The School Rules Change

I‘ve been getting into a lot of conversations with teachers about students and how they have changed over the year. It reminds me of that Baz Lurham, and specifically the lines,

“Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.”

I experienced it myself teaching in City Year. I thought, “Heck, I was never like this in school! Back in my day…..” Though I think I made a legit point when I would say no elementary school kid would cut class back in my day, unlike my students during City Year.

I was informed that as of last week, school corporal punishment finally became illegal in Seoul. Some of my older teachers were disapointed..I could see it in their eyes how they don’t know how to formally react to this. How else would you control them right? And I think of this…coming from this new teacher perspective….and I kinda sympathize. Day in and day out I am trying my best, blood sweat and tears right? And then I have those students who could care less and will sleep through class and not pay any attention. Or the two classes I had in a row that basically ALL failed to do the homework. What do I do with that? I can see why teachers feel the urge to just take it out on them physically. Not that it’s right or works for that matter, considering some of the boy’s at Jodi’s school just take the beating and not care if it means carrying fewer books to school.

And I say all this, coming from a school that doesn’t hit it’s students….being an all-girls school has its perks. Jodi’s students do not fair so well. Though it seems its usually the same bunch getting punished day in and day out.

Teachers blame poor parenting. Parents blame society. It’s a sick cycle that doesn’t seem stoppable. Because of the extremes that can occur when you give a teacher this small amount of power, it becomes a danger to students and their safety.What started this review of school corporal punishment was an incident in which a teacher and a student ended up physically fighting in the classroom.

When the teacher tried to take the notebook, the student protested. The teacher hit her on the head and the student revolted, saying, “Is it right for a teacher to hit a student? Just teach!”

 The ban only applies to Seoul, a move that urges teachers to discipline students by giving them community service, or take extra classes.

“Some could say that corporal punishment may be temporarily effective but it cannot be a fundamental solution,” Chung said. “Only a small number of students cause troubles and we aim to help them truly revise their behaviour on their own, rather through a stopgap physical measure.”

 I say this all, with my American-colored glasses. My perspective, my experience and my culture. I try and see it from their perspective, and conclude that usually because of the extremes (as with most things) you cannot blame a whole system, just individuals. But the danger to students and the lack of regulation in this circumstance require the law to step in and protect them.


A Thought at the End of Class

Today I was teaching my 9th grade students for the last time. My time with them was an extra class that I enjoyed a lot. I taught them Vitamin C’s Graduation song, even though they finish school in December and officially graduate in March. I found this comic while trying to prepare for the class and found it utterly true about my life here in Korea.

Capturing Apsan Park

My school had a trip to Apsan Park with the goal of having a landscape competition. The girls would spend the day in the park capturing a scene with paints and watercolors, while the teachers chaperoned and relaxed for the day. What I got out of it was spending time with teachers I rarely see, even with the big language barrier and realizing how shy middle school girls are about taking pictures. They try so hard to hide behind their hands and peace sign gestures!

Interesting fact: San means mountain in Korean, so never call it Apsan Mountain.


Some of them were so talented!


They found any spot to sit on, listen to music and work on their art.


The teachers and I played hooky and rode the tram to the top.


The view of Daegu


They were so shy!



School Lunch

First thing I found interesting about eating here in the cafeteria in my school? Teachers eat the same school lunch as the students. When I asked how that was possible? My teacher said parent’s complained and asked why was teacher food better than the student’s food. Very valid point.

Second thing? It is a very communal environment. Teachers come in and file into the next available seat. If there is no more room for the students, they come sit with us.

Thirdly, we will always eat rice and a soup for lunch along with the added extras.

Fourthly, they do not drink with their meal. After you are done you file out and get a drink of water from the machine. Very interesting difference. I’ve gotten use to it.

And lastly, the soup HAS to go on the right and the rice on the left. Seriously. We don’t deviate from this, and the one day I did I felt rather deviant lol.

Typical lunch here minus the yogurt drink

My teachers were very surprised that I could use chopsticks. I grew up around a Chinese community and enjoy Japanese food. Funny enough, my Coteacher found it weird I eat my rice with chopsticks and not with the spoon. “It’s so much harder!” she told me, and I laughed because she is right and Korea is sensible about eating rice with a spoon and not with chopsticks like the other cultures I learned from.