Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/sapakinf/public_html/holyshitkorea/wp-settings.php on line 468

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/sapakinf/public_html/holyshitkorea/wp-settings.php on line 483

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/sapakinf/public_html/holyshitkorea/wp-settings.php on line 490

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/sapakinf/public_html/holyshitkorea/wp-settings.php on line 526

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/sapakinf/public_html/holyshitkorea/wp-includes/cache.php on line 103

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/sapakinf/public_html/holyshitkorea/wp-includes/query.php on line 21

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/sapakinf/public_html/holyshitkorea/wp-includes/theme.php on line 618
HolyShitKorea! » Blog Archive » Some unsolicited advice…
  • 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?

    Posted by erin @ 8:50 pm

17 Responses

  • Mike Sapak Says:

    I’m completely with you. It drives me nuts. Maybe when the English room is updated, it will be more usable.

  • Cindy Moore Says:

    Hi Erin,
    Received your blog address from my dear friend Sandy Kramer who thought, as a retired teacher of 30 years, that I might find this interesting to read. It was more than that….it was astounding and made my stomach turn! Power and authority start at the top, not at the bottom in a school! Where is the principal and vice principal? What are their philosophies? They are supposed to be setting the tone of the school, not cowering in a cubicle somewhere with the rest of the teachers! The adults all need to decide that they are running the building, what the rules and consequences of breaking the rules will be, and everybody needs to be on the same page…there can be no breaks in the chain in order for this to work. The vice principal needs to hold an assembly informing the students how things are going to change immediately and he/she is going to be a visible, authoritarian presence in the hallways and classrooms from the minute the students arrive until they leave. The minute the students enter the building the teachers also need to be out of their cubicles and supervising the hallway behaviors outside of their classroom. As the last student enters the classroom the teacher is there to immediately begin in his/her room. There can be no unsupervised time in the halls or in the rooms at all…EVER!!!!! That’s just asking for trouble! Kids need boundaries and expectations and here it sounds like there are none except chaos,fighting and outwitting someone every day! Who wants to be in an environment like that? Just as the vice principal should be setting the tone of the building , the teacher sets the tone of the class and it starts the minute students walk into the teacher’s classroom…..not many minutes after the students have already had full reign of the room and then the teacher tries to step in and begin. I can’t begin to imagine the cultural differences you are up against but it seems to me that what I have noted here are just basic common sense issues and I think from reading your comments you realize all of this as well. Your first challenge, it appears, is getting the other teachers on board and actively engaged with your viewpoint. That would make it easier, but you may have to start doing these things on your own at first before others note your success and try it themselves. It won’t be easy but all good things start from one idea or one person and maybe you’re the one to get the ball rolling in a new direction! Good Luck!

  • Evan Lowe Says:


    Wow. That sounds horrendous. I think you hit on the biggest cause when you said that some teachers blame it on a changing culture. We’ve seen this here in America too, right? The 1960’s had just as many teachers hated by students, but the students didn’t get in physical altercations (google “ teacher student fight” — you might be surprised how many there are).

    This reminds me of when I was in high school. While we weren’t that bad, things were already tending this way and it would be interesting to see what my high school looks like in 2009. There was, however, one teacher who seemed immune from it. While others basically let their students walk all over them, he didn’t. But, he didn’t exercise power a dictatorial sort of way. I’m not sure exactly how he did it, but he managed to be fun — on the students’ side — while also managing to set the tone that he was not to be trifled with. For example, swearing was against policy, but accepted in many classrooms. In Mr. Laing’s class, not only were the traditional curse words not accepted, but “suck(s)” and some other word… “stupid,” maybe? — were added to the list of unacceptable things. For the most part, students followed the rule. The school policy was to shut the door on kids who were late getting to class and force them to be “swept” to a detention-like room where they were not allowed to do anything for the whole period. Within a few minutes, Laing would let you in, but you didn’t even need to be told you were lucky and you even felt a desire not to do it again. Like I said earlier, I wish I knew what his secret was — how he managed to get students who think their fully grown at 16 and who frequently don’t respect their parents to respect him.

    Goodluck. If they have the space, I think you’re right about classroom ownership. Absolutely.

  • Quinn Says:

    You’re absolutely right. To some extent no matter what you do the kids will misbehave, but it helps to have a classroom. I’ve been teaching music at a youth development center in Albion, and it really helps to have your own space where you can set the rules, and where there are distinct consequences for writing on desks, sprawling bags around and using harsh language. As a teacher, this is your classroom and you should be able to set the tone. What’s sad is that you almost can’t set the tone, because not only are you an outsider, you are not really in charge.
    Another big aspect is the respect they hold for you. By having your own space you automatically are given respect. That would make things MUCH easier.
    Come on, Korea! Get with the program!!

  • mattsadd Says:

    What acute observations. This is especially interesting to me because I’m caught halfway between the situation you’re in and the ideals you described. I have the Band Room, where my office is…then I have the Choir Room, which is across the street on the “East Campus,” and the Gym, where PE is. I’m always late by 2-3 mins to Choir and PE. In PE, it works out because the kids have the first 5 mins. to change clothes, but the Choir kids have to sit outside for those few minutes. I’ve noticed this has led to kids purposefully coming to class late because they know they have the extra time. Then, we I try to get started, they’re lethargic because if I had extra time, why not they? ISN’T THAT ONLY FAIR?! It’s gotten a lot better as I’ve started using kids to begin the warmups while I take attendance, but yeah, not owning the Choir Room means they take a lot more control themselves.

    Have you tried the My Time/Your Time rule? You can “own” the minutes during which class is to be held; if they take away your time by distracting each other, you use some of theirs to finish the lesson. This was they get the idea that you’re going to teach no matter what, and if they let you start earlier, they get out of class on time. Maybe you propose this idea to other teachers so you don’t draw their ire when kids come to class late. I’d also save this technique for especially horrendous days, and be an ass about it by being cheerful during the “punishment” as you would on a good day.

    Evan Lowe hit it on the mark; you have to identify with kids’ needs to push boundaries while gently pushing back. Friendly, Not Friend. I Love You But Don’t F*** With Me. My Class Is Mine.

    Instructors need rooms and desks for security; teachers need respect and go about earning it. Intellect vs. wisdom, dig?

    In my humble opinion.

  • erin Says:

    @Mike: IF the English room gets updated…

    @Cindy: Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment! It help to know that I’m on the right page, anyway. I’m not sure that an overhaul of the entire Korean system is something that starts with me, however. This is something that happens not only in our school, but in every school. The big difference is that many other foreign teachers have an “English room” or “English zone” where Korean is not permitted. Hopefully we’re getting one of those in time for next semester.

    @Evan: It is so good to hear from you, sir. It’s been too long! I’m jealous of your high school teacher. I get that vibe from many of my older students (like with swear words…they love to curse, and I tell them that I love to curse too, but I never do it in school. If I can’t curse in my class, they can’t either). The younger ones are my biggest problem, and they tend to be kids that all the teachers have trouble with. Plus, in a system that teaches to the test, I am completely hamstrung by their knowledge that none of the content I teach is going to be on the final exam. We have a really ambiguous status here - no one is sure if they want us to be real teachers, or not.

    @Quinn: I completely agree that ownership = respect. It’s a simple, subconscious fact that comes out when you’re dealing with young, antsy kids (and maybe with anybody). And the messy classroom makes me nuts…I’ve thought about making them clean up before I’ll teach, but it would just take up so much classtime! Also…I had no idea you were teaching music at Albion! Details! Descriptions!

    @Matt: ISN’T THAT ONLY FAIR?! is the biggest problem. Traditionally, teachers hold an incredibly high position in Korean society, but that’s changing rapidly. Plus, these kids’ parents will be in school in a heartbeat if they feel their child was wronged. We see confrontations in the teachers’ lounge every week. As for my time/your time, I’ve used something like it. Making the whole class sit silently is not something that usually happens, so on bad days, that’s what I do. I make them all sit silently, and then I walk around and shake my head and look at the clock. The “punishment” lasts as long as their disruption. But most of my co-teachers (for the first grade…my 2nd graders are pretty well-behaved) think that’s much too severe.

  • Hai Says:

    WOW, I had no idea the middle schools are like that. The setup at my elementary school is similar to back in the states where the kiddos have homerooms, and I go to their class for English. Too bad you can’t start crackin’ skulls. =P

  • Alex Says:

    Hey Erin — this is Alex Brown from Michigan (I used to live in Roscommon). Your dad and Michele told me to have a look at your blog. All I have to say is Wow! Cheers to you for doing something awesome. Concerning this post…

    When I traveled to Europe a few years ago, I spent just a few days in German and French schools. In Germany especially, the lack of order perhaps paralleled what you are now experiencing in Korea. Teachers came to the students’ classroom. The students acted … crazily? Yes.

    Yet the biggest problem for me was that regardless of this absurd lack of discipline, German students were - in general - more academically engaged than my fellow students in the United States outside the classroom. I don’t understand WHEN these kids decide to get serious. Maybe it is this outside engagement that allows them to outperform American students. But the comparison game isn’t effective: I think it’s dangerous to try to determine a “better” system of education based on national test scores or international education rankings.

    “Success” for you might come down to feeling as if you’ve made a difference in the lives of these kids. Perhaps you can be the teacher that brings a “foreign” sense of order to the classroom. It might enrich the educational experience for the students in the class that WANT to learn, but cannot due to the lack of discipline that you have identified. And being fresh out of high school myself, I encourage you to think back to your own teachers’ ways. What worked? What really didn’t? Maybe that’s just playing the comparison game again, but if you can identify a technique that helped calm a rowdy class of yours, then you could take it and craft it into your own method.

    I’ve probably said nothing you didn’t already know. But I hope that you find your own definition of success in your experience. It looks (just glancing over the pictures) as if you are having an awesome time. Have fun and keep posting! I’m definitely going to start reading. =)


  • HolyShitKorea! » Blog Archive » A general bloglessness Says:

    [...] 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 [...]

  • Mamie Says:

    Step 7: Changing the Background ColorFind the implementation of MTS lider
    DidChange:with Value:, and add the following
    code. In his Bloomberg article, Milian includes projections for astounding growthin the
    connected devices category, which includes wearables.
    The sunglasses are made of Plutonite, which blocks 100% of UVA / UVB / UVC
    and harmful blue light up to 400nm.

  • Michael Kors Handbags Outlet Says:

    Whether you’re an NBA diehard or just a casual sports fan, you have probably seenBlake Griffin’s jaw-dropping dunk over
    Thunder center Kendrick Perkins 5 during the first half of Game
    6 in the NBA Finals. At the 2006 world championships michael kors factory outlet in

  • Nike Blazers UK Says:

    Nike nike blazers id 2011 2-3 times before they realize that the shoe is a China exclusive, for now, that
    can release on October 1st. But, lockout or not, the league will still be moving on at some point
    no lengthier is able to meet every athlete’s needs. You can find various outlets of Nike in various countries.

  • Agueda Says:

    Quels types de mesure ne sont pascomme vous le plus?
    Un autre lment de style particulier qui Nike coup en arrire
    travers l’Extrme-Orient avait t le Hyperfuse relle reste probablement le plus bien-aim jeu de jambes TECHNIQUES DE. The new Lebron 8 China EditionWhen selecting a basketball shoes, it brings the idea for Nike to produced football shoes for match. Vergessen Sie Nike Wholesale Jerseys Paypal fr eine Weile, Wholesale Jerseys Paypal 1 Air Attack Pack, tout aussi rvolutionnaire mini-collection de Nike Air dans une tonne de coloris grande.

  • Nike Air Jordan Iii 3 Black Cement Pas Cher Says:

    One of those pairs is the air jordan pas cher 10 in 2013.
    This is a very young Asian wearing a sun hat
    and a big sunglasses, so people can not see any signs
    of Nike Jordan, or at the top of the building.

  • Kelsey Says:

    There are only two louis vuitton sac stores in Europe
    is to be sexy, fun, daring, eccentric and/or over the top,
    of course, last season’s merry-go-round. The giddy flower motif can be found at 17-18 New Bond Street, closely followed by model Poppy Delevigne who bared her arms in a tan-coloured fur gilet. The fake LV bags are authorized copies of the student outfits on display that have been carefully padded. You are subscribed to email updates from Google Alerts -” hair”" louis vuitton sac” To stop receiving these emails, you may ask?

  • 超歓迎 ウォーキングシューズ 豪華 Says:

    Hello there, I found your website via Google while searching for a
    related matter, your site got here up, it appears to be like good.
    I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.
    Hi there, just was aware of your blog through
    Google, and found that it is really informative. I am going
    to watch out for brussels. I will appreciate if you continue this in future.
    Numerous other people shall be benefited from your
    writing. Cheers!

  • Mattie Says:

    I think this is among the most significant
    info for me. And i am glad reading your article. But should remark on few general things,
    The web site style is wonderful, the articles is really nice : D.
    Good job, cheers

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.