ESL South Korea

Classroom Discipline

This does seem to be the stereotype among many Westerners who’ve never been to Asia.  It certainly was mine, and it was proven false quickly enough.

Korean students might be different in the foods they eat and the subjects they take, but when it comes to things like classroom behaviour they can be just as rowdy and, if left unchecked, loud and abruptive, as any other child.

So what about maintaining discipline?

Maintaining classroom control is crucial to establishing a beneficial learning environment.  Sound like it comes straight from a education handbook, doesn’t it?  Well, it’s true.  If kids are loud and disruptive, nobody’s learning anything, and the smart kid in the back who actually wants to improve his English is being robbed of the opportunity.  But having passed through enough schooling yourself, you probably know this.

Don’t beat yourself up if you struggle with maintaining discipline as a newcomer to the teaching profession.  Even young professional teachers, fresh out of college, or those with only a few years of experience still struggle with maintaining discipline in their classes.  In contrast, you might see an older teacher barely raising his or her voice, yet maintaining almost absolute authority in class and keeping children in check without too much effort.  So it does seem that maintaining discipline is something that gets easier with experience, this certainly was the true in my case.

As a non-Korean maintaining discipline has an additional hurdle since students will likely take you as a foreigner less seriously that they would a Korean teacher.  Korean teachers will be able to accomplish with one stern word what you can’t seem to manage with a two minute rant.  The fact that you speak a foreign language means many students automatically switch off when you start speaking.  This is especially true for younger students with lower English ability, in which case the presence of a Korean teacher will make all the difference.

Though technically illegal, Korean public and private schools still employ the use of corporal punishment with students and I’ve encountered some Westerners who are bothered by this.  If you find corporal punishment offensive you might need to shut your eyes and ears when it’s being handed out, since it’s not your place to stop it.

The worst thing you can do is to confront a Korean colleage mid-spank, and make him/her lose face in front of the pupils.  Other Korean punishments are available as well which include things like having children stand in a classroom corner with their hands raised, holding a book or something.

Many of us might be familiar with forms of school discipline like detention and essay or line writing as punishment.  Often times, these prove unfeasible in a Korea setting, since children are often overworked as it is and there simply is not enough time to implement and see it through.

In general, you will seldom find children who are rebelliously rude and mean-spirited.  But they do get louder and disruptive if left unchecked, and as a teacher you will have to find a form of discipline you can consistently implement, from day one.  If you feel uncomfortable with any form of corporal punishment, it’s a good idea to discuss the issue with your boss or ask a co-teacher to give you ideas with, and help you implement discipline.