Friday, April 23, 2010

A Pound of Flesh

As you may have fathomed, saying bad words is a big problem here. Its especially hard to punish the guilty when they are speaking Korean and you don't know its a bad word.

This problem is solved neatly by the Korean culture, which is one full of tattle tales. At first I thought it was just the kids. But my co-teacher, William, told me about how if you catch someone doing something illegal on camera, you can get a reward from the government. There are even people who make their living doing that kind of thing.

So, in a situation where a class of American children would band together to thwart their teacher, Korean children have no such loyalties and will cheerfully throw the guilty party under the TeacherBus.

This happened today with one of my favorite classes. I don't know why I like them so much, maybe its because they're older and can be relied on for interesting conversation (conversation, in this case, being very loosely defined).

One kid, Robin, likes to say bad words because he thinks I pick on him. The reason he thinks I pick on him is because I'm always punishing him for talking non-stop to his friend Karl. In the past, I have given him many warnings but it never seemed to have an effect.

Inspired by a recent reading of the 5th Harry Potter book, I decided to get creative. When he swore the second time in a class I wrote with my white board marker on his hand - to brand him as a person who says bad words. Robin would freak out about this and ask repeatedly to go to the bathroom to wash his hand, which I denied. He would spend the rest of the class rubbing the back of his hand to erase the words before an authority figure saw it. His hand would be sore and red by the time class was over. This would inevitably put a stop to the cursing until next class when we would repeat the process.

Today, Robin was muttering under his breath and suddenly Eric informed me that he had just said a bad word referring to male genitalia. The whole class is delighted because they are ruthless and bloodthirsty and love to see me punish people who are not them. I went to pick up my dry-erase marker thinking that this was getting old and soon I would have to think of something worse to do (maybe even call Debbie, though you all know how that turned out last time. The other kid, Luke, deserved it but Robin is generally a good kid). When suddenly Sally, right next to me, has an idea.

"Teacher!" she calls and holds up a permanent marker. The rest of the room goes nuts, shouting their approval while half of them are already holding down Robin's struggling arm for me to write on.

I told you they were blood thirsty.

I felt like some medieval torturer about to take a pound of flesh for the crime. I did, in fact, write on him with the permanent marker and I really don't think he'll be cursing in my class anytime soon. Last I saw him, his hand was bright red but I could still clearly see the writing: 'I like to say bad words'.

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