You want answers?!

February 23rd, 2007
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i had to discipline my first kid today. for the most part, my students are well-behaved. maybe i have an easier time because i am male, and i don’t have to exert much effort to enforce rules. maybe i get a smidge more respect because i don a shirt and tie ever so often. maybe i just perceive a lack of disciplinary trouble, and i just give them a wide berth.

whatever the case, today the hallways were plus one unruly child. we finished class with a few minutes to spare, and i began engaging them in conversation about their seolnal (설날) vacations (lunar new year). a few had told me stories already, so i asked the kid in front of me about his vacation.

he replied emphatically with, “I want to climb the walls!”
i asked him what his deal was (he’d been wild all day). “this isn’t PE class man, this is english speaking. we’re not going to climb the walls here.”
“but i want to climb the walls!” he says, and cocks his head like a raptor.
“no climbing walls. how about you tell me why you want to climb the walls?”
he blurts, “because…” and runs to the back of the room and leaps up onto the windowsill.

“mark, you’ve just earned a spot in the hall buddy,” i call to the back of the room. with a sweeping motion of my arm toward the door, i say, “out.”

he comes back to his seat downfaced.

“nope, i didn’t say go to your seat. you want walls? i tell you what, there’s plenty of walls out in the hall. there’s even water out there. take five minutes and spend some time out there.”

“i don’t understand,” he tries to convince.

“okay,” i say as i stride to the door. i look at him and open it. “the hallway,” i point. “it’s time to learn some discipline.”

he unwillingly slinks out the door. i turn to a quiet class, sitting straight in their seats. silence. i feel my pulse slightly raised. one student slowly raises her hand.

“what is discipline, teacher?”

“discipline is like punishment susie,” i explain like the grinch. “it’s order, it’s following rules. like in the military – the military is built on discipline.” i have now switched into crazed-vet mike, addressing the offspring of the men i fought and lost my mind in the korean war so many years back. “in the military, discipline is necessary, or you die. if we’re in a war, you just can’t be running around the battlefield jumping on walls. if we’re in a war, mark is dead right now.” i’ve got their full attention.

“i was raised in an area where there were many military bases. my grandfather was a colonel in the air force. matter of fact, that’s why i was born in the area i was – he was stationed at langley air force base. now i didn’t exactly grow up in a military family where i was hounded by constant discipline (don’t let my haircut fool you),” i grin as i run my hand along my shaved head. “but i understand the concept. mark doesn’t. that’s why he’s dead – uh, in the hall – right now. he’s in need of discipline, and i’m helping him learn it.”

silence. then, “teacher, you’re very safe.” i felt touched by the compliment in my crazed-vet mode. then, expecting a response, she repeated, “lots of military, very safe,” as she made “surrounding” motions with her arms.

“ah, yes, i suppose there was lots of military in the area, but that also makes it a target. we had navy, since we were close to the water, and about a mile down from my house,” i point out the window, “if we were standing right here, we could see the base all the way down this road. i went to sleep every night to the sound of jets. so when it counts, i understand the importance of discipline.”

on cue, mark comes in. “mark, back from the dead— er, hall. sit down – we were just talking about discipline. do you know what that means?”

“yes teacher.”

“very good. company b, dismissed.” and the bell tolls.

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