DESK Week Five: Moody Monday – Michelle Dang

So far during our time at Geumgang School, we focused on getting to know the students and understanding their personalities and interests. However, it is clear to us now that there are a few students who consistently refuse to focus in class and distract their fellow classmates instead. Furthermore, at times a student may say something insensitive or offensive, but refuse to apologize. As teachers, we have the responsibility to respond accordingly if a student behaves – but we are also unsure of what type of discipline to enforce. On Monday, three incidents occurred that tested our ability to react appropriately to misbehavior.


On Monday morning, Team A worked with the Chinese-speaking students as usual. In the past the mornings have always been very smooth since we can work with the students one on one and keep the students focused. However, one student kept complaining and did something that was offensive to one of us. She knew that what she had done was wrong – but when I told her to apologize to the teacher, she refused and stormed off instead. I ran after her to figure out why she didn’t apologize. Talking to her, I realized that she had no concept of the power of an apology. For her, an apology was just a superficial verbal announcement that had no meaning. On the other hand, we have it drilled in our heads since we were young that if we did something wrong and genuinely apologized, we would be forgiven. After this incident, we realized the students at Geumgang School probably weren’t aware of the importance of apologies, which explained why students find it difficult to resolve arguments they have with each other. Though I was able to eventually convince her to apologize, she only did so halfheartedly.


There is one student who comes in the afternoon who has consistently refused to do the work assigned – instead, she would either distract other students or rest her head on the table and sleep. On Monday, again she came in and simply slept, refusing to participate in the English lesson. We clearly said at the beginning of class that if the students did well we would let them play dodge ball for the next period, so even students who were usually reluctant to participate were attentive. Hence, when the next period began and she was about to leave to play with the other students, we told her to sit silently in the classroom by herself because she didn’t earn the privilege to play. She began crying, but we wanted to be stern so that she realized we were seriously disappointed by her behavior in class. After around 20 minutes, she had to leave for a music lesson.


There is one student in our afternoon class who tends to be a little aggressive when he jokes around with his classmates. Unfortunately, on Monday his joke went too far and he actually hurt another student. The student who was hurt, one of the older Chinese-speaking students, began shouting profanities at him and was close to hitting back. We stepped in before they could actually start a fight, and scolded both of them – the student who was jokingly hitting people should stop being so reckless and realize he was hurting others, but the Chinese-speaking student also retaliated in a way that was inappropriate. Instead of screaming at the perpetrator, which doesn’t resolve the underlying issue, he could have talked to a teacher to help him. We wanted all the students to know that they didn’t have to handle these arguments on their own, and that we were there to support them.


After these three incidents, Team A was exhausted and a little disheartened. However, after a group discussion, we came to the conclusion that perhaps we should change the direction of our teaching – instead of just teaching subjects like English and Mathematics, we could incorporate social learning as well. Next week, we will be hosting a role-play session, during which students will have to consider situations from different standpoints and understand how to resolve problems between friends and classmates. Though this may be very ambitious, we hope that by the end of our time in Korea, the students will have learnt to reconcile with each other using more positive methods.