A Canadian writer teaches English and finds out what it's like to be a foreigner.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Patience & The Poker

The teaching process is taxing at the best of times, but unless you maintain a calm attitude you will be reduced to a quavering pile of "sugah sugah dung" (as one of my kinder kids coined today) within a few weeks.

Those who know me, know that I don't have a tyrannical bone in my body and I'm somewhat failing to present myself as an authority figure.

I have a vital device made out of an 8-inch tube that was once filled with chocolate-coated sunflower seeds. The key feature is a green, rubber hand used to stop up the end. They come in 4 varieties: rock, paper, scissors, and a pointing index finger which I can only assume is designed for dung-chipping. I use it to point out things on the white-board, and to wave theatrically in the air in the hopes of lending a bit of excitement to otherwise dull subject matter; much the same principal behind the chocolate-coated sunflower seeds.

After I had used the device, to much acclaim, for a few days, one of the students brought me a clenched "rock" fist to put on the other end. Her intent, she explained, was for me to use it to whack students on the head if they acted out. Corporal punishment, I think, is still kicking around in Korean public school, so coming to a private academy where you are spared the rod is something of a vacation. Especially when your teacher is a mild-mannered Canadian.

Today the same student asked me: "Teacher, why you not use the other end?"

"I don't want to hit anybody," I said. "No matter how you act, you don't deserve to be hit."

They sort of looked at each other with puzzled faces.

"Whaaaaaa!" Anne (one of my favorites; can you tell from the name?) let out the generic Korean expression of amazement.

"Teacher is very kind!"

"Martin say!" another chimed in. "Martin say Teacher is very kind."

Martin is the director of our Academy.

One day, I was sitting in the teacher's room wringing my hands after a particularly frustrating class. He came in and asked me what was wrong and I explained the whole situation to him.

"You can yell at the students," he reminded me, but I said I thought they would probably laugh before they fell in line.

"Sometimes I see the students in your class and I think if I was their teacher I would be very angry. I don't understand how you carry it. You are very kind person and that is your strength," he told me with a smile.

"It is much easier to be kind and learn to be strict than it is to be harsh and learn patience."


Jono said...

You are kind. It is your strength. True.

Claire said...

There's my happy brather!

Stephanie said...

When I was in high school, teachers who were TOO kind bothered me. Sometimes those loud kids block the learning of others. There are fun/kind teachers, and then there are pushovers. Don't be a pushover!

Anonymous said...

You have demonstrated good happy calm, grasshopper, embrace the Chi flow of the East!

(I still haven't made a profile for some reason, so here is my sig)


Sam said...


You should totally start up a blog too. I'm eager to hear what you've been up to across the "East" Sea (sorry, if I call is the Sea of Japan here I'll be deported...)

In any case, my email is on my profile so send me a quick update when you get a second.