It’s time for the section on Crime and Punishment for the Everyday English Teacher here in Korea. I’m sure you can all remember what discipline was like for yourself when you were in school, and while the principles have generally remained unchanged (bad behaviour = discipline measures), the means by which discipline is carried out here in Korea is quite different than anything I remember back home. Perhaps it is the Korean culture that brings this out, or maybe it's the language barrier between teacher and student. Either way, you should find this a very exciting and intriguing subject.
As a brief aside, I would like to point out I never get angry with my students. I tried that once, and it failed miserably. Each and every method listed below is done in a friendly, usually smiling manner, and most often the student is laughing too. I never want them to feel bad or as though they’re in serious trouble. I just want them to shut up.
Classical Methods of Discipline
These are the traditional ways to get the kids to settle down and behave themselves. A good scolding is always an easy way to begin, however since Korean children generally don’t understand what you’re saying, they reactions won’t be in line with what you’re looking for. Simple words such as “sit” “stop talking” and “shhh” are about all you can expect to use. “Hajima!” – or, "stop that" - is a good Korean word to try out, but once the initial shock of it has worn off, children will generally just laugh at your funny accent.
Most kids hate corners, so putting them in one always seems to get some results. Keeping them there is a challenge, as even if you catch them sneaking away, which they usually try and do, they may not understand “get back in the corner.” Pointing and gesturing becomes key, and you can always threaten a kid by pointing at them, then at the door. Sending kids out of the room works most of the time, but is a little harsh and deprives them of the education you should desire to give them. I try and send only the worst of instigators out of the room – those kids who thrive on getting a rise out of others and send the whole class into a tailspin.
When I was a student, push-ups were an occasional method of discipline my teachers used. Sometimes, this is a great discipline measure to pull out, especially for students who are lacking the constitution or physical attributes to complete more than one or two push-ups. However, they demand a great deal of attention from the teacher, and I have learned that having students hold their arms up or out to the side is almost as effective and requires less personal attention. Of course, students will cheat and do whatever they can to lessen the burden, so you should keep an watchful eye on them.
If they continue to be a problem, have them sit on their knees for a while. For students who refuse to pay attention to class, have them do this front and centre of the classroom, and only once they can answer your questions, allow them to sit down again. In extreme measures, you can place books in your student’s hands. Should they continue to put down the books when you turn away, balance something on the books that you can hear drop. This subtle tactic should not be done too long, as it can cause the entire class to pay more attention to the student than to your lesson.
Students will inherently sit with their friends. That way they can talk. They also like to throw things at each other, which is just way to distracting to deal with. Moving them around will usually solve this. Students don’t like being moved generally, but you should be careful not to move them to a more precarious situation. If there are no sound places to move a student, I may elect to move them to an isolated area of the room, or have them sit on the floor next to me.
Some students, those ones who really don’t want to be in school, much less your class, and hold little respect for you or any teacher (I only have one like this, thank goodness) will refuse any of the above or below discipline measures. Since I can’t give grades, speak Korean, send them to the Principal, or tell their parents they were bad (the parents blame the school for not being able to properly teach them), I will move all the students sitting around them, leaving them to sit on their own. It only furthers the anger that student may feel, so I would suggest isolating them like this only in the worst of cases.
Embarrassment and Other Bizarre and Exciting Discipline Methods
This is where the more creative teachers begin to show their quality when it comes to disciplining students. Embarrassment is always an enjoyable method for both you and the class, and often the student being punished – just be sure they aren’t apt to break down and cry in front of the class. Having students stand up is a good start in having them stand out from the rest of the class, and moving them to the front of the room can be even better. Having them read and answer questions is good, but it can backfire as it may make participating in class seem like a chore rather than something to enjoy. Singing is my preferred method of embarrassment.
Occasionally you will come across a student where no amount of punishment will affect their poor behaviour. One exciting method I’ve started using is to teach the class while sitting down next to this student. Most children’s faces will light up like a fire engine, and they will very quickly cease any and all inappropriate behaviour. If you feel you cannot properly teach a class from a desk, perhaps having the student accompany you around the room may work. Hold their hand if they start to sneak away at any time, which will make even the toughest of students beg for release (just don’t actually hurt them!).
For students engaged in any kind of combative behaviour with each other, forcing them to make up can often be very effective as well. Holding hands is a great sign of friendship, and while the students may not love each other the way you wish them to, at least all their frustration will be directed towards you and not each other. A more extreme example of this used by a fellow teacher, is having fighting students stand at the front of the room shoulder to shoulder, then touch heads and form a heart with their hands above their heads. This may cause the class to get a bit too out of hand (everyone thinks this is hilarious), so maybe save it till there’s only a few minutes left to go.
Given these lessons, you now should be able to control even the most unruly of classes, and have an entertaining and fun time whilst doing it. Teaching can be a great experience, and no one wants that ruined by loud-mouthed children putting gum in each others hair. Just be sure you’re in a country where parents aren’t likely to sue you for putting their child through “unnecessary embarrassment and mental anguish” - those are the best parts of growing up.