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กันยายน 2550
24 กันยายน 2550
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One student's revenge

Here's one story that made the headlines (in the Thai newspapers) on Friday. Some student, annoyed at being hit by his computer science teacher, decide to give the teacher a taste of his own medicine.

He put nails into a block of wood, went back into the classroom and attacked his teacher. The story was glossed over by the BKK Post and The Nation, the 2 main English newspapers here, but many Thai language newspapers covered it. One Sunday morning TV news program even had an interview with the teacher, who happily showed his scars off to the nation

What the student did was shocking. It was, from the sound of it, a violent and vicious attack. The teacher ended up in hospital. I'm not sure what happened to the student. It totally destroys the traditional Thai teacher-student relationship, whereby the student is supposed to respect, listen to and obey their teacher. Accept what they are told and whatever punnishment is metered out to them, fairly or not.

Most Thai people I know, who've mentioned the story talk about how bad the student was. But, when the other English teachers in our teachers room were discussing the incident last Friday afternoon, most of us agreed that it's something thats been waiting to happen...

Corporal punnishment's supposed to be illegal here but, most Thai schools still have teachers that hit their students. I've seen kids get beaten up and barely flinch (as its not good to cry and show that you're in pain here.) Thankfully my current school's not too bad. Sure, the Thai teachers hit the kids, (its hard to find schools in thailand where people don't) but its not something that we ever see or have to get involved with.

In Thailand, generally, teachers and even parents have no shame in hitting their kids. It's seen as nomal here. Do something wrong, or disrespectful and you get punnished with a smack, or worse... Kids learn that 'real' punishment almost always involves physical pain.

This attitude towards corporal punnishment creates problems for western teachers. I teach mixed ability classes. Some children (normally 'luk kreung' kids, what Thai's normally say when one parents is Thai and the other foreign) speak excellent English. Their spoken English is comparable to a similar aged kid back home. They are confident, fluent speakers as they get lots of practise outside of class. They normally enjoy watching English movies and cartoons in English, and usually like their English lessons. It's easy for them to listen to the teacher and do the work.

Others, have been spent 6 years of English lessons staring into space, rarely speaking out. They fail exam after exam (but, because they are attending a fee paying Thai school - somehow or other still pass, and spend the next year looking as lost and confused as before.) Some children have god study habits. They know how to sit down, concentrate and pay attention, and can happily listen to English, even though they can't catch every word. Others have attention defecit disorders, and find listening to a foreigner (even one that tries to find fun activites to do in class or plays games) difficult. They're young kids. They don't want to be sat in a classroom. They start talking to, or playing with their friends. They wiggle their chairs, rock the tables. Some even jump up and down. They find excuses to take pencil shavings or 1/2 eaten sweets to the bin. One kid, in my P3 class used to like to run across the classroom, aim a muay thai kick at his friends belly, run back, sit down and smile as if nothing had happened. I'm expected to be able to calm them down, and, somehoiw or other try and teach them.

The kids would never behave like this in the Thai class. If they did the Thai teacher would hit them. In their Thai classes students have to be silent and attentive. There's no talking whilst the teacher is talking. There's no fidgeting. I've seen the same kids that I teach English to study Thai. Their behaviour totally changes. The kids are respectful, though I'm still not sure how the Thai teacher earns this respect. Through tradition ? Because they are a good teacher, and the kids enjoy being taughtby them ? or through fear ?

So what's this got to do with corporal punnishment ? Children learn to fear (and respect and obey) anyone who hits them. Western teachers don't tend to want to hit kids - it's against our culture... At my school any westerner known to have hit one of the kids would be fired on the spot.

The children live in fear of the Thai teachers. One time I put my p5 class into small groups and asked them to make a mind map about 'problems at school.' Every group said 'My teacher hits me.'
Because their Thai lessons are so serious, children see their English lessons as a time to go wild and be a bit crazy. At the start of the year some of them used to run into the class room, sit on the tables, stand on chairs, or run up tthe whitebaord and start drawing love hearts or academy fantasia characters on it.

They had no respect for me as a teacher. Why ? Because none of my punnishments for bad or dispruptive behaviour (yellow cards, red cards, standing at the back of the class with their back to the wall, missing out on the game at the end of the lesson, losing their internet or library day. lines, lunch time detentions... ) could ever be as bad as a being hit. They are painless, and therefore in the eyes of the kids, pointless and easy.

Things have improved a lot since then. I love most of the kids that I teach. Strangely enough I seem to like the naughty ones the most. They're usually clever, funny, and I like the way that they put so much effort into trying to sneak something past the teacher. But, some days I still have trouble controlling my classes.

Positive pyschology; praising and giving attention to the well behaved kids works a lot. Most young children want to be to be liked by their teacher. They don't really want te teacher to shout or complain at them. But, thanks to the way corporal punnishment is metered out in school here some of my kids are already a lost cause. They're barely 8 years old but only understand the difference between right and wrong because 'wrong' things are things that you get hit for doing.

Getting back to the original story, most Thai people I know that I've discussed this with have talked about how bad the student was. Sure what the student did was shocking, there's no denying that. He will need to make some kind of apology for his actions. But, before condeming him as a lone crazy sadistic individual, maybe people also need to start examining the system that drove him to it. A sysem where the slightest misdemeneaur can result in a beating. A system where a psychotic teacher, or one having a bad day is free to take their mood out on their kids. A system where students can not point out that a teacher is wrong (even though, in the case of Thai English teachers - some of whom are teaching a language that they cannot even speak - they often are... )

Otherwise this will not be an isolated incident. The more that Thai teenagers realise that Thailand's schools are not the same as Western ones, that in Western ones teachers earn respect by being good at their jobs, rather than by having a big, fat stick, and using it on anyone daring to question their authority... the more likely it is that this kind of incident will happen again... and again and again...

Someone one needs to start looking into the way Thai teachers discipline their kids... Times have changed. Teacher's need to change too. Otherwise I can forsee some of the kids that I teach now growing up into moody teenagers and wanting to do the same thing...

Create Date : 24 กันยายน 2550
Last Update : 25 กันยายน 2550 12:51:39 น. 0 comments
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