As many of you know, I work as an ESL teacher in South Korea. I teach kids ranging in age from about 3 to 12. It’s one of the most challenging things for me because there are times when it hurts to watch them just being kids.
But today something triggered me extremely badly. I was in the room where all the foreign teachers have their desks (it’s hardly an office). Kids are in and out of there all the time. I was grading papers, minding my own business. Two little ones (probably six year olds) were in there and the bell had already rung for class. I was shooing them out the door when the school cook/cleaning lady came in. She started yelling at the two kids. She made them hold out their hands and hit them with a plastic water bottle. All because they hadn’t left the room fast enough when the bell rang. Trust me when I say class start/stop times aren’t strictly enforced by any of the teachers.
As she was yelling, I was just about jumping out of my skin. And then when she smacked them, I felt this terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach and just shook. No specific memories, just the horrible waves of emotion.
Something similar happened late last week. I have one class of fourth graders where a couple of the boys pick on one of the girls. I walked in the room and she was crying. The class is a very low level one, so there was no way she could tell me what was wrong. I let her talk to one of the Korean teachers. After she finished telling the teacher what had happened, the teacher came in and started screaming at the kids who were picking on the girl. The Korean teacher made the boys who were responsible stand against the wall with their hands in the air (a typical punishment). I don’t have a major problem with that. I’d rather the they use something like time-out, but I have no control over the way the Korean teachers discipline students. So there was about five minutes left in the class and this Korean teacher came back in and asked me to leave. She was carrying a large stick. You don’t have to be a genius to know what was going to happen next. I heard a student scream as I closed the door. I walked back to my desk absolutely horrified and shaking like a leaf.
I understand that different cultures have different views on how teachers should be able to punish children. But it hurts me as much as it hurts the kids when stuff like that happens. Am I totally nuts here? Am I being over-sensitive?