Teaching Boys; or, “I’m Glad It’s Thursday Afternoon.”

A slight exaggeration.

This past week has, undoubtedly, been the most exhausting, most infuriating week teaching in Korea. The students have been extraordinarily rowdy, disrespectful, and refuse to listen, even to the Korean teachers when they speak Korean. We’ve had fights, kids crying, teachers yelling daily–the works. It hasn’t been pretty.

Why we’ve had such a bad week is, of course, a complex question, because people are complex. Why are these students so undisciplined? Are they always like this? Of course, I only see them for a few days, so I really can’t speak with any authority on their personal behavior. But I can compare it to the behavior of other groups, and two things stand out:

First, although we normally have 48 boys and 48 girls in each group, this time around we had twice as many boys as girls. Boys tend to develop slower than girls, hitting their stride in  high school, and so tend to lag in middle school. So they are more likely to be bored, which can lead to all sorts of problematic behavior. Boys at this age are also at the cusp of puberty, and as I think we can all remember, that’s a tumultuous time. They’re likely to feel a need to express themselves, challenge authority, and generally act like a bunch of giant asses.

This is compounded by the fact that though normally we only have two to four students from any given school, this week all of our students came from just three schools, and more than half came from just one school. So many of the students know each other. So they brought all of their pre-established relationships with them into our center. They have reputations to keep, interpersonal politics to quibble over. And those things are certainly more important to them than pleasing some foreign teacher they’ll only know for five days. Normally, our students come relatively alone to a new place, with new teachers. They’re on new ground, both literally and figuratively, and that works to our advantage. They’re likely to listen closely and try to please all the teachers, at least in the first day or so. And if we can win their trust and admiration in those opening days, we’re in pretty good shape.

We didn’t really get that chance this time around, though. And that, combined with the prevalence of male students, has resulted in a messy week. Apparently we’re getting a similar mix of boys & girls and a similar concentration of students from single schools next week. So I’ll be bracing for it next Monday. Also, sorry for the lack of any citations. I normally like to provide some links when I make sweeping claims like “boys develop slower than girls.” But a quick google search yielded only tangentially related articles, and I’m too tired to dig into serious research right now. If any of you know more about child development, please feel free to fill in on the topic, correct my claims, leave links, etc. I’m far from an expert on all of this. Just a front-lines guy right now.

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