Thursday, August 04, 2011

Daegu's 'Criminal Prevention' tips for foreign teachers

As I've mentioned before here, on July 9, 2010 YTN published this article:
Daegu office of education to strengthen native speaking teacher crime prevention education

In response to a YTN report about the native speaking teacher who habitually molested students at an elementary school, the Daegu office of education is calling for education to prevent a recurrence.

The Daegu Metropolitan Office of Education has implemented crime prevention education for about 30 people including mostly native speaking teachers hired by public and private schools who do their own recruitment.

Also, the native speaking teacher training course will involve an enhanced sex crime prevention program, and a policy where all elementary schools entrust their selection of native speaker teachers to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is being considered for the future.
This announcement by the Daegu Metropolitan Office of Education was in response to the fact that a foreign teacher accused of molestation at an elementary school in Daegu days earlier had been hired independently by his school, and not by EPIK. I was curious what the above sex crime prevention program (as well as this one) involved.

As it turns out, the guide for (Korean) teachers who manage foreign teachers published by the Daegu Office of Education in October last year can be downloaded by clicking on this link (pdf). There are quite a few interesting things to be found in it, but what follows stood out most of all. Other such publications from offices of education countrywide can be found here.

Sexual Harassment

: is intimidation or offensive behavior including sexual advances or sexual comments
that are not wanted or appropriate.
: includes a range of behavior from seemingly mild transgressions and annoyances to
actual sexual abuse or sexual assault.

Types of Sexual Harassment

: Physical Sexual Harassment
: Verbal Sexual Harassment
: Visual Sexual Harassment

Tips on how to avoid false accusation of sexual harassment

Limit Physical Contact with Students
Close proximity is part of Korean culture. But we ask that you try to limit the amount of physical contact with your students during school hours in order to avoid any accusations. This does not mean push away students who deserve a praising touch or to avoid any physical contact, just to be more conscious of when and how physical contact occurs.

Keep a third party handy
For most of us, being alone at school is not an option. We either have a co-teacher with us in class or are surrounded by teachers in the teacher's office. Thus, having a third party with us is usually not a problem. However there are times when it is unavoidable. If ever a third party is not present and the situation becomes risky, we suggest that you politely leave. Also, you can always act busy. If you tell students you are busy, most students will understand and leave you alone.

Don't be overly friendly to your students
This simply means avoid giving your students too much praise and having frequent contact with them. Spending time with your students is fine, such as playing basketball with them during lunch, but limit your time with them -- Finish the task or activity at hand, and go on your own way.

Avoid giving too many treats
Let's face it, children are adorable and you want to treat them well, and this usually entails giving treats, candy, toys, prizes, etc. However, we should avoid spoiling our students. Treats should only be bestowed once or twice a semester. Giving away too many treats may have adverse effects; students will follow and bug you for more; students will not respond in class unless treats are available students won't take you seriously, perceiving you as an entertainer instead of a teacher. Furthermore, if a student chokes on your candy, you don't want to be the one responsible. We suggest that even after this ordeal blows over avoid giving too many treats to your students.

Minimize contact with students after school hours

In Korea, the relationship between students and teachers are closer than that of western society. It is common to see teachers out with their students having dinner, playing sports, or casually talking. Even you yourself may have had an outing with your students. But in times when mere rumors can break reputations, refrain from having contact with your students outside of school. If students somehow have your number and are blowing up your phone with texts, don't respond. Rumors spread like wildfire; you don't want to add fuel to the fire.

Maintain the teacher-student relationship

This is perhaps the most effective method to maintaining a comfortable distance between you and your students while productively being able to do your job. There are many times when the boundaries of the student-teacher relationship are blurred, allowing students to see the teacher as a friend more than a teacher. When this happens, students will be more touchy and in closer proximity. In this scenario, it is likely that they will lose respect for you as a teacher. You need to always maintain a certain level of respect with the students at all times, no matter the difficulty. Here are some tips to help, but remember that this can be done in numerous other ways. First, have them call you Mr, Miss, Mrs, or teacher. Korean students are aware of the respect that comes from using honorific forms. What they call you by is important, so make sure both you and your students understand this. Also, don't be afraid to discipline. Many students see you as an entertainer who is incapable of getting mad enough to discipline. They only fear the Korean teacher but not you. As a teacher, it is your responsibility to know how to control and discipline your students. Ideally, your co-teacher should have this under control but as a teacher you also should have methods of discipline and class management. Remember, you are the teacher of these kids. By you showing your ability to gain control of the class, you are demonstrating and exerting your power as a teacher thereby maintaining the teacher-student relationship.

◎ As teachers, we are all responsible to report to the authorities when we witness a sexual harassment or notice suspicious behavior. When you perceive a sexual harassment, report to your co-teacher, vice principal, and principal immediately, strictly adhering to confidentiality. The authorities will take appropriate measures and medical and counseling assistance will be provided to the victim.
That last sentence is interesting, considering the incident which precipitated the guide saw the school authorities wait several days before contacting the police, to say nothing of how an elementary school in Daegu covered up this outrageous case, which eventually resulted in no charges being laid.

On the one hand, it's not like some of the advice there isn't good advice, and the title "Tips on how to avoid false accusation of sexual harassment" at least gives foreign teachers the benefit of the doubt.

The advice "Don't be overly friendly to your students [...] Finish the task or activity at hand, and go on your own way" is a little perplexing, however, considering that it was reported in a Korea Times article a year ago that an official at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said,
“Education is considered a very intimate relationship. According to an unofficial survey by the Prime Minister’s Office, the majority of parents wanted solid evidence of their children’s teachers’ HIV status[.]”
This 'intimate relationship' is reiterated in the "Minimize contact with students after school hours" section, saying "In Korea, the relationship between students and teachers are closer than that of western society." I wondered about this, however: "But in times when mere rumors can break reputations, refrain from having contact with your students outside of school." When are these "times when mere rumors can break reputations"? Perhaps for foreign teachers, that's at any time?

At least, that's what I had to wonder last week after running into two of my grade five students, who had just finished a computer class down the hall. As we were chatting one of the girl's phones rang, and she answered saying to her friend, "It's my mom." After telling her mom that she was talking to me, and clarifying that I was "the native speaker," her next reply was, "No, I'm not alone."


Turner said...

I heard the strangest thing in this regard from a teacher at a hagwon in Uljin. Apparently his employer didn't approve of his lack of physical contact. More precisely, she wanted him to hug the students every day.

Anonymous said...

One wonders how much (if any) special safety training/education Korean kids are given to prepare them for interacting with non-Korean teachers. Are they also warned not to get too close or told of potential dangers? I seem to recall an article in an English daily for childrern (don't recall whether it was the KH or KT) discussing "alcoholic" foreign English teachers, but I'm not aware of any specific educational materials designed to warn kids of the presumed dangers of non-Korean teachers, such as molestation, drugs, AIDS, etc.

Kamiza said...

This information is standard procedure in the U.S. All teachers are taught iit, taught it again, and taught never to forget it. This is good.
The obvious problems in this instance are:

1. It automatically assumes the worst of the non-Korean teacher
(Reasoning: You are already guilty. Here are a few tips to appear less-guilty.)

2. It is only for non-Koreans. (This should be for ALL people employed in government education)

3. It fails to address the more real problem--that of orean teachers and inappropriate sexual behavior with students.