Sunday, July 29, 2012

It's 1:48am, and I JUST finished tomorrow's Captain Bob.

So make sure you read it tomorrow.  I'm pretty proud of this one.

It's interesting to me how now that I'm leaving my elementary school, I finally feel like I'm making a difference there.  It feels like people - students and teachers alike - are finally listening to me and finally expressing/seeing that I do a good job (new teacher status bringing allowances, of course).  I have a feeling that some of it is just cultural bull, but one thing happened on Friday that cannot be explained away.

My fifth-graders have just been playing review games since their finals (read: midterm).  I can understand why it's happening (who's really going to listen after you've already taken the final?), but it also means that I usually have to yell myself hoarse just so the kids can hear what the question is.  Finally, empowered by the fact that I'm already leaving, so they can't very well threaten me with that, I took discipline into my own hands.  Every time a team got too loud, they got additive points taken off their score.  First offense = -1pt., second = -2pts., and so forth.  Unfortunately, the all-boys team got so far behind that they no longer cared, so, instead of taking off the 6 points they had added up to, I had them all stand up and hold their arms above their heads (a quite mild punishment for Korea, mind you). One boy, however, refused.

"I wasn't talking!" He said (in Korean, of course).  "I shouldn't have to be in trouble!"  We (yes, we - my Co-teacher joined me at this point) tried waiting, we tried pressuring him, we tried reasoning with him - nothing.  Finally, we let the rest of the class go, and took him to his homeroom teacher.  She informed us that he was just stubborn, and she would not be talking to him, because it was a waste of her time.  This upset me, and I informed my Co-teacher of it.  We decided to take the student down to the teachers' lounge and talk to him some more, there.  At first, I just let my Co-teacher handle it, but they were both just getting more and more angry, so I joined in, asking her to translate very calmly what I wanted to say to him. 

"I know you're upset," I said, "and I know that this doesn't feel fair, but I want you to think about this:  If you had answered every question wrong, but your team still won, you would want candy, too, right? Well, this goes with that.  When we do something as a team, it is like we are one person.  What happens to one person on the team happens to everyone."  He calmed down a bit while I was talking, so we had him go back to his homeroom.  

Meanwhile, my Co-teacher informed me of every "rude" comment he made:  "He told me, 'I could be doing much worse.'  I couldn't believe it!  He was so rude!"  This confused me a bit, since I remember telling my mom the exact same thing in high school, and I agreed with him.  He could have been doing a lot worse, but respecting his teachers is going to be a vital lesson to have learned when he graduates to middle school, so I wasn't about to let it go.  (Because my personal stubbornness has nothing to do with it... Sure.)

I figured that was the end of it.

But I was wrong.

After school, the boy came back to the teacher's lounge and handed us a letter.  My Co-teacher read it to me, while he stood, waiting.  Basically, he wrote the following (paraphrased) note:
Dear [Co-teacher] and Native English Teacher {Yes, that was how he addressed me...},
       I am very sorry for losing my temper in class.  That was wrong of me.  Even if I think something is not fair, I should still listen to and respect my teachers.  Also, I am sorry because we were doing a team activity, and I was acting as an individual.  This was wrong of me.  I am sorry.

We were both floored.  Not only did the kid apologize, he apparently listened to every word we said.

I feel like I'm finally making a difference, and I couldn't be happier.   I love these kids so much, and I apparently have to be fearless - respectful, but fearless of repercussion - to translate that into the best action possible.

Pray that G-d will continue to guide me and keep me in check.

Anne Nicole Royster

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