Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Oh yeah, the kids hit each other too

Sometimes I have funny thoughts that come to mind and they make me laugh out loud.  I just can not hold the laughter in.

So I was walking down the street this morning laughing to myself.  I wrote yesterday about how the kiddos bring razor blades to school with them.  I have forgotten that it is weird (to Americans) that my kiddos beat each other up.  I have completely normalized the fact that my student hit, slap, kick, punch, whatever each other.

Here is some background information for you (in case you live in America and grew up with the keep all hands, feet, and other objects to yourself rule):

1.) Koreans are really touchy-feely.  Or Americans are very not touchy-feely.  It depends on your perspective.  Little girls hold other little girls hands, little boys hold other little boys hands, little girls hold their mom's hand, little boys hold their mom's hand, 14 year old boys hold their mom's hand, teenage boys hold other teenage boys' hand, old women hold their hubby's hand, so on and so forth...people hold hands here.  People brush shoulders with you on the street and do not say "excuse me" or "sorry".  It is not a big deal.  

2.) Korean do not have a personal bubble of space.  Or Americans do have a personal bubble of space.  It depends on your perspective.  Americans can feel uncomfortable when other people are in their bubble.

3.) A lot of Koreans take taekwondo.  Or a lot of Americans do not take taekwondo.  It depends on your perspective.  I have third graders who are black belts.  If they were to get hit a.) they can defend themselves and b.) they can hit/kick/taekwondo you back.  Just a good thing to keep in mind.  If a Korean child gets hit, he or she does not victimize him or herself.  I think American children have learned to victimize themselves if they get hit.

4.) Korea is not America.  America is not Korea.  Just a good thing to keep in mind.

I was shocked the first time one of my students hit another student and no one did anything.  * I am an American.  People do not hit each other in America and get away with it.  So I did the only American thing I could do.  I put the kid in time-out (okay not time-out, but pretty much the same thing).  This scenario repeated itself over and over.  All the kids were hitting each other.  Girls hit boys.  Boys hit girls back.  Boys hit boys.  Then 5 minutes later the boys are holding hands.  

After about 6 weeks of kids hitting other kids and no one doing anything, I realized that it part of the culture.  This did not sit well with me.  I held onto this American part of myself for a long time.  The first time a kid hit another kid and I did nothing, I felt like a horrible person.  I think it took about 6 months of living in Korea before I was okay with it.  I no longer have a mental freakout when I see kids hitting each other or pushing each other to see who will be the first in line.  I am actually a little concerned that I am going to go back to America and some little child will say, "He hit me blah blah blah" and I will do nothing and then some parent will be upset with me.  

Now the following sentence will be hard for Americans to understand, but there is a difference between kids hitting each other and kids hitting each other.  There has only been once in the last 9 months that I have put a kid in "time out" for hitting.  You can tell the intention of the kids when they are hitting each other.  Not all hitting is mean-hitting.  For real.

So my students bring knives to school and they hit each other and we all get along.  There is rarely ever any blood and no one ever goes to the hospital.  


* I said that I was an American.  I take that back.  I am a waygook.  Waygook is the Korean word for foreigner.  There are days that I feel American. And there are days that I think I am more Korean than I am America.  I am a waygook.  

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