Posted by: rbbadger | June 3, 2009

Problem students

Every class has its problem students, I suppose.  One of the most common problems is for students to have short attention spans.  And then, of course, there is the whole problem of students being in wrong levels or having more difficulties with the material than other students do.  And then there are students that leave you with your head scratching wondering what you’re going to do.

I have a student who is about my niece’s Emily’s age.  Like her, he is really tall and pretty strong, too.  His mom, whom I’ve met, is taller than I am! He is a really intelligent student and he is progressing pretty well.  However, this student really has issues.  He is really emotional, even more than the young ones tend to be.  It is very easy to make him cry, something I’ve done plenty of times.  He really is a very sensitive boy.  One of the students in the class is seven years old, yet I’ve never managed to make him cry once.  But this boy, let’s call him Min-woo (a very common boy’s name and not his real name), often bursts into tears when scolded by the teacher and is often no good for the rest of class after he is punished by me or by the Korean teacher.  Currently, Min-woo has stitches on his face gained from a fight at school.

Anyhow, I later found out that Min-woo had hit one of the girls outside of class time sufficiently hard enough to cause a bruise.  Her mom was, justifiably, livid and came storming in towards the end of class.  There probably is no better language for yelling at children than in Korean, though having seen Chinese parents scold their children on the Hong Kong subway in very loud and harsh sounding Cantonese, Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese) seems as good as any.  Anyhow, after he got yelled at by the director and the vice-director of the school, then he also got yelled at by me and the Korean teacher.  Our vice-director, a very nice petite woman, has an air of utter authority about her that makes the students tremble.  My Level 7 class tries to hide from her when they haven’t done their homework, but she knows their hiding places.  What is worse, if I ask her to, she will call their moms.  After dealing with the director, vice-director, the Korean teacher and me, the girl’s mother yelled at him for about ten minutes.  He was just reduced to tears completely.  We have tried all sorts of approaches with him and for a time these things were working well.  However, you always have to be on your toes.

Having taught him for nearly a year, I think that he does have some emotional problems and needs to learn how to control them.  However, I am not the competent person for such a thing, nor I do know who would be, apart from a good child psychologist or perhaps even a school counsellor (do they have those here?). 

What I fear is that eventually parents will threaten to withdraw their children if he isn’t withdrawn.  Then, we will be forced to no longer permit him to study with us.  He would then go onto another school and the problems would repeat themselves ad infinitum.  He is, without a doubt, one of the most challenging students I’ve ever taught.

Then, there is another boy that teach in the same class.  For some reason, English language schools like to give their students English names.  For weeks on end, we were unable to pick a name for him because he didn’t like any of them.  Finally, we figured out that he liked the sound of my name, so instead of Lee Gang-in, we call him Robert.  Robert is an unusually smart boy, but like Min-woo, his problems are at the entirely opposite end of the spectrum.  He is painfully, utterly shy.  He doesn’t like to speak unless we force him to.  We have a semi-annual event where the students memorize a story and then give it from memory in front of their parents and classmates.  We simply could not get him to do it.  In addition to being really smart, he is also incredibly stubborn and if he doesn’t want to do something, he will not do it, though he will resist in a passive-aggressive sort of way.  At school, according to his sister, he received a special prize for the top score in mathematics.  When the principal read his name, he simply would not go up to receive it.  Today, we had an activity whereby the students were supposed to take a survey of their classmates on what sorts of things they can do.  He had filled in every single space with his name and what he can and can’t do.  It is exactly the sort of thing I would have done (and did!) as a student, given that I loathed pair work.  Now I am imposing it on the students and everyone is taking to it well except for him.

Every class has its challenges and every student has the potential to challenge you in ways you cannot know.



  1. Wow…kids are like kids no matter where they live, huh? Good luck! 😛

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