Teaching from the Bottom of the Totem Pole #2: Attempted Dong-Chim

8 Oct

I received so much traffic from my Teaching from the Bottom of the Totem Pole post that I’ve decided to make it a series that documents all the bizarre shit that goes at work.

In the last week I’ve realized my students are becoming more comfortable with me.  Some of then now sleep during class or otherwise check out mentally from the lesson, others sit and chat like my class is the hang out spot– not meant for actual learning, and I swear one of my sixth grade girls tells me everyday to “fuck off” in Korean.

The Best though is playing “Kung-Fu” with the 5th graders. In between classes we hold fake sparring matches where Mr. Woodson displays some fancy matial arts whilst making punching sounds and crazy facial expressions. It’s quite dramatic.  I’m pretty sure it pisses my co-teacher off, but I couldn’t care less. It’s fun as all hell and it breaks up the monotony of teaching boring lessons. It was during one of these kung-fu matches that I experienced an attempted dong-chim or “kancho,” as the Japanese call it.

Here I am pretending to snap a kids neck (the ultimate fatality move while playing kung-fu), when all of a sudden I feel a sharp pointy jab on my the left  side of my buttocks. I turn around and find one of my students grinning with his hands clasped together in the classic dong-chim stance. The little bugger missed my ass hole by mere inches.

I look around to make sure no adults are watching before issuing a quick chop to the culprit’s throat–hopefully ensuring the incident never happens again.

I’ve been told that the attempted dong-chim is a sign that the children like me and are comfortable with me as their teacher.

My response? If dong-chim means the students are fond of me, then I would like to return to a time when they hated my fucking guts.

I contemplate asking my co-teacher to tell the students in Korean that Mr. Woodson will promptly drop-kick any student that tries dong-chim on him, but instead I shed a tear and start the next lesson.


Kimchi Dreadlocks


8 Responses to “Teaching from the Bottom of the Totem Pole #2: Attempted Dong-Chim”

  1. blackchild October 8, 2010 at 9:28 AM #

    I don’t know I always took the Dong-Chim as a sign of disrespect. In my experience the children didn’t do that to the Korean teachers and staff. They only did it to other children and foreigners. Which if accepted would only reinforce the notion that my otherness can and should be read as inherent inferiority.

    • Jaywoodseyo October 8, 2010 at 1:34 PM #

      I agree Blackchild. I see it as a sign of disrespect as well. When I was told (by a Korean teacher, mind you) that it can be viewed as a sign that the students like me, I immediately asked if thy ever did it to her. Of course she said no. In this case I think the kids wanted to test the limits of my patience. I set boundaries in the classroom through examples so clearly I will have to make an example out of one someone the next time a dong-shim attempt is made.

      • blackchild October 8, 2010 at 7:12 PM #

        I nearly tossed one of my kids out of the window when he tried it.

  2. BwadMon October 8, 2010 at 9:40 AM #

    Now that’s a scary thought. I honestly think logic would have lost to reflexes had I been in a similar situation. That back-hand would have been let loose and the ramifications dealt with at a later time.

    Besides, I think Blackchild has a valid point in that being too friendly could ultimately lead to disrespect.

    You should let the dreads fly at a later attempt by another student and condition into the young mind of that unlucky student an association between DongShim and fear.

    • Jaywoodseyo October 8, 2010 at 1:00 PM #

      Had the little bastard struck his target, the reflexes definitely would have kicked in. Still, you make a good point Bradwon. I have friend who taught at a hagwon last year and got dong-chimed. Without even looking he back handed the kid square in the face. My friend felt bad, but never had another incident occur.

  3. 3gyupsal October 11, 2010 at 5:59 PM #

    It is a sign of disrespect. Just don’t take it and make it clear to your co-teacher that that type of behavior is not to be tolerated.

    You aren’t at the bottom of the totem pole, you are a rock on the outside of the totem pole, if you were at the bottom you would have real responsibilities like watching kids clean the bathroom, or talking to parents. You are the English expert in that school, and make it clear to everybody what you are. You are a journalist after all, which means that you studied the craft of writing and using English, so you can use that to make people respect you.

    As long as you don’t think or act like you are at the bottom of the totem pole, your co-teachers won’t treat you that way, and the kids won’t either. We are all foreign advisers here, we aren’t teaching these kids English as much as we are teaching them how to behave in the international community. This country needs to get over its self. Just look at Dave’s ESL and see how many jobs still have some dingbat advertising their jobs by talking about how “good they are with foreigners,” as if basic courtesy is such a difficult skill. On the first day of classes, if you sternly make clear the high expectations you have for the students they’ll try to live up to them.

    • Jaywoodseyo October 11, 2010 at 8:24 PM #

      Oh believe me, it has been made clear that this teacher doesn’t put up with dong-chim, or any other classroom bullshit. Truth be told, I actually get a lot of respect from my students, co-teachers, fellow staff members, Principal, etc. This doesn’t mean that if problems do arise, I neglect to take a stance. Like I said, my students are getting to the point where they want to see how much shit they can get away with. All kids do this at some point. I know my place on the totem pole (or as you said, outside of it) but I’m no pushover. I take it upon myself to address issues that arise in stern manner, and for the most part, my co-teachers back me up.

      • 3gyupsal October 11, 2010 at 10:04 PM #

        Glad to here it. I’ve never really had a Dong Chim happen to me, but then again I’ve only taught university and middle school. I’m actually really glad that it has never happened to me while teaching university and middle school.

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