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HolyShitKorea!
  • 11 Jun 2009 /  School, Vacation

    We are now in the final days of the semester. Kind of. Final exams are two weeks away, which means that the rest of the month will be spent scrambling around trying to finish oral testing, get the last of our speech grades recorded, write the super-duper-top-secret-DON’T-EVEN-MENTION-TO STUDENTS-THAT-YOU-ARE-THINKING-ABOUT-THEM exam questions, and review. Throw in a couple of surprise “demo classes” and June is kind of a crap month. All of this lead-up kind of lets you down in July though, since after exams we still have two weeks of classes in which students and teachers are completely checked out, because this school system is all about teaching to the test. (That’s not so rare, really…higher test scores equals better reputation equals more prestige, more funding, blah blah blah and you can’t really get away from it anywhere you go.) I have a few tried and true fun lessons that I will be pulling out for those classes, and maybe even a video. I’m not proud, and I’m also not crazy enough to try to teach a real lesson when these little monsters can smell freedom.

    The last day of school before vacation is July 16th, and then the fun really starts. We have three days of English Camp, which means that the students whose parents make them sign up will come to school for games such as “Word Fishing,” “Scavenger Hunt,” and “Blindfolded Body Clock” (my favorite - just go ahead and try to imagine how to play it). Thankfully (unlike our winter English Camp), the Korean teachers are mostly in charge. They’re even going so show up! We’ll just do what they tell us, and since Mike and I really pushed to limit the numbers this semester, it probably won’t be too painful. Of course, anything’s possible.

    The last week of July will be spent on “teacher camp,” which means that my two highest-level co-teachers, Daisy and Grace, will meet me for a kind of book club. We’ll read some short novel (any recommendations are appreciated!!!) and discuss social implications, idioms, all that good stuff. These two teachers are also in my poetry class, which is a bright spot in a lot of really lackluster teacher classes. Discussing lesson plans with them drives me batty, but they are fascinated by Maya Angelou and Walt Whitman.

    The first two weeks of August are our contractual vacation time. We’re giving up the first week for the teacher certification seminar. We still don’t have much information about that, but at least we know our schedule and what we’re getting paid. It will almost completely pay for our trip to Bangladesh, which is lucky. We haven’t bought tickets yet, but we got the trip appoved with school.

    I am getting so, so excited for this vacation! We have to go to the embassy in Seoul to get our visas and maybe there are shots involved? I’m not sure. Josh’s fiance is having some clothes made for me, which I am to wear AT ALL TIMES. Apparently, ladies in Western clothes are a bit too exciting for the gentlemen in the little town where we’ll be spending most of our time. I guess that just means I’ll get to pack light. Beyond that, I’m not really sure what we’ll be getting into. I’ll let you know as soon as I do!

    The last two weeks of August will be spent back at school. I didn’t know that we would be teaching right up to the end of our contract, but apparently Korean schools have at least a week in August that is still considered part of the first semester (even though it’s after a month of vacation). We’ll have the same schedule that we’ve had all semester, but I think it’s just sort of babysitting until the second semester officially starts on September first. Weird, right? Mostly, I’ll be glad to get to spend time with my students before I leave for good. Especially the first graders. Now that the semester is winding down, and we’re doing more housekeeping than content in class, I’m really getting a kick out of them.

    So that’s kind of an overview of what I can expect for the next little while. I’m sure something will happen to surprise me. As for today, my teaching schedule is light, the weather is gorgeous, I’m trying a new yoga class tonight, and then a coffee date and maybe a beer afterward. Can’t complain too hard.

    What’s new with you?

  • 03 Jun 2009 /  Pet me!, Resurrection, School, Vacation

    I am a bad, bad blogger. Part of it has to do with the busy-ness (business?) of this semester…I’m teaching more hours than before and taking more responsibility for those classes. I’ve learned to effectively challenge my co-teachers and take control of my teaching plans and the lessons that result. This means I have a much better relationship with my students as their teacher (rather than some kind of curiosity or exotic teacher’s aid) and that I’m more involved in the educational process, but it also means I tend to hoard my free periods and spend them relaxing rather than blogging. The other cause of my general bloglessness seems to be that I feel more settled here in South Korea. I feel like a lot of my day-to-day experiences are less noteworthy. The constant wackiness of my first few months here has given way to a wary contentment. I often feel like there is nothing new to report. I realize that this is not really the case, however, and I am so, so grateful to those of you who have patiently hung on (that means you, Dave!). So here is a brief update of the last few months, with lots more (I promise!) to come.

    1. Every school in our area received a government grant to build a new, state-of-the-art English room. Having my own classroom has made such a difference in my teaching. I have trained the students to wait outside until the bell rings and I can invite them in. I also make them clean up after class, and they can’t leave until I say so. This has made a world of difference to my school experience and has gone a long way in addressing the problems mentioned here. I am convinced that the subtle issue of ownership will always be relevant.

    2. Since April I have been in charge of an extra-curricular English class full of some of my favorite first graders. We have written a book about a super-hero called Trashman who drinks alien blood, and whose offspring eventually destroy the Earth. It is brilliantly illustrated. I had each student record the page he had written, and now we have a book/CD set. I couldn’t be happier with the results, and soon it will be added to our new English library!

    3. Summer on the east coast follows a cycle of sunny and gorgeous, then terrifyingly windy (our apartment complex is built like a wind tunnel), and then rain for days. Right now it’s pouring, and walking up the hill to school is becoming more and more treacherous. Also, every time it rains my students go nuts.  I’m not sure what it is, but the pressure drops and I just stand back and watch their brains explode.

    4. I still go to yoga every week. I’ve picked up a lot of useful vocabulary, like inhale, exhale, slowly, straight, side, and how to count backwards from five. Learning to practice in Korean has developed a purely physical dimension to my practice that I’ve never had before. I’ve learned to be more present in class, and much more patient with myself. My teacher is more familiar with my body and my limits now, as well. She calls me “Eden,” and I figure that’s close enough. I’ve been trying to think of a good present to give her when I leave in three months.

    5. In Korea, teachers finish university, then do student teaching, and then (ideally) get jobs. After teaching for three or four years, they have to go back to class to become fully certified teachers. Mike and I have been invited to teach on listening and speaking in the English classroom at one of these seminars this August! I am so excited!! I have a meeting with the coordinator this afternoon, hopefully to pin down exactly what is expected of us. On the phone, the coordinator told me that we were invited because we have a “good reputation” in Gangneung. I’m not sure what this means or who she talked to, but I was proud to hear it.

    6. Koreans are scared of Swine Flu. They call it “SI” and schools have already been closed down for suspected cases. There are quarantine locations set up in Seoul. I currently have a sore throat, body aches, and a stuffy nose. The school nurse took my temperature and assured me that since I have no fever, I can’t have swine flu, but my co-teacher keeps looking at me funny and asking if any of my friends have recently traveled internationally. I’m tempted to fake it so I can get a week off.

    7. We’re going to Bangladesh! My dear friend Josh Buning is getting married on August 15, and we’ll be there to give him all our love.

    8. I’ve become a regular at a local Korean bathhouse that’s out near the beach. It’s only 5000 won (which is just a few cents over $4.00 US) to soak and scrub to my heart’s content. Jim Jil Bang is definitely at the top of the list of things I will miss when I go home.

    9. We lost our cellphone, which was incredibly inconvenient. Finding and purchasing a replacement was easy (and cheap) enough, but getting the new phone activated was surprisingly difficult. We were shuffled around to multiple stores, told to come back another day, and finally had to sign some other document. I hope I haven’t extended my service contract or anything.

    10. I miss summer in Michigan. I miss Bells beer and bare feet and hot dogs and Higgins Lake and the sweaty armpit that Lansing becomes in July. I miss you all! We’ve got our tickets home now, but it will be September before we’re back. Keep the place warm for me, eh?

    Love, Erin

  • 25 Mar 2009 /  Photos, School, Thailand, Vacation

    Is this thing on?

    Ahem. We’re back in Korea, have been for a while (sorry about that). School has started up again. We have new classrooms and a new office. It’s spring and the air is warm and windy and full of yellow dust. I’m biking and hiking a yoga-ing and belly dancing (?!??). Life is good and I’ll tell you all about it. But first, have some vacation photos.

    Mike has a few more on his blog if you’re interested. Clean copies of both sets available on request!

    Hey, I kinda missed you, you know? Stay tuned!

  • 01 Feb 2009 /  Uncategorized

    Sorry again! Don’t stop reading! I’ll be updating soon! January is my excuse…it has been full of English camps and travelling with Mike’s parents. Now I’m going here:

    I’ll fill you all in once I’m in Thailand. Lovelovelove…

  • 24 Dec 2008 /  Christmas, Photos, School, Snow!

    I’ve been missing Michigan more and more over the last few weeks. I think a lot of it has to do with this being my first Christmas away. No grandparents, no tree, no keeflers, no cousins, and worst of all, no snow. While Northern Michigan is buried under its whitest winter in years, I’ve been strolling to school in balmy 50 degree temperatures under sunny skies. (Stop, please, I can feel your sympathy from here.) Pleasant, sure, but never cursing at the weather just didn’t feel right. That’s why I’m happy to report that on Sunday afternoon it started to snow, and by Monday morning the whole town was snowed in. I woke up to a phone call from our co-teacher informing us that it was a snow day. We still had to come in, but there would be no kids and no classes!

    The walk to school was amazing and surreal, the way it always is after a big snow. Everybody was walking in the road, since most of the cars were still buried and the sidewalks were impassable. Koreans carry umbrellas in the snow, which made for some great people watching. Once we got to school we saw little groups of male teachers working to clear the driveway up to school. Mike started getting excited about the prospect of helping, and I crossed my fingers, hoping for the one other woman that would make it socially acceptable for me to help too. And there she was! Thanks, female technology teacher! We dropped off our bags and picked up shovels and spent the next hour working in the sunshine. A few other women even came out to help, though they didn’t last long. Around 10:00am the principal came out to thank everybody and assure me (the last lady standing) that I could go inside now. Mike got to stay out for another half an hour.

    After everybody came in, we headed downstairs for tofu, kimchi, dumplings and makalee (sweet rice wine). The principal AND the vice principal each poured me a glass, thanked me (in English, even!), and drank with me.  Mike got the same treatment, and then we all took photos together, which turned into taking photos of everyone, which quickly degenerated into the who-can-ruin-the-most-photos-by-snow-balling-the-subject game. The whole day had a playful, fun atmosphere, and I think that it was kind of a bonding experience. I felt a lot closer to the other teachers, especially without the kids around.

    The work day was officially over around noon, so Mike and I dropped our stuff off at home and ventured out to see the city and finish some Christmas shopping. This city has the most beautiful light, especially in the morning and evening. We took loads of photos…some are below, and some over on Mike’s blog. Enjoy! And if I don’t speak to you before the big day, have a very Merry Christmas!

    .

  • 08 Dec 2008 /  Lessons, Photos, School

    The week before exams I tried out a variation on Running Dictation, a game that has apparently been an ESL staple for a long time. The basic idea is that you have two partners - a writer and a runner. The writer is stationary, while the runner has to run (surprise) to a piece of writing on the other side of the room, memorize it piece by piece, and feed it to writer who (you guessed it) writes it down. It elicits lots of communication in English between the students, which doesn’t happen much. (They communicate in English with me, of course, but rarely with each other, as my school is not big on group work.) It also lets them use a lot of pent-up energy after spending every waking moment studying at a desk. Overall it’s a great game, and since the students had exams coming up, I didn’t want to burn them out on new material. The biggest problem for me is that my classes are just under 40 students each, and I am not fool enough to think I can control 20 students running around at the same time.

    So, I turned the game into a relay. Five teams, one writer, lots of group cooperation. The prize was candy or chocolate (this is apparently a VERY important distinction) for the winning team, which means instant motivation - these kids will cheerfully murder each other for a Hershey’s Kiss or a sucker, and they LOVE American candy. I gave a bonus point to the first team to finish, and one point for every accurate sentence. If they made a mistake, I pointed it out and explained why it was wrong (usually they knew and noticed it before I did). I subtracted points for cheating and horsing around in line. I also offered a bonus point to any team who could solve the riddles they were transcribing. Here are the two I picked:

    One night, a father and his son were hungry.
    They went to their favorite restaurant.
    They ate dinner together in the restaurant.
    They ate sushi, spicy noodles, and rice.
    The son drank cider, but the father drank a lot of soju.
    Soon the father was a little bit too drunk.
    He did not think he could drive his car.
    So the son decided he could drive the car.
    Unfortunately, the son was not a good driver.
    He crashed the car into a tree.
    The son was very hurt, but the father was okay.
    The father took his son to a hospital.
    The doctor saw them both and said:
    Oh no! What happened to my son?

    Who is the doctor?

    A man lived alone in an apartment.
    His home was on the very highest floor.
    Every morning he rode the elevator down.
    He usually rode the elevator alone.
    Then he walked alone to his work.
    Every night he came home from work.
    He waited near the elevator on the first floor.
    He sometimes waited a very long time.
    He waited for another person to com.
    He never rode the elevator up alone.
    If another person came, they rode up together.
    If no one came, he walked up the stairs.
    On rainy days, the man carried an umbrella.
    With an umbrella, he could go up the elevator alone.

    Why could the man ride down alone, but not up?

    They used a lot of target language we’ve been working on all semester, like location/direction words, frequency adverbs, “if” clauses, and simple past tense. I also had a simpler version for lower-level classes. The class in these photos is my favorite in the whole school. They are extremely bright, extremely good-natured, and eager to please. This particular lesson was a lot more laid-back than it was with my other classes, since these students are also very good at following directions. I didn’t even have to take points away!

    Getting into teams (and CONSTANTLY in each other's laps).

    Getting into teams (and each other's laps).

    Team One!

    Team One!

    Team Two!

    Team Two!

    Team Three's leader is a dedicated teacher's pet that the other kids still like anyway. I want to pinch his cheeks and give him lollypops.

    Team Three's leader is a dedicated teacher's pet that the other kids still like anyway. I want to pinch his cheeks and give him lollypops.

    Team Four!

    Team Four!

    Team Five's leader wants you to know that he doesn't care and you can't make him.

    Team Five's leader wants you to know that he doesn't care and you can't make him.

    I also have a ton of video of this game, but somehow I can’t get any it to play. I’ll see if Mike can fix it and try to get it up as soon as possible. I also want to point out that this class was held in the “English room,” rather than in one of the regular classrooms. I don’t usually use it because there are no desks.


  • 08 Dec 2008 /  Lessons, School

    It’s only 1:30pm and I’ve already had a fantastic day. I’ve taught two second (8th) grade classes and one first (7th) grade class, all in a row, and all surprisingly cooperative. I was dreading coming to school today because exams are over now, and I was told that for the next three weeks the students will be very difficult to manage. Basically, the kids here are focused on test prep, and if there’s no test to prep for, there’s no focus. (Why the final exams are this early is completely beyond me.)

    I had been planning on teaching some movie vocab to the second graders this week (plot, setting, character, etc.) since I’d done a filler worksheet on it after exam review, and there seemed to be some interest. I was completely blown away by how into it they were. We talked about genre, directors, favorite scenes, favorite actors, and then outlined some of their favorite movies on the board. For example:

    SPIDERMAN

    • Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Romance, Comedy
    • Setting: New York City, Now
    • Characters: Peter (star), MJ, Green Goblin, Grandfather, Grandmother, Goblin’s Son
    • Plot: spider bite, get powers, grandfather die, so sad, get girlfriend, fight Green Goblin, Spiderman wins
    • Favorite Scenes: kissing scene (had to teach them “upside down”), holding bus, WWE, flying

    The highlights were one student who NEVER speaks requesting the movie 8 Mile and carefully outlining the entire plot (since he was the only one who had seen it), and one class working together to list every single character from Harry Potter. I’ve decided that next week we’re going to watch a short movie, or part of a movie, and then they will outline it (maybe in groups, if I’m feeling brave) using their new vocabulary. They have completely earned a movie day.

    The first graders were the ones who really surprised me. This class is the one that I’ve complained about before. They are usually completely uncooperative, especially the ones who speak well. To top it off I couldn’t really think of anything exciting to do, so I went with a lesson that a foreign teacher from another school told me about. She read her students “Snow White” and then had them finish the story. I was skeptical, especially about my kids, but I was out of ideas, so I took a shot. I wrote a short, simplified version of “Little Red Riding Hood” that stopped just as the wolf said “MY TEETH ARE BIG SO I CAN EAT YOU!” (”all the better to eat you with” might have gone a bit over their heads). I chose a student to read each paragraph and we talked about the meaning and checked for comprehension (when I asked what a “wolf” was they all howled at me…so, so good). Then they divided into groups of four and finished the story. A few even had illustrations that I really wish I could show you. Here are some of my favorite endings so far: “Little Red Riding Hood screamed and ran outside…”

    • Suddenly, her grandmother is open the wolf’s stomac and she take AK-47. So wolf kneel down to grandmother and wolf said “grandmother…I’m so sorry but I love you…” and wolf see Little Red Riding Hood take bomb. And wolf so surprise. And she said “We’re legend” and BOMB!!!
    • She takes a gun and she shots gun to the wolf but wolf take a shild so wolf came to her and wolf slap her face and wolf said “are you crazy? I don’t eat you!” She said “I’m sorry!” but wolf eat her but she cut wolf’s head. So wolf is dead. Finally, she shots to the wolf. Wolf go to heaven. The end.
    • Little Red Riding Hood ran in the forest. She saw to chase a wolf so she ran more fast. Suddenly, she saw wood cutter over there. “Help. Help. Wolf will kill me. Help.” Little Red Riding Hood said. “Yes.” wood cutter grasp ox [axe] then he hit a wolf head.
    • Why is a wolf eating Little Red Riding Hood? He kill grandma.
    • But wolf catched her. By the way wolf crush at the first eyes ["first sight"] to her. So they got married and have a good time.

    How great is that? I am incredibly pleased. There was one little creeper who had the wolf “falling on her and he say ‘trust me’ ” but the rest of his group very vehemently opposed it.

    Now I only have one class left to go, but I’m not the lead teacher. I’m kind of excited to go, because I heard that one student from this class was caught cheating during his last exam, and I want to see who it was. I’ll admit, I have my suspicions. I kind of feel bad for him though, too. His academic life is over and he’s only in 7th grade.

    [Edit: It wasn't who I thought it was.]

  • 03 Dec 2008 /  Deliculous, Food, Photos, Thanksgiving

    Last Sunday, to celebrate Thanksgiving, we had pumpkin duck for the THIRD time. I love this place. The restaurant is near Gyeongpo Beach, not too far from our house. The building is not like most you’d see around here…it actually kind of looks Mexican. The garden around it is lovely, even in the winter. One of my favorite photographs in the world hangs outside the door. Inside there are traditional masks and weird sculptures all over the place. The table is set with more side dishes than I’ve seen anywhere else (cucumbers and ginseng in orange sauce oh my GOD) and within a few moments the main dish is brought out in all its steaming glory. The basic idea is a delicious greasy duck cut up into cubes and cooked INSIDE a “pumpkin.” (Actually, it’s a squash, but in Korean they don’t differentiate between different kinds of squashes/gourds.) The squash makes the duck less greasy, and the duck makes the squash tender. They split the whole thing open so that it kind of blooms, and since you have to order it a few hours in advance, it’s ready when you are. They serve it with spicy bean paste, peppers, garlic, vinegar, lettuce, and sesame leaves (like sam gyap sal) so you can make little wraps, but it’s so good on its own that we usually don’t bother. I wish I had a picture of the carnage left on the table, and the empty shell of the squash to show you.

    This one is blurry because I couldn't stop stuffing my face fast enough to take the picture.

    This one is blurry because I couldn't stop stuffing my face long enough to take the picture.

    That's better. I must have been chewing.

    That's better. I must have been chewing.

    One more plus: since we eat there so often (and really because Mihyun has been bringing foreigners to this place for years), we didn’t have to pay for beverages, and the owner himself drove us downtown for coffee so we wouldn’t have to take a cab. I love this city!

    On a completely unrelated note, I thought I might try to get your take on exactly what this truck is for:

    ????

    ????

    We’ve seen it around town and near our apartment complex. Is it some sort of magical moving truck? Or is it just a frog riding his friend the unicorn into infinity? Here, have a close up:

    That rainbow took my legs!

    Even more inexplicable at close range.

    Best explanation gets to request a photo post that I may or may not follow through on!

    Now I’m off to eat more birthday cake. The adorable math teacher’s dad sent her the green-tea-with-chocolate-chunks kind. Why oh why do we not have chocolate green tea cake at home?

  • 02 Dec 2008 /  HELP!, School

    Geez, guys. Sorry about taking so long to post again. It’s exam week and I’m drowning in the ennui of not having anything to do AT ALL. It’s gorgeous outside, sunny and unseasonably warm, and I’m at my desk noticing things like how crooked my pointer fingers are. I wonder if anybody would notice if I snuck outside and ran laps around the building?

    Part of my delay is that I’m having trouble uploading pictures and video, and I really, really, REALLY want you all to see the wedding Mike and I went to a week ago. There was a light show and a fog machine and karaoke…in the CEREMONY. It was also the most no muss, no fuss wedding I’ve ever been to. I think you’ll get a kick out of it, but more on that later.

    We had pumpkin duck for Thanksgiving, and I’ve finally got a few pictures of how incredible that is. Those are coming too.

    I did a fun reading relay lesson with my second graders last week, and I got some videos of my favorite class running around in their socks. Hilarious AND educational!

    In non-photographic news (at least, not yet) Mike and I have been informed that we have to perform a “pop song” at our school’s winter festival. We tried to get out of it by saying we’re nervous to get on stage, but my coteacher looked like I’d shot her dog or something. So we regrouped and decided that we could think of something, and she (and the vice principal, and the music teacher…) cheered right up. Awesome. Neither one of us is thrilled to sing, but I figure we can get the students to do something with us. If all else fails, we can always lip-synch/act out some song, like that scene in Dirty Dancing where they sing “Loverboy” at each other…but maybe with less crawling around on the floor. Apparently the students get really excited when teachers perform (according to the teachers). Besides, this is the country of sober karaoke. Standards are probably not that high. Although, the performance that Nathan, Stephanie, Kasia, and Marta put on is going to be a rough one to follow. Any ideas for mostly painless songs that we can do without knowing how to moonwalk?

    So that’s what’s new here. In the next few days I should have a couple of massive photo posts up with lots of commentary. Stay tuned!

  • I think things in my school could be organized differently. Granted, I am from a completely different culture with experience in only Western schools. I do not have an education degree or a psychology degree. (Does that mean I should just quit posting this now? Haha fat chance) Here we go.

    First, some background on our school. Gangneung Boys Middle School is the oldest school in Gangneung (50-odd years old, if I remember right). We have the lowest test scores in the city, as well as the reputation as the worst school in general. There are three grades (7th 9th US), called 1-3 here. Each grade is divided into ten classes of between 36 and 40 students each. This means that we are also one of the biggest middle schools in Gangneung. Each grade has their own floor (1st grade gets the 4th floor, 2nd gets 3rd, 3rd gets 2nd). The main teachers room is on one end of the 2nd floor. There are around 30 of us, all in our little cubicles arranged around the vice principals desk. There are two smaller offices on the 3rd and 4th floors, with 5 teachers each. The principals office is on the 1st floor, for his convenience.

    Every morning, the students come in, change their shoes, and head up to their homerooms. Eventually their homeroom teacher leaves her/his desk and goes upstairs or down the hall to their assigned classroom. They collect the kids cell phones (thank GOD), take attendance, and then as soon as possible get back to their cubicles. The day begins at 9:00am, when the teachers get up from their desks, gather up their materials, and go join the students in their various rooms.

    A teacher might find the room in any state. There are a few classes who sit at their desks and are prepared when the teacher walks in. A very few. Most are all over the room, hitting each other or sitting on each others laps. They are almost always yelling, and their squeaky little adolescent voices can reach some astounding heights. Im told it used to be the norm to stand up and salute the teacher when she/he entered the room, but in most classes this has been abandoned. Under the current circumstances the teachers first job is to calm the students and get their attention. This is no easy task, since they have already had free, unsupervised use of their room for at least ten minutes (sometimes half an hour) before the teacher barges in and tries to impose some order. Classes in middle school are only 45 minutes longimagine how much of this short class time is wasted in that first centering period.

    And this isnt just a problem in my classes. Ive had discussions on this in my general teachers English classes and across the board this is an issue. They blame a breakdown in the traditional education system, lack of respect for teachers, changing cultures, and the list goes on. Im sure they know better than I do, but heres what I think would help: get the teachers out of their cubicles and into some classrooms! Imagine the difference if a teacher who is already in place, prepared, with materials at hand (not in a bag she has to carry around with her everywhere) faces a class of students coming into HER space, using HER desks. Teachers need classrooms. Students do not.

    It seems to me to be an issue of power and ownership, and while I hate to bring power into it, when you are dealing with young men who are trying to assert themselves and develop a pecking order, and who happen to be physically larger than many of their teachers, I think its a relevant issue. Something strange that Ive noticed: when a student is punished beyond the simple stop doing that/lose your chair/hands above head (non-disruptive punishments) they are removed from the classroom (after class) and taken to the teachers room to be punished. When a student merits a real punishment, they are held up in front of all the teachers, rather than in front of their peers. They dont associate punishment with THEIR classroom. Thats a safe, unsupervised place.

    One of my friends (a Korean English teacher) was actually locked out of the classroom by her students yesterday, and she shrugged and said they do this sometimes. To me that is completely unacceptable. I would have invited the vice principal up to join in his students fun, but she just waited them out, and then tried to use the limited class time the students left her. They were able to do this because they own their classroom. Their marker scribbles are all over the desks, their bags are all over the floor; it is THEIR class. My friend didnt even feel herself to be in a position to challenge that ownership. Teachers give the impression of holding their breath and diving in for 45 minutes (or lesssometimes they come to class quite late) and then getting back to their own space as quickly as they can. It just doesnt work.

    So theres my take on it. There are, of course, other factors that come into play here, but this is a biggie. Thanks for sticking with me through the novel of a post Ive just written. Now Id be interested to hear what other teachers think about this. How are things done in your room? Do you have your own room? How do you handle discipline? Any advice for me? What do you think?