One of the classes I teach is 1st/2nd grade combined, and I dread it. There are very few days when class is over and I don't feel worse than before I started. It's not my favorite age group. If somebody said "What age kids do you want to teach?" I would NEVER say "Oh please, give me the little ones." I just don't have the patience for them. I don't like how needy they are, how many times I have to repeat myself, how much supervision they need. I think they're very cute...from a distance. I like them best when there's only a few of them, and in small doses.
Although they are close in age, there is a huge difference between a 1st grader and a 2nd grader. 2nd graders are much more mature, and further along developmentally. A lot of my 1st graders still don't know what to do when they come into the room, they don't know the classroom routines, they can't sit still. 2nd graders have got that all down. They've just been in school longer, and in this case, they've had an extra year of English. On paper, combining them is an ok idea, but in reality it's a disaster.
So I've got 18 of these little puppies in one class. I realize that 18 is not a huge number; it's way below the average classroom size in the United States right now. But in a language-learning situation, at that age, 18 is way too much. It's on the verge of ridiculous in my opinion. There are too many of them that need too much help, and only one of me. They hardly understand me when I talk. Some days I feel like I'm talking to actual puppies. I have a "co-teacher" in the class with me, but she might as well be a puppy too.
There are a few 2nd grade boys that are t.r.o.u.b.l.e. I think some of them legitimately can't focus and probably have ADD, but there's this one. Oh this one. He is naughty on purpose. He thinks it's funny, and he likes to get the kids around him to do the bad stuff he's doing. I have him sitting in the back of the classroom with an island of empty desks around him, and he still manages to disrupt my class every single day. He does the same stuff all the time and he knows it's wrong, but he doesn't care. I make him stand in the back of the room at least twice every lesson, and I've brought him to his classroom teacher about once a week for over a month. No change.
So today he was being his usual self, and I decided I've had enough. I've had more than enough. This has been going on for way too long and it's disrupting my entire class. He sucks up way too much teacher time every day. I've got students that are well-behaved and far behind, and they deserve some of the attention I'm forced to give to him. So I walked him to his classroom teacher and said "He can't come to English class anymore."
And she freaked out. She got 3 inches from my face and started yelling at me. Yelling! I was so surprised. I figured if she was going to yell at someone it would be the troublemaker, not the teacher. She has always seemed very sweet, and can't speak English very well, except apparently when she's angry. She can't quite say "What did you do yesterday?" but has no problem screaming "It is your duty to teach every terrible student!" I didn't see that coming, but I held my own pretty well. It ended when she picked up the phone to call someone, and I walked out of the classroom. I was not about to stick around for round 2.
The mentality in Korea is that you should do things no matter what because it's your duty, or because someone older than you told you to. You can't question anything. The circumstances don't matter, and there's no such thing as compromise. It makes situations like this impossible. She wants me to keep dealing with the same problems every day, and that's not going to happen. I may be the foreigner, but let me tell you something. I'm winning this battle.