So yesterday one of my students was really rude and unmanageable. He was talking back, he was whining about the work, everything was too hard and I was too mean. He told me several times that he hated my class and wanted to go to another one where he wouldn’t be expected to work as hard.

I tried talking to him about what was going on and asked if he’d like to go to an easier level, if the work was too hard. I didn’t get any concrete answers out of him, just “I hate this class.” Really, there wasn’t a lot I could do for him. I asked him repeatedly to put away his purple Sharpie and get going on some vocabulary, or grammar, or reading skill, or do something productive.

In between helping the other kids in class, I asked him again and again to stop doodling on his folder in purple pen, I asked him to stop mocking the other kids’ mistakes. I asked him to please, please not repeat everything I was saying. Seriously.

And then when I look back over at him, he’s written, ‘El sucks her mother’s balls’ ON THE TABLE. IN PURPLE SHARPIE.

Overlooking the kid’s flimsy grasp of anatomy, and not even bothering to praise his correct pronoun use, I go get the boss.

Boss takes kid out of class.

Boss tells me the kid says he didn’t do it. I point out that I cleaned the table an hour and a half previously, and there was nothing written on the table then. I point out that the kid is the only one with a purple Sharpie in the classroom. I forbear to mention that I can identify this kid’s handwriting, since I have been marking his work for about six months. The kid is lying. It’s clear.

Boss says the kid doesn’t even understand what he’s written. I point out that the kid has been writing (in the same purple Sharpie) all kinds of insults to me and to the place I work, on his folder. He’s got to understand some of it.

Boss shrugs helplessly.

I say I realize we are a business and cannot simply punish kids for their opinions, but does the boss understand what the kid has written? That the kid says I put my mouth on my mother’s genitals? I’m sure that that’s not the kind of behaviour we want associated with our establishment. Boss can only nod in helpless assent.

I point out that the kid says he wants to move classes. I add that I think it would be a good idea, since one of the other students in my class is five years old, and doesn’t need to be learning that kind of language or behaviour. Writing on a folder is one thing, but willfully defacing our property? That’s not acceptable. Boss nods in helpless assent again. He agrees that it would be a good idea to move purple Sharpie kid.

So I’m conflicted. I embarrassed my boss by pointing out the content of the graffiti, which is bad. I’ve probably lost my Honorary Korean status. On the other hand, the kid needs to know that his behaviour is unacceptable. But we can’t punish him. I’m passing the buck, because I can’t do anything else. Which makes me frustrated as hell.

And it turns out, the Sharpie wasn’t permanent, so it’s gone and the rest of my students don’t need to learn faulty anatomy lessons.

3 Comments to “Conflict.”

  1. By Arwen, February 28, 2008 @ 9:43 pm


    I’m sorry you had to deal with that. On both the kid and the boss end. But I’m also glad you stood your ground…

  2. By Beth, February 28, 2008 @ 11:04 pm

    I wonder how kid’s parents would feel if they found how kid is wasting time in the class that they are paying for? I imagine that would be the easiest way to deal with his disrespect. Tell the parents. I bet boss doesn’t want to do that because he might lose the student. But why would he want a student like that.
    Don’t parents get progress reports telling about behaviour and work habits as well as ability?

  3. By Liz, February 28, 2008 @ 11:26 pm

    Arwen, I am very glad I stood my ground.

    Beth, the parents wouldn’t be impressed, but there are a bunch of things going on here.
    1) If the boss tells the parents, we might lose the student.
    2) If we lose the student, the parents have to save face and explain to other parents why he’s no longer there. Kids don’t get kicked out of after school academies, their parents decide where they go. So they’d have to say something bad about us. We don’t want that.
    3) We give progress reports on each student’s daily notes, but negative observations about behaviour don’t make it to the parents. It’s a real problem, and I can only correct it when I know the parents of the students personally.

    The fact is, I work in a little bubble of Korean culture. Most of the time, it’s pleasant, efficient, and supportive. Just not in situations like this.

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