I have to say, I thought it was just that some of my students were a bit slow, but I was sent a link to a website by a friend who also teaches in Korea, which made me realise that many of the things that happen to me are experienced by all English teachers here. I don’t know whether that’s alarming or reassuring.
The website is called ROKetship, and it’s basically a series of cartoons depicting life in Korea from a foreigner’s perspective. I love it, simply for the “YES!” moments I get when I see them. Some are funny because they’re funny, others are just funny because they’re inexplicably true. This one is one of the best, because seeing it was the moment when I realised that I’m not the only one who experiences this situation and finds it both annoying and weird:
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Teacher, hot! Hot! Very, very! Teacher, HOT! I’ll be in the middle of a sentence, and they’ll interupt with this. And then there’s no stopping them. The agonised expressions. The fanning. The wiping of sweat, real or imaginary, from foreheads. Now, if the classroom is hot, and they’re only wearing their little t-shirts, then yes, I’ll open a window or switch on the air conditioning. But more often than not, they’re sitting there in three layers of clothing, plus heavy outdoor coats.
Sometimes I patiently say Well, take off your jacket/cardigan/sweater. But most of the time, it just bugs me no end, and I calmly ask Why are you telling me this?! What do you want me to do? before continuing with my lesson, ignoring any repeated “hot” cries. It’s ridiculous. I was so glad to see the above picture on Facebook, with many, many “likes” and many comments saying “Yes! WHY do they do this?!”.
The other major one – and this, unlike “hot!”, is about a hundred times a day, every day – is “Teacher, I’m done!” or “Teacher, finished!” (which comes out “Teacher, peeneeshee!” from the ones who make no effort with English pronunciation). When they’ve finished, they shout. Not even finished the unit, or the page, or even the set of questions. No: when they’ve finished one single question. Teacher, I’m done! Teacher, finished! Teacher, peeneeshee! It’s a chorus from all around me. Constant. And they don’t care that I’m very obviously in the middle of explaining something to one child – no, if anything, rather than give me silence to finish, they try to shout me down. It’s as if they think I just can’t hear them. Like they genuinely believe that I’m going to immediately stop trying to help someone else in order to fly to their side just because they’re yelling the loudest.
I try a few times with “keep going!”, which they now (after much explaining and miming over many, many weeks) know means “don’t stop and ask for Teacher’s permission to go on to the next question”. I try a quick glance in the direction of the book being waved, and say “good” before turning back to what I’m doing. Sometimes, I shout “Stop shouting! I don’t care!!” and hope that that shuts them up. But the other week, with one of my elementary classes (I admit: possibly my least favourite class), I got really angry*. When they ignored my repeated and increasingly loud requests that they keep quiet and stop shouting at me, I became more and more annoyed. Eventually, I tried to block them out in order to more quickly finish helping the struggling child I was talking to, and I just ignored the yells. This did not work, because they simply became louder and louder until I couldn’t even be heard when I gave up trying to help the child and yelled “stop shouting!”. I had to bang loudly on a desk before they quietened down enough to hear me, and I yelled again “STOP SHOUTING!”. Brief silence. Then, as I turned back to the slower child, one boy hollered again.
Then I absolutely howled. I swear, if you shout ONE more time…
Later, as I sat miserably picking at my dinner, I confided in Terri. I completely lost the plot with one of my classes today.
Yes, I heard you, she informed me to my embarrassment. (I am Baaaad Teacher.) You yelled “If you shout ONE more time…”
I hung my head in shame. That wasn’t actually it, I confessed sheepishly. You see, they did shout one more time…
It really is very much like this cartoon, some days…
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*OK, from the last two posts, I must sound like a really mean, horrible, shouty teacher. But I’m honestly not! I mean, I do shout a lot, but only to be heard over the noise. I’ve only shouted in an really angry, lost-temper kind of way about 4 or 5 times since I’ve been teaching… which, bearing in mind that this kind of thing has gone on constantly in every single class, every single day, 5 days a week, for the past 6 months of my life, isn’t really so bad, is it?!
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