When the school year started up in March, I received the best gifts ever: coteachers. Prior to this, I taught English to like 600 students who had no idea what I said. The autonomy was awesome, but the success rate was…well…middling. And of course, effective discipline was nonexistant.
The first day of class this semester, Euna (who is shorter than some of our 3rd graders) rolled in and immediately made 3 boys cry from vigorous scolding. Their crime? I had no idea. But I was in awe. Holy Cow. No one was going to talk too much, no one was going to punch their classmates or stand on their chairs or not have their books. The boys weeping in the back of the classroom, personally, I liked them. And I didn’t understand exactly what they had done wrong, but I didn’t care either. Things was going to change in Erin’s English classroom. Fall in, ye students, or know Euna’s wrath. As for me, I’m just going to stand over here and look disapproving.
Before all this, I knew corporeal punishment was acceptable in SoKo schools, but I had never witnessed it. I also knew that the number of broken arms in my classes did not come from falling out of trees or off bikes. Smacking the Crap Out of That Which Troubles You is a widely practiced problem solving technique that I haven’t (thankfully) much experienced. I did, however, find it occasionally amusing. (Yes, it’s in Italian. Violence is funny in all languages.)
The first time I saw Euna hit a student, it was with a harmless stack of Erin Dollars (my reward system, made of origami paper). Personally, I thought it was pretty pimp to slap someone with a wad of money. The next time, there was a binder clip on the Erin Dollars and I was like, youch, that sucks kid, stop talking. Then there were instances of sharp forehead poking. Then smacks on the head. And then, yesterday, some horrors I cannot bring myself to imagine took place downstairs in Euna’s classroom while I carried on English alone.
I had made two boys go stand in the back of the classroom: one for hitting his classmates, being disruptive, messing around with a cell phone and not bringing any of his educational paraphernalia with him; the other for parroting me when it was quiet time. Obviously, only one of them was really, really acting up. But Euna whisked them both away. 40 minutes later, she and the latter boy returned. He was sobbing like we were about to murder him. And it began to seem like that’s where things were headed when Euna barked something in Korean, and he fell weakly to his knees, hands behind his back, execution-style. And he was sobbing sobbing sobbing.
Euna: He says he didn’t do it.
Me: I mean, I didn’t send him to the back of the class for nothing. But this isn’t really, like, a HUGE deal, the other kid was definitely –
Euna: It’s important he learns what he did wrong.
Me: …Yeah. He sort of looks like he got the point.
Euna: You teach next class. I will talk to him.
They disappeared again. And I, descended into serious Goebbels territory, did as I was told. Later, the boy confessed.
So. Who else needs a drink?