• WHAT? Step back and observe [OBJECTIVE]
As the teacher I’m at the front of the classroom facilitating the activity which consists of students reading a short article and writing answers to response questions. I have taken over a grade 6 homeroom classroom for the 40 minute lesson. This isn’t my classroom so the arrangement of the desks and various other classroom setups are predetermined by the homeroom teacher. In this case the teacher has the desks arranged for group work; an arrangement not conducive to the activities planned for my class. The students sit in these groups and immediately proceed to socialize instead of preparing for class. As usual I spend the first 5-10 minutes establishing order by either rearranging the desks or moving the students around in different seating arrangements. Always there are insubordinate students who refuse to move leading to minor incidents. Once I establish some form of order, two boys march in late, voices raised speaking about something in their L1. The rest of the students are distracted and order collapses. I tell the boys to sit down, which they do. One of the boys in particular will sporadically serve as a source of distraction for the remainder of class. Examples of his inappropriate behaviour include: being too lazy to open his book forcing me to ask him multiple times, chatting and distracting others, throwing clay around the room, shifting about and leaning back in his chair, making inappropriate hand gestures to other students, constantly interrupting me by speaking in his L1. A lot of this is typical behaviour for many of the students in the class. The throwing of clay was an anomaly that doesn't happen everyday and wasn't common to all students. Noticing the clay I confiscated it from him. It turned out that he had a stash of it as the problem reoccurred in multiple incidents throughout the class. Eventually I had enough and told him to leave the class. Knowing I’m not supposed to send the kids out of the class, I had no contingency plan for if he actually went out. He angrily went out to the hall, but knowing it wouldn’t be good for me if an authority figure saw him in the hall I promptly called him back in. At this point he was visibly angry about being singled out as the troublemaker in front of his peers. Certainly he wasn’t the only one but it is difficult to deal with them all so the I had to settle at making an example out of him. He was left to stand with his contained rage next to the door for the remainder of the class. The students eventually ignored him.
• WHY? Look for background or causes [semi-OBJECTIVE]
The students approach English class at the school with a nonchalant attitude. They don’t take the English lesson seriously because of a number of factors. Primarily, they are overburdened with work from other classes. This tires and stresses them out leading them to interpret English class as somewhat of a fun and rest period. Second, the majority of them, upon finishing elementary school for the day, will promptly proceed to their respective hagwons for even more intensive and advanced instruction. Knowing they will be in some form of school for the remaining daylight hours, many of the students are unable to exude the fortitude necessary to study efficiently in any of their classes. They see the day of classes as a monolithic trial that they just need to get through in order to gain a sense of freedom at the end of the day. Third, I am a foreigner who doesn’t speak their language, teaching a language they don’t fully understand. There are times when I feel more like a mascot than a respected individual in the classroom. This is for reasons related to the issues that I priorly wrote about but it also is related to the lack of authority and support from authority that I have as a foreign teacher in a private school. I don’t have power to adequately punish or even threaten the students with punishment. As for administrative support, I can’t send the children to the principal, nor do they like me sending the students to their homeroom teacher, or even send them to the hallway as a form of punishment. Knowing this the students ignore me when I express my frustration with them and threaten them with such options for punishment. They also feel as if they can get away with a lot of poor behavior in the classroom with little consequence.
• Meaning? Interpretation [SUBJECTIVE]
There are so many factors that go into the dynamic of this incident as it occurred in the classroom. The culture of education in Korea and the workload it gives students contributes a lot to a negative backlash at some point in their educative experience. This might not be their only English class of the day, as they may go to a class later on that they prioritize more. The cultural attitude towards foreigners may influence a certain level of disrespect for my authority as a teacher, viewing me as someone who can’t significantly affect their lives, at least not in a way their regular teachers. My own demeanor as a very non-threatening looking individual may also contribute to the student’s attitude toward me. Another dynamic is the nature of private education as a profit garnering endeavor which seeks to minimize negative correspondence with customers, in this case the parents of the students. There are a lot of factors that contribute to the attitudes of the students in this class.
• Implications? for teaching [PERSONAL]
The teacher needs to be aware of the many factors that influence the behaviour of the students in the classroom. The teacher must request and arrange an adequate support system from their school authority so that they can confidently administer real punishment that gives the students incentive to respect the teacher and the lesson that is put forth. If the students understand that there are limits to acceptable behaviour they will be easier to control and take much more from their lesson. In kind the teacher should realize the workload and pressure that is placed on students and create lessons that will both be interesting to their level of development and not too taxing to their energy.