Boys will be boys

I’m feeling pretty good about the fact that it’s Friday. This week was one of non-stop stress, climaxing yesterday evening with an incident in one of my classes, involving me, a group of four thirteen year old boys and a serious flashback to a memory of me in junior high school. In this memory, which took place on a Wednesday afternoon (funny how stuff like that sticks with you), I was late for class and running down the hallway. I passed by a group of guys I knew in passing, who were undoubtably skipping class, who proceeded to chase me down said hallway, barking at the top of their lungs. You know. Cause I’m ugly. Like a dog. Get it? I ended up missing class because I was holed up in the girl’s washroom, bawling my face off, and too scared to come out in case they were waiting for me outside the door.

This is a moment for me; I’d just like to point out. I just revealed an incredibly humiliating memory, and am allowing myself to be brutally honest with the three of you who actually read this thing ( that’s right…. three….we’re up one from last week!!) in order to help you better understand the experience I had on Thursday and to give you a better understanding of the deep levels of suckage that went on in my life the past week.
But I digress….
Tuesday and Thursday nights I teach a group of middle school kids, a group made up mostly of boys who have, since day one, given me nothing but attitude, disrespect, insolence, and the occasional Korean swear thrown my way. They show a complete disregard and a show of nothing but contempt, for me, the school, their assignments, etc. and I get it. I do. Teacher vs. student, never mind the fact that they’re thirteen and the world is against them. And I’ve been pretty good up until now, trying my best to be understanding and more then a tad lenient, which in hindsight, was perhaps my first mistake. After all, I reasoned, these kids are in school for the majority of their lives, would it kill me to cut them a bit of slack?

Maybe it’s the fact that three of them are taller then me. Maybe it was the fact that by the time that class rolled around I had already been up for 18 hours of my day, combined with the week of early mornings and late nights, marking essays and doing report cards for these little fuckers. Maybe it was the straw that broke the camels back when it came to the snide comments, disrespectful undertones and empty homework pages. Perhaps all of the above. Whatever the case as I stood at the whiteboard writing down the days vocabulary words, and hearing the stream of Korean words being thrown around behind me, something inside me snapped.

I need to leave, I though, horrified by the tears welling up in my eyes. My throat felt blocked. I need to leave right now, I thought. I put down my book, and heard myself saying that I would be right back. As I left the room I heard voices following me, “OK! Good…Bye-bye!”, followed by a stream of Korean and laughter. The classroom next door was mercifully dark and empty. My face burned with humiliation as hot tears fell down my cheeks. I tried to take deep breaths in through my nose. I closed my eyes. This is embarrassing for me to admit, this is brutal honesty right here. All of a sudden I was thirteen again, crying in the girls bathroom after a group of boys had chased me down the hallway, laughing and barking at me like dogs. I opened my eyes, and tried to remember I was now twenty-seven and a teacher. But the feelings were uniform. I had to do something and it was with a heavy heart I found one of the male Korean staff and explained the situation. He was sympathetic and I watched as he marched the offenders into an empty classroom and “talked to them” for ten minutes or so. They filed back in faces sullen, eyes down. I stepped out to thank him, and he smiled at me with compassion. Don’t worry about it, he said, they are just being boys. I know it’s different in your culture, but I am Korean and I am a man. They will listen to me, just send them to me and I will deal with it. Sad as it is to say, he gave voice to the silent suspicions that had been floating around in the back of my head for weeks, months, since I got here, since before I left Canada. I decided to deal with that a little later.

I want to say that I marched back into the room, guns blazing, fully charged and demanded the respect I deserve. I want to say I took charge of the situation and left it behind feeling as though I had done the best that I could. But I hadn’t. I didn’t. I want to say I had a good cry, took a deep breath, rolled up my sleeves and dove back in. I want to say that held my head high and finished the class with dignity intact. But I didn’t, I didn’t’. Every part of me felt defeated. I slammed the door, picked up my book and carried on with the lesson. We finished our reading, and went over the key vocabulary. We did the test. We marked the test. What else was I supposed to do? What else COULD I do?

Something about it all felt final to me. It was as though something had been decided that I had not been aware of. Something had shifted. Something was different. The bell rang that signaled the beginning of our short break. Being the self-assured, confident, poised individual that I am, I did what any self- respecting person would have done. I hid in a dark empty classroom. I just couldn’t face them, the well-meaning faces of the other teachers who would see me and immediately inquire as to what was wrong. Four years of acting school and I can’t even fake it when it matters. There’s forty grand I’ll never see again. Good thing I’m teaching overseas to help pay off that debt…..wait a second…..
So I hid until it was time to go back in for round two. I want to say I went in with new resolve. I want to say that I took a deep breath, walked in and breathed fire for the remaining hour and a half of class. But I didn’t. I walked in, picked up the textbook, and kept going. I talked to the about rules that apply when using present progressive, present perfect progressive and past perfect progressive when speaking about the present. I followed through on my promise to let them teach certain sections of the grammar lesson, under my supervision, whatever that meant anymore.

The end of class could not come fast enough. I took a small pleasure in loading them down with more homework then I had originally planned on, and for reasons I cannot recall, they ended up telling me about their last teacher at our school. How he never gave them homework or if he did, it was very little. How he played games with them all the time, every day, it was no work, just games. How they didn’t do any work in his class and this wonder teacher gave them all A’s anyway. I stared at them, praying I was doing a good job of masking the dislike I was feeling for all of them at that moment, and heard myself saying, So that’s it? That’s what makes a good teacher to you guys?

He is very handsome, one said and there was a chorus of agreement. The bell rang and as they filed out, I sat still, thinking, not moving, with words reverberating around inside my head. They are just being boys……..He is very handsome…….OK, Good, Bye-Bye…..Just send them to me and I will deal with it……

Can’t decide what’s worse. Being mistake for a prostitute by random thirty-something men because I happen to be
A) A woman
B) White
C) Blonde
Or being despised and disrespected by fourteen year old boys who I have to see twice a week for three hours at a time because I happen to be
A) A woman
B) White
C) In a position of authority

Like, I said…..I’m feeling pretty good about the fact that it’s Friday.


Nicholas said…
I for one , would love to have had you as a teacher of mine !!!!!! Fuck those little bastards ..... as we say in the UK - OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!!!!!!!
Bethany said…
Little shits. It may be a small measure of comfort but at least you know that while your soul is pure, theres is a rotting ball of evil incarnate. Next you have to deal with the little twerps, remember how many people LOVE you, RESPECT you, ADMIRE you and think you're one of the most beautiful people they know, inside and out. And not just because you're strong and brave enough to fly overseas and abandon the life you knew for adventure and experience. :)
Anonymous said…
A plague upon your school ....... of course saving yourself and the Mr first !!!! then A plague upon your school ......... little vermin
KMac said…
It may be time to review the movies To Sir With Love, Chalkboard Jungle and The Substitute and see how they handle the disrespect. However, don't see Class of '84 as there a rather disturbing scene involving a table saw in the shop class. Kids always seem to know what buttons to push don't they?

Kathy M
Natalia said…
Hey! One more addition to your readers. I am a Uni professor in the US considering a move to teach somewhere else. One of the places where I teach at the moment is 97% male. It's interesting, to say the least. I have to assert my authority all the time. They soon find out they shouldn't fuck with me and only take their revenge on the critiques. It's good to remember it's them that have the issues, not you. You, my dear, rock.

Claire Herauf said…
Hey Steph, I have been an avid reader since the beginning, probably along with thousands of other silent readers watching the Stephanie they know go from amazing actress to amzaing teacher. Sydney ahs read some of Daves blog but I must say I have not let her read your more 18A version.
Anyway moving right along..... These boys you speak of know you only as their teacher not the REAL person that you are, they as you mentioned are growing in an environment where the respect of women is not taught in the way we know...also as you mentioned they are 13 enough said. remember you are are strong individual you are doing an amazing thing Hold your head high... YOU go Girl.. P.S love to Dave... P.P.S Syd is in east of the Moon..... Claire Herauf
Anonymous said…
see baby, more than 3 readers... and even more when some of us get back to the wired world. I"m glad you posted this - very open, very vulnerable. I'm proud!

Love Dee

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