Saturday, January 22, 2011

No Phone For You

The Fist of English.
We're currently between semesters at my school. The Korean school year is kind of odd. There's almost 4 months of classes in the fall and winter, and then between New Year and March 1 the students are at school but there aren't really classes, per se. They're just there. This happens again in the summer. I suppose studying is a full-time job.

Right now I'm teaching some of the incoming high school freshmen. They're all brand new to the school, having not gone to our middle school. This is immediately apparent as their behavior is—how shall I put it?—a little lacking. They're hilarious and keep me laughing from bell to bell but they don't always exhibit model behavior. This is especially apparent when it comes to cell phones. I had never seen a phone in one of our middle school classes until these new students arrived. They just can't keep them in their pockets.

It's all the usual distractions: text messages, Internet, games. Plus they have Japanese comics downloaded onto their phones. The other day I saw a kid looking at his lap so I sauntered over and caught him with his phone. "Don't play games in class," I told him, sternly. "No game! No game!" he protested. "Reading comics."

All of the teachers carry around "teaching sticks," big honking sticks that they swat the kids with when they get out of line. The swatting ranges from playful to possibly illegal. Corporal punishment is on its way out in the school system but for teachers who grew up with it, and students who know only one kind of discipline, it's slow to die. I disagree with hitting kids, and it's just not my style to carry around a bat, so instead I bought a big novelty fist that squeaks when you bop something with it. It's harmless and funny but it presents a visual that says, "I'm a person of authority." It's also embarrassing to a student who gets a squeaky bop in class. Lately there's been a lot of phone-related bopping.

I don't know if these new students are being so cavalier because it's technically between semesters, or if their previous schools were really permissive, but this is just annoying. I have warned them about phones in class. I have bopped heads. I have even confiscated phones. But they're addicted, it seems.

"I'm nice," I told them. "But be careful when you get upstairs and take real high school classes. Those teachers aren't nice." And it's true. They will not suffer phones in class. These kids are in for a rude awakening in a few weeks.

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