I get a lot of ideas about what people would like to read that I know from reading things online. Today, I was on Facebook reading posts from a group I have been part of a long time. It is made for foreign professors in Korea, and that is me. They discuss all kinds of issues that foreign professors must deal with in Korea. Today, someone asked what they should do with university students who refuse to turn off cell phones in the classroom and are reading online, answering messages, etc. during the class time instead of listening to the lesson. There were people on there who obviously had not taught in Korea saying things like, “Hey, they are college age! Why are you asking a question like that?” If you have never been around Korean or Japanese young people, you might ask that too, but what that professor was asking is very valid for Korea and Japan. You see, I don’t know children in every culture, but I know that the Koreans and the Japanese grow up socially slower than Americans and English, and there are good reasons.
It begins when they are very small. Korean parents are doting parents. There are many spoiled Korean kids. Probably Japanese parents are doting too because of the things I saw out of Japanese kindergartners. The parents in these countries also push their kids hard to learn everything academically, not really letting them learn social issues. Luckily, in Japan, I didn’t have to control the naughty little kindergartners, but a Japanese teacher who was with me did.
Some ladies from church here in Korea once asked me to teach English to their kids. I made regular appointments. I ended up quitting because the kids were naughty. They were not only naughty, but one of the parents was laughing at her little boy when he was naughty instead of correcting him. At one point, since the parents were in the same room while I was working with their kids, I expected them to correct their kids when they were naughty. The response was, “You are the teacher. It is your job to teach them to act right, not ours.” They wanted me to raise their kids, so I stopped being so nice to them and quit.
I just went through it again. A friend asked me to read stories in English to his little boy. I agreed, but the little boy wasn’t ready for the stories, so I switched, and began trying to teach him a little English, and he couldn’t sit down. He took everything away from the little girl who came to join him. He caused a lot of trouble. He was six years old and acting like someone going through their terrible twos. I told the parents I should just quit because he wasn’t emotionally mature enough for it all, but they wanted me to continue. The mother tried to blame it on me because she said I wasn’t entertaining enough. I am 64 years old, and I was doing it as a favor. I can’t get down in the floor and play with them anymore because my knees are bad. If I sang like I sang to my kids, it didn’t phase the little boy. I showed them pictures. I made it easy for them. I provided coloring sheets. I gave them origami birds and money with holes in it from Japan, etc. I tried, but finally, the mother pulled me aside and told me my teaching wasn’t working. She finally let me quit.
I had told them he was six years old going through terrible twos, and that he needed to be taught how to act. I told them I used to “smack” my kids when they were small which means the hand, and not so hard. but enough to get the message across. I warned my kids, and if they persisted in bad behavior, I smacked them. I never backed down. I was consistent. I picked my battles and didn’t try to make rules when rules shouldn’t be made, and I taught them to listen and follow the rules. At six years old, I was having no trouble with my kids. However, after I told these parents about it, the mother pulled the little boy in the other room when we were working, and I heard some terrible spanking going on. This mother is sick a lot. She is really too old to have babies, but they are trying anyway. She isn’t well enough to get him under control now, and she just gave up. The little boy is winning which isn’t good for him. He will continue not listening to his parents, and the older he gets, the harder it will be. Koreans get married later than Americans, and they have babies later.
I was sent by the Korean government to a middle school several years ago before spanking was outlawed. The Korean government didn’t realize they were sending me to a school where all the bad kids who caused trouble in other schools were sent. I am 5′ 7″, but still many of these students, especially the boys, were bigger than me. They were completely out of control! They were jumping out of windows. They were cutting themselves with razor blades. They were getting up during class and walking around like no teaching was going on. If I asked them to sit down, they just said, “No” and went about their business. If I turned my back, they stood up and began screaming and jumping up and down in the middle of class. They were lighting fires in class. The Korean English teacher was, by law, supposed to go into the classroom with me and keep them under control so I could teach, but he refused. He was scared of the students. There was a group of girls who said I should just ignore the rest of them and just teach them because that is what the last foreign teacher did, but I felt that was wrong. I was being paid to teach, and I should teach. I began collecting the razor blades and lighters and putting them on my desk, but when my back was turned, they took them. I had to put them in my pocket. I hated them in my pocket because I easily cut my fingers on those razor blades. I had to get them under control to teach them.
I talked to the other teachers, and they were carrying canes around to spank the kids. I didn’t want to spank. They told me it was the only way. I got a cane, but I didn’t spank. I carried it and warned them, and they didn’t listen. They called my bluff. I had to spank them. I did just as I had done with my little kids, but I didn’t smack their hands because they were older. I actually spanked them. I warned them. If they said, “No” or didn’t listen, I gave them a swat. If they still didn’t listen, they got another swat. I got them under control. I played a game in English with them, and they learned it was fun to learn, and I had no more troubles. They were middle school, bigger than I was still going through terrible twos. Now a days, it is illegal to spank kids in Korea. I got an award from the governor of the state for getting them under control. My nerves were shot, and I left and went to a university hoping for more mature students. The next teacher who replaced me in the school sent me a thank you for getting the kids under control.
When I was in Japan, I learned that the students have no life in high school in Japan. My Japanese brother came home after being in school all day and studied all evening because he had to pass that entrance exam to get into college. If they don’t pass the exam in Japan, many kill themselves. The girls weren’t allowed to wear makeup in high school, and everyone wore uniforms. You can see the uniforms in Korea too. No one dates in Japanese high schools or Korean high schools. In America, the students are going out on their first dates in high school. Many have boyfriends and girlfriends. Some even get married in high school. I had a friend who got married, and then got divorced in high school. I was much more innocent than the other American students in high school because I was shy and had moved around my whole life. I was what my mother called “sweet sixteen and never been kissed.” In middle school in California, I went to a school that had split sessions, and in the evening, they had trouble with the students going to the back of the bus and necking in the back. That is unheard of in Korea and Japan in high school and junior high. (Necking is a guy and a girl sitting there and kissing and hugging a lot.)
When I was a student in Japan, my American professor told me that I just better get used to the Japanese girls seeming more innocent than American university students. He told me the girls giggled a lot like little girls. That is because, socially, they were little girls. They had never been on a date, but boys still thrilled them.
Here in Korea, they still take attendance in the universities, and in many universities around the world, they don’t anymore. In America or other countries, people consider the university students young adults. However, here in Korea, often they are like junior high or high school kids in the states. The society still feels they need controlled. They were never gotten under control as children. The guys grow up a lot in college because they have to drop out and go into the military. They finally learn self discipline! For that foreign professor on Facebook in Korea to have a problem with university students playing with their phones instead of listening in class, it doesn’t surprise me. I am retired now, but I would warn my students that if I saw their phone, I would take it, and I was consistent and true to my word. If they persisted and used their cell phone anyway, I would surprise them and walk up and take it out of their hand. After class, I let them negotiate to get it back, and they never used it in class again.
Many American young people hold jobs in high school. However, many Korean young people begin holding part time jobs in their university years, their first job, but many don’t even do that. Many Korean young people are still living at home at the age of thirty with their parents, and their mothers are still doing their laundry. Their parents are still paying for everything. When I was thirty, I was finished with college, married, had two kids, and was buying a house. If they wait until they are forty until they get married, and then have kids, the women won’t be able to have many kids and their approach to child rearing is going to be much different than a young person in their twenties. I got married at twenty three, and my mother thought I was old and would never get married. I got pushed to get married. My youngest daughter got married at 22 here in Korea, and the Koreans all thought she was too young. They thought I was bad for letting her get married. They told me I needed to break the marriage up, but I could see she had made a good decision, and I never interfere with adults, but Koreans do. Koreans have to because they didn’t interfere when the children were small. Get them under control when they are small, and you don’t have as many problems as they are growing up. Korean and Japanese kids just grow up socially later than American and British kids.