I told my co-teacher I wanted the girls out. It turns out 2 of them are notoriously bad students. Not just bad-in-English-class students. “I have a hard time controlling this student. Everyday I’m lecturing her and getting complaints” My co-teacher reported. So why in the hell were they placed in my club in the first place?
The whole teachers office grew quiet when they heard the conversation between my co-teacher and the Lady In Charge of The Clubs aka Club Lady. They were shocked about the cell phones and make up. Everyone knows how unacceptable that was. But it didn’t matter – the students could not be removed because they had chosen the club. I couldn’t override that.
Over the course of a week I was continuously given updates on the situation.
Friday: “We can’t remove them from the club unless they want to.”
“But they don’t speak any English. How are we supposed to get anything done?”
Monday: “We talked to them. They say they really like your club and want to be part of it.”
“They only liked it because they were using cell phones and makeup the whole time! Of course they liked it.”
I had to make a plan. I began sitting down to make a dictator levels of rules and regulations. Chris said it best “they make it hard for you – you make it hard for them.” Make it hard for them to have fun or do what they want. No more fun. No more games. I can’t trust them to fill out a simple worksheet so we can watch a movie – so we obviously can’t do anything. Rules (well “procedures”) were put into place for EVERY. LITTLE. THING.
On Tuesday my co-teacher reported:“I lectured C [one of the notoriously bad students]. She said the only reason she was acting out was because her friends had played a prank on her.” Thats why they had been spitting in the room and out the window. She said this as if it was a viable excuse for her student acting like such an ass. Because her friends played a prank.
“Well, they shouldn’t have been playing pranks in class, now should they have?” My coteacher just looked at me blankly.
“I mean, we were doing things the whole 2 hours and they were just running around pranking each other?”
It was all lost on her.
Today, hours before the club was going to start:
“We asked them again if they would drop out, they said no.”
Well at least you guys were trying so hard but why are 14 year old girls controlling what happens?
“We’re scared their parents will get upset.”
Oh… so the truth comes out.
1 hour before club
Club Lady showed up randomly and brought the three culprits to apologize.
“Sorry” said one in the middle.
“Me too” said the one on the right.
Nothing. Said the one on the left.
“I will try …. English … better. I will…. listen.” Said the middle one.
“Me too.” Said one on the right.
Nothing. Said the one on the left.
I stared at them blankly. Club Lady beamed as if this had solved all of the problems. Now we could go back to being one big happy club again. I stared at her blankly, too.
Someone was brought in to translate.
The three girls stood there while the head of my department and the Club Lady asked me what the problem was.
“They don’t listen and don’t know enough English to stop doing things when I tell them to.” It felt weird to say this in front of the three girls but thats what Club Lady wanted I guess.
“Are you sure you can’t just let them be in your club?” They pleaded.
“No. I have had to change the whole club because of them. (all my procedures and the new changes in plan were brought about partially because of them). We’re not going to do anything fun anymore because of them.”
At this one of the girls perked up. I guess she understood enough English to understand that but couldn’t even apologize. She looked at her friends nervously and tried to mime it to them.
Our conference didn’t solve any problems but it was agreed that the girls would be left in the teacher office for the whole 2 hours so the wouldn’t interrupt the club. The head of my English department agreed that their behavior wasn’t going to change. They would try to get the girls out of my club but couldn’t guarantee anything.
I say they were the three biggest culprits because they were. But that didn’t mean the rest of the club was doing so well, either. Even if those students will be removed permanently (which they won’t be) big changes needed to happen. So big that I was actually starting to feel bad about it. But I reminded myself how rude and terrible they had been last week “they make it hard for you – no you make it hard for them” Chris had said. Make it hard for them to have fun.
So I went to my club today and laid down the biggest hammer.
“Last week you guys were terrible.”
“Tewwible?” one girl pretended to baby-whine.
“You were awful. You used cell phones, make up. You didn’t do the work, you were doing what you wanted. You weren’t being bad students – you were being bad people. So we’re going to start again. We can’t do anything fun because I can’t trust you.”
I acknowledged the students who had been good and pointed out the problems to the students who thought they hadn’t done anything wrong. Then the hammer came down.
“Everyone will bring their backpacks to me.” [can’t access cell phones or make up] They began huffing and rolling their eyes in disbelief. There was no way this was happening to them omg.
“You will leave them here and you will not stand up again. If you need to stand up you can ask me” [no more running around or spitting out the windows]
“Everyone will sit in assigned seats” I made everyone sit at their own private desk. By now they were huffing, rolling their eyes and muttering things to each other. Looks were exchanged. More huffs. Wow, what a bitch she’s become – I wish I had never signed up for this club. Good.
After I had their backpacks and gave them solitary desk seating assignments I gave them a fun but not-too fun assignment to design a restaurant.
By the end of the day they had stopped huffing and were toeing the line again, deciding the would stand up when they wanted and that they didn’t have to clean up.
But it was the best club experience I’ve had all year. It’s the first wednesday I didn’t go home feeling exhausted, pissed off or taken advantage of.
What I’ve learned: don’t let it get that bad. But going full dictator works really well for crushing them back into being polite human beings.
Don’t treat them like adults. This has worked sometimes in the past to give them trust and let them fill those shoes. In this case, I was proven very wrong. This is my fault – but, again – go full dictator.
Hold your ground. I know I’m making everyone miserable by demanding those girls get out of my club. But their behavior isn’t okay. From what my co-teacher has said some of them are bad students. Bad people. They’re very spoiled. By getting them out of the club and taking away what they want would be a great start.
What really matters is that it’s already making people miserable enough that they’re demanding changes for next year. If I’m still here next year I’ll get to hand pick students to join my club (a resounding DUH!? why weren’t we doing this?!).
So that’s my long winded story about what has been my most difficult situation since we got to Korea.