I get no respect, I tell ya

April 19, 2011

ROKetship comic by Luke Martin

Of course my title is a bit of an overstatement. Nor is this blog really a rant about how crazy my kids can get at times. Still, I’m a little surprised how disorderly Korean kids (if my students are any indication) can be in the classroom. A few Thai public school kids were “worse” – all-out fistfights during class – but, by and large, most were respectful and attentive… I’ve certainly never received 100 bows before. In Japan, there weren’t any troublemakers at AEON, with the exception of children too young to know better. But in Korea, well…

I’ve tried to keep my students in the dark about just how much Korean I know (next to none). I’m sure I could fool the youngest classes into thinking I’m fluent, but that isn’t my goal either. If I speak any Korean in class, they simply repeat it as though they couldn’t believe their language could come out of my mouth, and keep speaking Korean for several minutes. The balance, as I see it, is letting your students believe you can speak perfect Korean, but choose not to. This has the effect of making them speak English, but should they swear or start talking to themselves, they would be more aware you could understand them.

Sometimes, though, even this level of control or rather, uncertainty, isn’t enough. Most of my older students just don’t listen to me when I tell them to do something. When they have a question about getting water, going to the bathroom, or something they can’t express, they simply dart out of the room, spouting “Korean teacher”. I can understand this, but they don’t even try to say what they want. And again, with the language control, I tell them I know what they’re trying to say, but I want them to express it in English, not run off to my boss.

The Korean teacher understands this perfectly well without having me to tell him. Every week, students are twice evaluated based on their behavior in his class, and my class. You can imagine his surprise at some students receiving an A+ for K.A. (Korean Attitude), but a C from me. It’s what they deserved. One student wanted a pencil sharpener, so I asked her to ask my permission (in English) to go to the next room and get it. Instead, she simply jumped up, and ran out of the room after I had said “SIT DOWN!” Others just keep talking after I tell them to be quiet, that it’s obvious they’re the ones talking and they shouldn’t start again 30 seconds after my warning.

Mostly, of course, this behavior is because they’re kids. I understand that. But at some level, they don’t see me as an authority figure. More like an English-speaking monkey in khakis.

One Response to I get no respect, I tell ya

  1. Angela on April 19, 2011 at 6:37 am

    I think they are just kids, although I believe younger generations are less respectful towards teachers than the older ones.
    My mom has been a teacher for 30+ years, so she definitely knows how to deal with students, but she often tells me how much change there has been in the classroom since she began teaching.
    She manages to keep the class quiet, but she constantly notices how much young teachers struggle. Teaching today is one of the hardest jobs, but there are also good students, and this must be very rewarding 🙂

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