Showdown at the SK Corral 2.0

Well, if you’ve been reading long enough, you may recognize the title of this blog. Several months ago, I had a pretty bad run in with a student, which prompted her to quit the program. Friday, I had another argument with a student, which was much worse, which I didn’t think was possible.

For some background info, I have to explain some about this class. It’s my last class of the day Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. It’s the advanced class that uses the American textbooks. Recently, after receiving assigned seats and incorporating my points system, they have been much improved. The schedule for this class has been the same for about six or seven weeks now. Tuesday, we read a story, and I hand out a vocabulary list of words for the test which is on Friday of every week. Thursday, we finish a small amount of reading, do practice book work, and I assign a 10 sentence writing assignment for homework. I also end up handing out replacement vocabulary lists to several students who were abset on Tuesday or lost the list. Friday, we have a vocabulary test and they complete a fill in the blank vocabulary worksheet so I can tell if they know the words well enough to use them in context.

Friday, after the test was finished, I began handing out the worksheet. Several students, including some who’d been given a second vocabulary list claimed that they didn’t have theirs with them. I told them all to work with the student next to them. Many wanted to get up and sit with their friends to work. I didn’t allow this because I knew it would turn into nothing but chit-chat and they’d waste the last half of class doing nothing. I repeatedly told the students that they had to sit in their assigned seats and work with those around them that did bring the vocabulary sheet. Sure, I could have printed out more, but I’ve gotten sick and tired of students not coming prepared to class. Every day students come without pencils, erasers, books, paper, notebooks, etc… and I don’t feel like it’s my job to constantly be supplying them, because as a student their responsibility is to come to class prepared.

After several minutes, the students settled down and began working as I instructed, except one student. He simply refused to do what I said. I told him many times he could work with the girl next to him because she had the list, but he completely refused. After the third time he continued to get up and walk around, I came up from behind him and gave him a light pinch on the back of the neck with two fingers. This is something I do on a damn near daily basis. If a student refuses to stand up, particularly when being punished, or I want them to sit down, I gently take them by the skin of the neck with two fingers and sit them down or stand them up. The kids don’t generally enjoy it, but it’s also never been a gigantic issue before. The kids receive some much harsher punishment from Korean teachers.

Anyway, this prompts the kid into an absolute crygasm, which ends up lasting half an hour. At first, I was like “Okay, whatever. Kids cry pretty often. After 5-10 minutes he’ll wear out and calm down.” After ten minutes, which I pretty much ignored him, I began telling him to quiet down and get started on his work. Another five minutes goes by, and he continues crying loudly, yelling in in Korean, and being a general disruption. I stand next to him and spend five minutes explaining that he has a very easy choice to make. He can calm down and stay inside the classroom and begin working, or he can go into the hallway and cry until he’s calm enough to begin working.

The entire time I explain this, he just yells at me in Korean. I eventually navigate him out of the classroom, but he refuses to stay where I want. He tries leaving, but since his stuff was in the room he kept coming back in, trying to grab it and leave. Obviously that wasn’t going to happen. After awhile he seemed to be calming down, so I brought him back in. He was still crying a little, but he had managed it down to a polite sob. I’m not sure exactly what prompted it, but he started cussing in Korean, saying “fuck” and calling me a son of a bitch, so I was understandably a little upset, and pinched him by the back of the next and walked him to the back of the room and had him stand in the corner.

At this point, several kids pulled out their phones and started taking video. I was kind of upset about that, but just made them put it away. As I was letting all the students leave, his mom showed up and they were all outside having a heated discussion about what had happened. I let the student leave after he put up some extra chairs, then just left without even looking at the mom. Since I was feeling a little sick, I went home and took a nap. Half an hour later, I got a call from Mr. Lee, and he asked what had happened in class.

I began explaining, but he interrupted me and asked if I had beat the student. I had to ask him to repeat what he said, because I was so taken aback. Apparently, the kid’s father was under the impression that I had somehow beaten, choked, and shoved his kid around. He even said their was video evidence of me pushing the kid. At most, all it could have been was me holding the kid by the arm and walking him backwards or holding my hand on his chest to keep him from walking away.

Then Mr. Lee told me that Monday I would have to go in to the principal’s office and explain what happened. The way he described it, he made it sound like the kid and possibly his father would be there. I asked if he would help me explain what happened, but he said he was too busy, so Diane would do it. I contacted her, but she never replied as to whether or not she would be able to come in. I spent all week stressing over it. I was worried about whether in the heat of the moment I had possibly done something in appropriate and just been too upset or distracted to really notice. I was worried about how other students would view me. I feel like this is going to spread all over the school, and I don’t want my students thinking I’m some kind of hard ass.

I was also worried the kid would quit. Normally, he’s a very good student. He does well on the tests, he participates in class eagerly, and generally the worst he does is just talks too much during class, but especially with that class that’s nothing out of the ordinary.

This morning I talked with the principal around 10:30 AM. Diane never came in to help translate or anything. In my experience, the principal’s English is not strong. I waited a bit for Diane, and Mr. Lee called to ask if I had met with the principal yet a bit before 10 AM. Apparently, it wasn’t like I actually had an appointment to see him. It was more of a pre-emptive thing. Just get there before the father and bring it up first so I look less guilty, I suppose. I wrote the students name down and told him in Korean he had been really bad, cried, been loud, cursed at me in Korean, and explained that I had pinched the back of his neck. The principal seemed to take it in stride and just said he’d call the dad and solve the problem.

I had spent a decent amount of time this weekend working on the assumption that Diane wouldn’t come in, and I had been thinking about how to explain the situation in Korean. Actually, in my head, I was able to explain a pretty detailed account of what happened, in my own way. I ended up giving a really watered down version to the principal, because explaining why he was bad was the hard part, and simply saying he was bad, what he had done, and the worst punishment I had given him seemed like enough.

It’s not really over yet, but I feel like there’s a pretty good chance this won’t end up being as big a deal as I had feared it would be. Here’s for hoping, anyway. It was just a bad situation. Once a kid starts crying is when I really become stubborn, because I feel like if I begin cowtowing to a student just because their crying, it’ll snowball and all the kids will begin crying to get their way. To make matters worse, the more stubborn I got, the more stubborn he got. I think maybe the kid had just had a bad day and it was like the perfect storm in the classroom.

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