Thursday, September 29, 2011

"What the heck" Wednesdays

Now that I've adopted this whole WTF Wednesday segment-thing, all the weird stuff seems to keep happening to me on Wednesdays. Or maybe I'm just more on the lookout for it... Regardless, I couldn't help but notice the guns that some of my students brought to school.

Ok, so they were toys. It wasn't a big deal, obviously. They weren't pretending to kill the teacher; it was fine. But it got me thinking about the American school system vs. Korean schools and the circumstances, had this same gun been brought to a U.S. school. I like to think of Korean schools as the way American schools were back in the 1950s -- when my parents were elementary-aged. Parents allowed teachers the reign in the classroom that was necessary -- they felt the teacher knew best. That meant a good swatting when a kid was being disruptive. Teachers didn't have to constantly worry that that a slap on a student's hand could result in an angry parent; that a hug could result in a sexual assault charge. If kids weren't receiving proper discipline at home, then at least they were at school. Discipline wasn't decided on a zero-tolerance, all-or-nothing policy. Teachers and principals still used the brains and higher thinking that God gave them to discern a proper punishment. This ideology still holds true in Korea. And kids are still kids, obviously -- but there's a notable difference in the level of respect and behavior of Korean children. We can't forget that the culture here, in general, is respect-based, but still... Schooling has its effects.

When I was a kid and summer officially began, school was the last place you could find me. After school, I was always ready to just get out. But I can't help but notice the way Korean kids just hang at school. During summer, they were happy to be here; after school, they don't run away screaming bloody murder. It's a safe, happy, loving place for them -- the way school should be. So my WTF isn't directed toward Korea this time, but America. America, WTF is wrong with your education system??!

Growing up, my dad was a teacher and a principal and I've heard it all. I know how messed up things are. And kids are burning out at younger and younger ages, what with all the "knowledge" being crammed down their throats, solely in preparation for state-issued assessments. I mean, there's still that "cramming" happening here, as well as the pressure. But it's not nearly the same. Because kids aren't skipping out on school and studying to go smoke weed and indulge in a little "escapism;" Here, they're actually going to school. And they're actually studying. Education and school isn't their enemy. In fact, I had my own run-in with the ridiculous zero-tolerance policy in high school and wrote a narrative about it in college (yes, I was in the wrong....but, really??!):

The Other School: Tales of a Straight-laced Jailbird 

Ironically, I clung to alternative school the way Korean children cling to their schools. Maybe it was because of the love and kindness of the teachers there. And they - OH MY GOSH -- used their brains!! They knew that I didn't deserve to be there, and they treated me accordingly. And maybe I feel so strongly about all of this because of what I experienced...

But anyway, back to the guns... the kids who brought them were some of my brighter fourth-grade students. There was no harm done. They weren't even pretending to have a shoot-out with one another. One of the other teachers simply took the guns away and set them on my desk to prevent distractions during classtime. But that was it. We didn't lay down the ultimate wrath, because there was no reason to. What would've happened to them if there were in America? I can't help but think of the first grade boy who accidently brought a butter knife to school -- a butter knife. Was there really harm in that...really?? No. But of course, he suffered a different fate.

(I just have to say...this blog post went off on a completely different direction from what I was originally planning to write... About my teachers' dinner on Wednesday night and how everyone was #&!$-faced / red-faced around me (it's called the "Asian flush" or the "Asian glow"); how they continued to shoot back soju, despite embarassment for having said flush; how they went out to noraebang (karaoke) for their "second course," as they called it; how, as they were telling me about it, I jumped when I saw a drunk man already passed out on the side of the road (it was 10pm; how, after ditching noraebang to go to the store and pick up a few things, I was drunk-dialed by one of the male teachers asking me to come back and join them; how he was "sad" I wasn't there. You can bet your bottom dollar I stayed the heck away from the noraebang after that...)

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