Archive for the 'Peace' Category

A trying day…

Korea is very big on corporal punishment (with sticks, not rulers), and punishment in the classroom in general.  I, predictably, am not.  I generally try to redirect the student’s energy into something at least vaguely productive.  About 90% of the time it works, often to the surprise of my Korean co-teachers, who seem to be fans of using a (often rather knobby) stick instead.

I refuse to hit my students like they do, though I do sometimes rap the whiteboard pen on a student’s desk if they’re being particularly disruptive or distracted.  That’s about as violent as I get in the classroom.  The harshest thing I’ve done in the classroom was when I made a really rowdy student come sit in a chair by my desk.

That is, until today.

Today I had to discipline an entire class.

They didn’t like my lesson, so they were protesting by being silent. In an attempt to determine whether they were just upset that I was doing a grammar lesson, or if the lesson was simply too hard, I asked them if it was too difficult, a simple yes or no question. Silence. I told them that if it was, I would do an easier activity, that it was no problem. Silence. I had my Korean co-teacher translate, in case they weren’t understanding. Still silence.

I did my best to not get angry.  I raised my voice a little, but I did not yell.  But, eventually, their blank stares wore me down.  I tried to think of a punishment that was non-violent, non-shaming, and non-personal.  After 10 minutes of trying to get them to say something, anything, even “yes” or “no”, I told them that if they were going to be silent, they were going to do so uncomfortably. I made them all stand up from their desks and stand with their arms outstretched. Silent. For the entire period. Believe me, after 15 minutes, it starts to get really uncomfortable, and there was about 25 minutes left in the class.

I’m vaguely worried about retribution, however. Last week a teacher punished a few students, and they broke 7 windows in the teachers’ office in response. I told my co-teacher that in America, those students would be expelled, or at least suspended. These were the 8th graders (or rather, the Korean equivalent), who at this school are apparently are a reasonably violent and vengeful bunch, so I do have to be careful about what I do with them. After the bell rang, I asked them “Did you enjoy that?” “No…” “Will you speak when I ask you a question, in the future?” “Yes…”.  Next class, I will likely pretend it didn’t happen, and just move on, though if they behave the same way again, I will bring it up.

According to my co-teacher, they think I should only play games with them, as their previous foreign teacher did. I told them that I would play a game with them the last week of every month, but if I *only* played games with them, they will not learn anything from me because I only see them once a week, and insinuated that it would greatly lessen their chances of getting off the island and into a university. Harsh, yes, but they really, really angered me. They were completely disrespectful to both me and the co-teacher, and the other Korean teacher who was brought in to help. They were disrespectful by American standards, and *extremely* disrespectful by Korean standards, even cussing at both me and the Korean teachers at times.  I tried explaining to them that this decision to not learn had a far more reaching effect than they could really understand at this point in their lives, but it seemed to have no effect.

It’s early in the year, and I do *not* want to start off the year seeming like a pushover, but I also am generally a very friendly teacher and didn’t want to start out on this type of footing either. I really hope this has some effect, so that I do not have to do anything even remotely similar in the future. As a friend of mine says, if I continue with the same, all I will do is achieve compliance through force, which is not a productive form of classroom management, and not a role I feel comfortable in.

After class finished, I felt really uncomfortable with what happened.  In fact, I think that discomfort may have in fact resulted in me being more frustrated in class than I otherwise would have been.  I did not want to punish them, but, at least within the Korean system, they left me no real choice, and I was upset with them for inadvertently forcing me push the boundaries of my personal convictions, thus making me feel very un-Quakerly and generally uncomfortable.

I have been trying to think of less confrontational ways to deal with similar problems in the future, but thus far, I haven’t been able to come up with much that would work with Koreans.

Reenacting Post #1: Pacifism Amongst Wanna-be Warriors

This ended up being a lot more meandering than I intended it to be, but it should still be interesting. There will be another post later about other aspects.

One thing I have come to terms with over the years is that in reenacting (for those of you who have not read my “who am I?” page, I am a historical reenactor, as is Marc, my significant other), the environment is not exactly conducive to much conversation about anything political, etc. Most reenactors, with some exceptions of course, are pretty far on the conservative/right side of the political spectrum. Not only that, but they are pretty vocal about it, and relatively unopen to discussion. While I tend to shy away from discussing politics anyway given that I grew up as a liberal in Texas and learned to think without speaking, we do discuss history a lot at events, and that unfortunately can sometimes lead to a discussion of politics, as the two are inextricably entwined with eachother.

Marc likes to joke that “If you want to really know what it’s like to be the outsider at an event, try being both a Quaker and French. I’m about as pacifist as you can get, but I’m surrounded by people who love war.”. Now, we both love the *study* of war, and are fascinated by human conflicts, but we both are anti-war and pro-peace, and that is often met with a less than warm welcome. Marc deals with insults to his French-ness (“Who’d you surrender to today? Har har har!”) by mentioning that until WWI, the French were actually pretty badass, militarily, and in fact it is often argued that the colonists would not have won the American Revolution had the French not stepped in to assist. Given that these are reenactors, this usually shuts them up, as it appeals to their historical interests.

As I mentioned above, I tend to avoid topics at reenactments that I suspect will bring argument. Many, many reenactors are either current military or are vets, and they don’t take very kindly to an anti-war stance. I get around this often by stating that I do support the troops (I used to write letters, send packages, etc), but that I just feel that our military could be more efficiently used. This isn’t a lie – I do feel that it could be more efficiently used – I just neglect to say that my idea of efficiency involves removing most of the troops from the Middle East, except in areas that still need stability reinstated., and moving them instead to areas that they are needed, such as the Sudan and various disaster areas. I prefer not to create conflicts, and since I am often somewhat of the “publicity officer” for groups I am in (I often recruit members, I run our websites, etc), I have to maintain a relatively neutral public stance, so as to not offend the wrong people and have us starting to “not be invited” to events.

Some reenactors who are also military personnel have a more interesting stance – for instance, one of the members of Marc and I’s WWII Soviet group, Robbie, is a Marine reservist, and while he loves the Marines, he does not always support what they do, and in fact he’s quite a counter-culture fan. He’s not for the war, but he’s not against it either – he understands the reasons, but disagrees with the methods. He’s a reservist, but is such out of a feeling of duty, rather than a love of the military. His rebellious streak shows up in his reenacting persona, as he can often be found off in the background, complaining about our commander. Our commander is a former member of the reserve branch one of the various military branches (I can’t remember which), and he laments that he never got to “see action” before his enlistment expired. He ends up taking this frustration out on our unit, and he tries to stand at the non-existent top (we try to be a little more horizontally organized than vertically, unlike most groups) and complain that we’re not “military-like” enough. Newsflash: We’re not in the military, buddy. Sure, I agree that we need to learn how to be in formation properly, and commands and such, but I am not about to be ordered around by someone who is trying to relive a past he never had by bossing his friends around. In the field, we adhere to our various ranks, but when we’re just relaxing at the end of the day? Hell. No. While I may enjoy “playing war”, I certainly want the similarity to end there.

I have always felt a degree of discomfort around the majority of reenactors for reasons like this, but really, in the end, reenacting is far too big a part of my life, and I have been doing it far too long (almost 13 years now!) for me to give it up. It’s my main hobby, and a massive stress-reliever, and it would take something really, really major for me to give it up. Hell, I’m even a little deaf because of it, but that hasn’t even slowed me down.

Anyway. Another post coming soon about the conflict surrounding reenacting, which can often glorify war, and my personal feelings of being against war.