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.
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.
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.
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.