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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Is it wrong to tell a student to "deal with it"?

Today among my four successive Cooking classes, there were three criers. All boys, all crying because someone said something mean to them in Korean. With none of them did I ever figure out the whole story or even learn who made the bad comment -- it was just a mess of blubbering tears and, at one point, a heated fistfight ending with me physically restraining a boy in a corner for 5 minutes. 

Which leads me to my quandary of the day: how do you (nicely) tell a child to get over it? I don't know if American kids are this emotional, but so many of my students here get upset about the slightest thing. 

Don't let him sit next to his friend in class? Sobbing.

Tell a girl she needs to wait in line to get stamps and not cut in front of everyone? Hysterics. 

Refuse to allow a student to run to the water fountain minutes into the period, after he just had a 15-minute break before class? Temper tantrum. 

And then there's the always-popular, "He said .... !" Well, I'm sorry if he was mean, truly I am, but one comment constantly reduces students to tears. Meanwhile I'm trying to run the rest of the class, and it's a struggle consoling one kid while simultaneously teaching a lesson to the other 14 students. It's just not possible. 

It's come to the point where we teachers can identify real tears -- when a student is genuinely upset about something -- versus those put on more for show than anything. I hope I don't sound like a terrible teacher to say that sometimes, when I can tell that it's more about presentation than actual emotion, I ignore the crier. He gets a pat on the back, a quick "Are you okay?" and then it's back to the lesson. 

What is it with children? I'd hate it if my kids acted this way, always whining and bursting into tears. Have students not learned to deal with emotion any other way? You try to tell a kid to walk away -- if someone is being mean, why are you still standing next to that person? -- but they'd rather sit on their chair and sulk. 

It gets frustrating. By last period today, I was so ready to run out of the classroom and dump these kids off at dinner. I don't know what it will take to toughen these students up but I hope it happens soon. There's enough to deal with just controlling 15 students for 45 minutes and hoping they learn something. I don't want to also be mopping up puddles of tears. 


My day wasn't helped by the plethora of spoiled, hyperactive boys that are dominating classes this week. I told one boy three times, "Stand up and sit over there," trying to even out the tables. 

He looked me right in the eyes and said, "No." Three times. 

Our students this week are from a wealthy school in Gangnam (south of the Han River) which explains why some of them have an entitled attitude. I just can't believe the nerve of a student to flat-out refuse to do what a teacher says.


Tomorrow is Friday and this group goes home, then I'm working Saturday but with different students. Weekend, come quickly!