Have Stick Will User It
Has anyone teaching in high schools noticed that if a student is rude or disrespectful, they are generally the ones who have had a sojourn studying in the west – usually in the USA and much less frequently the UK? Now, before I get started, I am not saying that all Korean students who have studied outside Korea are tainted or that Koreans who have never studied abroad are never rude or disrespectful. With considerable experience teaching in the UK as well as experience in Korea, I am making comparisons based on my own experiences in addition to an awareness of the general standards of behaviour both in the UK and Korea.
First of all, I have never been fouled mouthed or insulted by Korean students. No Korean student has ever sworn or shouted at me and the only time I can recall when I was shown disrespect was on an isolated incident when a student addressed me in intimate level speech (반말). As my Korean is rudimentary, students may have been taking the piss and insulting all along but I have never been led to believe they were and even if this were the case it pales into insignificance in comparison to my experiences in the UK.
Before getting defensive about Britain or the USA, there are numerous blogs, and indeed books written by teachers appalled at the conditions under which they have to teach. I too have an extensive blog dedicated to teaching in the UK. There is a small but significant number of professional teachers working in Korea, all who have abandoned teaching in their home countries because of poor discipline, low standards, anti-intellectualism, dumbing down, violence and so forth. So, while there might be bad apples in Korea, they are not likely to attack you or call you a ‘fucking wanker,’ or indeed a ‘cunt.’ These are my experiences but I know many other teachers have had similar experiences and worse. No Korean student has never attempted to hit or spit at me. Indeed, when I was spat at in the UK, the headteacher didn’t even bother asking to see the boy and simply asked to see my planner. That was in Southborough Boys School, in Hook, Surbiton, where I quickly deduced that it was acceptable for a student to spit at a teacher if the lesson wasn’t deemed enjoyable. If I had been a more seasoned teacher at the time, I would have used the attack to claim psychological or physical injury and earned myself several months paid sick leave. Clacton County High School (CCHS) is another school where I’ve had students call me a ‘cunt’ or ‘a ”wanker’ and they were never reprimanded by management. Given the abysmal examples of leadership and staff support, I am not surprised standards are so low in the UK. Outing shit schools and shit practice is something all citizens should do especially when management in those establishments prefer to pretend nothing is amiss.
In Korea, I carry a stick, affectionately called ‘Billy.’ And occasionally, perhaps once a week, I will use it. I have never hurt a student with it though if I wanted to, this would be acceptable. My boss actually encourages me to hit students and I’m sure she sees it as a weakness on my part that I don’t do so more often. When students are being naughty, I’ll call for the stick. ‘Billy? Billy? Where are you?’ Then, I’ll poke around in my draw. Within seconds there is silence. ‘Billy, come on out! Someone’s arse needs a clout!’ Then, like un-sheathing Excalibur, I draw Billy from his lair and brandish him. Even with older students, this pantomime elicits a sigh of awe as if I really have drawn a sword or sparked-up a light saber.
Billy is pretty pathetic! Thirteen inches of stick not much thicker than a pencil and not very springy. Being six-foot six and large, I find him the perfect companion and actually traded him for real stick designed for pointing and striking which I’d bought for 5000 Won (£2.50). We have now been together for two years and at Christmas I took him back to the UK in order to treat him to a lick of linseed oil that I keep in my garage, for use on my front room floor. Ironically, I traded my real stick, which resembled the narrower end of a snooker cue, and which many high school teachers posses, with that of the smallest female teacher in a boys high school. Both of us preferred each others tool. Despite a recent oiling, Billy’s arthritic state spares the kids a real whacking as I am conscious of not snapping him in two.
By now, whatever the problem was has vanished or, if it is an issue of homework, the offender will be awaiting punishment. I always make lack of homework punishments quick and will strike without any prior warning. Sometimes, the offender actually thinks they’ve been spared. I usually hit them on the head. Yes, I know I shouldn’t, but for the PC brigade, anywhere is liable to cause injury and the safest place, on the bum or back of legs demand a sort of procedure, like bending over, which almost serves to ritualise the punishment and which I personally find a little pervy. And of course, Billy is too much of a light weight to have much effect in that area without the risk of being broken. So, the head it is! One short snap, never very hard and certainly much less damaging than the game Korean boys play where they do ‘rock, scissor, paper’ and the winner gets to ‘flick’ a finger on his opponents forehead.
I usually treat Billy like a kukri, the Gurkha traditional knife, supposedly, never sheathed without first drawing blood. Last year, I threw a crazy with a class, probably the one and only crazy I’ve thrown in Korea. For a minute or so I shouted and screamed and smacked Billy on the desk. Two children started crying and the rest were terrified. That was a year ago, but one the odd occasion I need to call for Billy’s help, those students still in the class, and who remember that day, put their head in their hands in trepidation.
I actually find it difficult to hit a student and after striking them feel very bad if they start crying . As in the UK, if you are not careful kids make excuses for lack of homework on a weekly basis but Billy cures this problem instantly; no lectures, no debates, no pleading, no detentions or phoning parents, not wasting valuable time, just a thwack of Billy on the head and you can guarantee the issue will be resolved and a homework subsequently forth coming. Western teachers, fooled by the PC claptrap that corporeal punishment is barbaric, are misguided. If I make a joke and strike my stick on the head of a kid they will laugh but should I use the same force when angry, and the child’s ‘kibun’ is damaged, they will often have tears in their eyes. This should tell you how minuscule my punishment is! It is not the force of my stick hitting them that castigates and punishes them, but the loss of face within the class. Joking aside however, I witnessed some brutal punishments in my former High School.
In a Korean class, there is absolutely no mistaking who is the boss and this difference creates a chasm in standards between British and Korean schools. In Korea, the teacher is always boss and ultimately students know this. Korean kids will push their chances and intimidate you in their own Korean way but they know that they can be physically punished. British kids however, are equally aware that teachers can do nothing about bad behaviour. In many British schools, it is children who rule the class room and permit or hinder a lesson as they see fit. Bad management structures, of which students are unwittingly aware and will use to their advantage, have created schools where classroom teachers are powerless while managers can saunter into lesson and demand compliance because students know they have direct access to contacting their parents – a power usually denied non managers.
Ah, Korea. A different world where for most cases, even the most horrible student is an angel by comparison. And instead of being shunned like a leper when out shopping, Korean students want to introduce their parents to you or simply say hello. Today, a student’s mum bought me a large cake, last week I received a bag of six homemade soaps, and so forth. Anyone who has taught in Korea will have been presented gifts such as these. In the UK, I didn’t even get a fucking apple from the class creep! So, when I have been confronted by ‘disrespect’ from Korean students who have studied abroad, it’s more like ‘indifference’ and familiarity than lack of respect. I have frequently had to interview high school students and a substantial number of those who have studied abroad will slouch in front of you, talk to you in a familiar way and are the quickest to tut or talk back. On a few rare occasions, I’ve even heard them mutter expletives under their breath.
Experience of the west must have a profound effect on them as it exposes them to a range of experiences, not all of which are bad, which are denied them in Korea. Most will have been exposed to drugs, anti-intellectual attitudes, educational mores that encourage and prompt them to be sexually active, homosexuality, trans-gender, a society that empowers students well in advance of them being able to yield that power responsibly, and a system that often polarizes teachers and students and charges that relationship with antagonism and distrust most pertinent the notion that every adult is a potential perv. In the UK, Billy would have been assassinated! There is no doubt students would have sought him out when not in my company and snapped him in half. More disturbing, they would have done so with glee.
The Times Newspaper (UK), conducted a survey in 2008 which revealed a fifth of all teachers support the use of corporeal punishment. This week in New Zealand (May 15 2020), it was revealed half the population support the return of the cane especially in the light of figures highlighting the corresponding rise in crimes within school that has occurred since corporeal punishments was banned.
Ministry of Justice statistics for pre-teen violence released just last month also showed a disturbing trend. From 1998-2008, the number of police apprehensions for grievous/serious assaults by 10-13 year olds increased by more than 70%. For each of the most recent two years, there has been almost 1,000 apprehensions for 10-13 year olds for all violent offences, which include aggravated robbery, sexual violation, indecent assault, and serious assaults – an increase of a third since 1998. (link to NZNEWSUK)
If you care for the development of children, the occasional smack is absolutely necessary. If my son or daughter were caught sticking their fingers in the electric socket, I would administer them a good clout as failure to instill in them the danger of doing this, puts their lives at risk. It is widely believed in Korea, that corporeal punishment reflects caring for youngsters’ development and the stick is often referred to as the ‘stick of love’. Personally, reflecting on some of the hideous scum I have had the misfortune to teach in the UK, it is clear we neither respect them, ourselves or other members of society – most notably other students. Of course British teachers can’t say they ‘love kids,’ not without having to spout a diatribe to explain themselves, which is just as well as judging by the scum we have allowed to pollute wider society, we clearly don’t. You will hear the phrase ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ far more in Korea than you do in Britain. The politically correct lobby has compelled us to obsess about the rights of bad children and generally bad people in a plethora of contexts, has helped facilitate a society where all of us, including children, in one way or another, are now victims of, or held ransom by, the very scum we molly-coddled and subsequently empowered.
This is true, a few weeks ago my boss gave her class a vocabulary test. One of the words requiring translation into English was, ‘몽둥이.’ (stick). Two students answered, ‘Billy.’
I don’t know how long this link will remain on Daum, but here is a brief recording of a very disturbing, and brutal corporeal punishment.