I saw one of my boys outside today, waltzing around with his broomstick (actually this is a quite literal description as he was holding his broomstick like a dance partner and pivoting in small circles in the courtyard… needless to say little to no sweeping was getting done), and it made me sad. This is one of my lower-level second graders, and I’ve always had issues with him paying attention in my class. Most of the time he just sleeps, stares off blankly into space, or plays with a box-cutter that he always seems to carry. In the fall when I taught his class for the first time, it wasn’t until halfway through that I realized that he couldn’t read English. I’m not sure how this student does in his other classes, but my guess would be not well because I almost always see him outside, doing other activities.
Korean schools for the most part don’t employ janitors. The students take shifts cleaning their homerooms (cleaning the chalkboard, mopping the floors, etc) and cleaning the school’s hallways. From what I’ve managed to gather, it seems that at my high school if a student behaves badly they are sometimes made to do grounds work. I’ve seen my students cutting down tree branches, trimming hedges, sweeping outside, and carting wheelbarrows all the way down to the street full of tree branches (on a side note, while waiting for the bus I’ve also seen a lot of wheelbarrow races, almost all of which end badly… fun to watch though). However most of these activities don’t seem to take place outside of school, they seem to take place during the class period. So, the problem students are removed from the classroom and instead of after-school detention or anything like that, they are made to do grounds work during part or all of class.
While I appreciate that students are taught to respect the space that they’re in (they can’t graffiti the desks because if they do they’ll have to clean it later) it always makes me sad to see students outside during class hours. Especially if it’s one of my lower-performing students, because it seems like it’s a vicious cycle. I always see the same students outside doing labor… instead of it being a punishment for misbehaving it seems to become something for the student to do instead of learning. The student gets further behind, and then continues to behave badly in class because they are performing badly… instead of giving them extra help through after-school detention, forced self-study, paired with a one-on-one talk with the teacher trying to address the problem of why the student is behaving poorly in class, the student is just removed.
Some caveats: I don’t speak Korean, and my class operates a little differently than most of the teachers. Even though I am the main teacher, I have a co-teacher who, due to he or she actually being able to speak Korean, is the main power when it comes to removing students, excusing students for illness etc. Because the majority of my students are really low level, when they come in late or don’t come to class many times I can’t get an intelligible reason as to why without the help of a co-teacher translating my question to the students, and their responses to me. Also my information about all of this is from talking to other teachers and observations, so parts of it may be incorrect. All that I know is I see the same kid outside almost every day sweeping.
The saddest thing about it, was that this was the happiest I’d see him. Then again, I only see him in English class.
Anyone else have a similar situation at their school? It’d be interesting to see if my school is the exception or the norm in this regard.