So I'm kind of getting the hang of living in Seoul. Or at least teaching in it.
The kindergardeners are easy, even if they don't understand you. For the most part they give it their best shot. The worst thing that could possibly happen to them is getting a star taken away. There is a little chart on all the boards and if you erase a star next to their name dramatically enough they will start crying. One of my co-teachers, Jonathan, went all Space Odyssey 2001 on some poor kid's star yesterday and I'm pretty sure he's still bawling.
The littlest kids are getting better and learning what they are supposed to do but one of them (Kris) still lives in his own little world where everything is built to suit him. Soon, with any luck, this illusion will disappear completely. Another kid in that class (Min) is my absolute favorite student so far. He is adorable (natch), light years ahead of the others in the English-understanding department and is sweet as taro pie.
To demonstrate this theory, I will give you a example. we were in PE class, which had deteriorated into Running-and-Screaming Time and Kris was kicking kids left and right. Naturally, he got kicked himself and started crying like it was his job. I had zero sympathy for the little munchkin and gave him a look that told him so and walked away. My feeling is you reap what you sow. Also, by this time I was well and truly sick of Kris and his shenanigans. I walk away to another part of the play room and when I look back, there is Min - who, himself, had been kicked by the little drama queen - crouched down next to Kris with this concerned look on his face. It was so cute I had to go back and comfort the little miscreant if only for Min's sake.
The older the kids get, the less afraid they are of loosing stars, although this is a surprisingly effective method for a lot of kids. When the kids get to be about 10 or 11, they realize there is more to life than stars and will sacrifice a star or two for a good joke or a break in studies. This is when you have to get creative. A colleague suggested I make them stand in the lobby of the school pointing at the clock for five minutes which is, let me tell you, the ultimate in cruel and unusual punishment. Not only is it tiring but everyone who passes by asks them why they are there and they have to tell them. I've never done this myself but I did threaten a kid with it today and even hearing it described was enough for her to be good the entire class.
In Korea, if a kid does something he's not supposed to (I use 'he' here because it is, with only one exception, ALWAYS the boys) the other kids will tell on him immediately. In America, theres always this idea that we shouldn't be 'tattle tales' - not in Korea. It seems like every five seconds one of the kids is going 'Teacher!' and telling me about how another kid did something that offends them on a personal level which could be nothing more than sticking out their tongue.
On a unrelated note, 'Min and the Tattle Tales' is a great name for a band.