so they proceeded to cop attitude. I sent one out into the hallway the next time he spoke while I was speaking. The rest of the class was mostly alright, but would still take to murmuring amongst themselves every single time I turned to write something on the board. After two or three rounds of: What do you think you are doing right now? This is class time. This is not free time. Be quiet. I turned around from the board and went to slam my hand down on the podium to get their attention. Unfortunately, my hand went straight through the glass.

It took about split second for me to get it together and not flinch. They all jerked around and instantly lowered their eyes in dead silence.

Alright. Well. Shit. I guess I'll just go with this, then.

Stern faced, I explained that we got about 45 minutes together every month and a half. Our time is very short, so we have to use it well. But we can't use our time together when I have to spend so much telling them to be quiet. They were such good students last year, and now they have changed. I don't know why that happened, but I don't like it. I want to be happy when I see them, not disappointed. Why are they making me disappointed? Now. Can we finish our assignments, please? Yes. Are you finished talking and making me disappointed? Yes. Okay.

Turned back to the board and posed the final question. They dutifully called out an answer with perfect concentration -- a funny answer, at that. I smiled, and laughed, and put the answer up on the board, as a thin trail of blood started to make its way down my wrist.

The cool thing about the whole situation? I really genuinely wasn't angry. Or frustrated. Why? I felt like I was actually in control. They were being horrible, no doubt about that. But they were keeping to the right side of the line. At no point were they in danger of actually being able to perform a coup. That's cool. I remember feeling so out of control in these situations, before. And nearly on the verge of tears, it was so bad. But not today. I didn't raise my voice. I didn't make idle threats. I did put my hand through a pane of glass, but that was completely accidental.

When the three boys showed up to the office, I told them to sit down and talk to me. I'm not good at lecturing, but I've found one of the most effective things you can do in these situations is make them try to explain themselves. Why did you do that today?

No answer.

No, really. You must have a reason for the things that you do. So tell me your reason. Why were you talking?

The question was too difficult (we were working on, "Who do you admire?/Who is your hero?") -- we don't know who our heroes are, so we just talked instead.

Well. That's an interesting answer but

1. Am I a mean bad teacher? No? Don't I always answer your questions and help you when you need help? Yes. So, if something is too difficult, why didn't you say, "Teacher! Please help me!"


2. That was during the time you were to be doing your assignments. You are allowed to talk to your friends during that time. Why were you talking while I was talking?

No answer.

I want to know. You must have a reason for everything you do. Just tell me the reason. I want to understand.

I don't know, Teacher.

Well. If you don't know, then it must not be a very good reason, right?


So now you are in the office after school for no good reason. Right?


Is that smart?


Are you smart boys?


You are. You are smart boys. So don't do stupid things.

Timid laughter and apologies.

Listen -- you guys are good students. I know that. And I know you like to talk. That's okay. You can talk in my class. Every other class is listen, listen, listen. But our time together is special, because you have the chance to speak English. I want you to talk. But you have to talk to me. Next time, help me. Give me the answers and be class leaders. Don't waste time doing stupid things instead. Yeah?

Yes, Teacher.

Sorted. And I believe they will, because they are good boys. They just lost the fucking plot today, because there was a typhoon and everyone was forced to stay in school 40 minutes later than usual.

My hand's alright, by the way. But I reckon I'll have a well hard rep by the time I get back to school in the morning.


Tiffani said...

Holy shit. Kudos on keeping it together.

Erm. Can I borrow you for classroom management? ^^

saharial said...

wow... your rep is sorted for the whole year now! Glad to hear your hand is ok!

Anonymous said...

And this is reason 478392014783910 why I'm No Picasso is someone I admire, and is my blogging/teaching hero/role model if I ever get around to teaching English in Korea.

TL;DR: You. Are. So. Cool. ^______^

I'm no Picasso said...

I'm actually really embarrassed about it. I didn't mean to escalate the situation to quite that level at all. Like I said, they weren't being completely out of control. I just meant to give a good bang to get their attention and show them that, "Hey guys... hey guys come on" time had turned into "Ya!" time. That's all. But you know. You roll with the punches. Really embarrassing, though.

gwern said...

It's a cool story, although I'm surprised you weren't hurt more (the one person I know who put their fist through glass... didn't make out as well).

But do you really get students for less than an hour every month? I can't imagine what you could get done in that little time.