Apr 24, 2007

corporal punishment

The teachers here carry around big sticks. The proverbial school yard-stick. I'm not talking some willow branches, I'm talking some solid bat-sized or heavy-set plastic swatters. It's a practice Korean school kids often get the brunt of straight over the head.

Students' reactions to the beatings are my favorite form of workplace entertainment. Imagine a soundless (and priceless) facial expression from, say, Jim Carrey circa Ace Ventura - these kids go from pain-ridden facial contortions to half-angst, half-resolute, all-attitude expressions of guilt. Not to be sadistic, if sounds like I think this is funny, but after I'd cringed uncomfortably watching a lion's share of students getting ridiculously thwapped, funny was the only place I could go.

The teachers hit the kids hard, too. They're not messing around. Top of the head, back of the head, over the ears with a sound like a hollow pumpkin getting spanked. They even charlie-horse them square in the shoulder blades with a flat fist if there's no stick handy... whatever violence seems appropriate at the time is what goes.

Sunny, my young female desk-mate and a newcomer, is the only teacher I've noticed who doesn't actually carry the stick. Consequently, her classes are the loudest, most obnoxiously-behaved brats I have to deal with.

"What's your deal," I ask her, "everyone's got a stick but you.. where's your stick?"

"Ahh, I don't have one," she giggles in that unequivocally Asian way, "I maybe will have one soon."

"Well, your classes are really bad, they're a nightmare," I laugh, "do you know what 'nightmare' means?"

"In Canada, what is the discipline?" Sunny actually sounds interested.

"I don't know.. I don't remember much from my days - I guess we put kids 'in the hall', or send them to the Principal, and if that doesn't work, there's detention and eventually suspension."


"Yeah, they get to go home and the parents deal."

"And it works?"

I squirmed, amused with her question. Sarcasm and idioms were going to be way beyond her grasp of the language here, and I wasn't really able to paint a concise picture of Canada's educational disciplinary procedure except by summing up with - "we kick them out." And since the school disciplinary system inevitably gives way to the judicial system, I could only add, "and eventually, they become criminals."

"oh," and she can't suppress the giggle again.

"Yeah, well do those sticks work?"

"Oh yes," she smiles sweetly, "it works."

I had had the opportunity [misfortune?] have to move one of the Science teacher's hitting sticks from atop the local office printer, a fluorescent green plastic tube hollow at the swatting end and taped heavily at the other for a makeshift handle, and had felt the weight of it.

Yeah I can see why she's right, who likes head trauma?

Disclaimer: I think I should also add that I'm strictly an observer in this sense. If the teachers I work with want to beat up the students, I can't do anything about that, but it's certainly something I would never do myself - I'm more of the run-away-from-confrontation type.

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