The F Word

It’s a rarity, but as I write this, I’m a little lost for words. So, without beating around the bush, I’ll just get straight to the point.

Last night, during one of my classes, a young female student looked directly into my eyes and said ‘F**k You Teacher’.

I genuinely could not believe my ears. I got home and was really quite emotional. I know, I know, the first rule of teaching, don’t take things too personally. But really, a Vietnamese student just swore at me … in English! This is the one reason why I chose to teach in Vietnam in the first place; to avoid the disrespectful youth of the UK.

The girl in question is a part of one of my more rowdy classes; a group of 25 young teenagers where the boys are just interested in fighting each other and the girls are preoccupied wasting their flirts on the uninterested boys. I’ve been teaching this class for 7 weeks now though, so the boundaries have been set and my good cop/bad cop routine has perfected itself. By this point, we all know where we stand inside Room 103.

Last night, the class were a little more hyperactive than usual. So to calm them, I presented them with a ‘pop quiz’ which they had to complete in silence. All the students obliged and each offered a polite ‘Thank You’ as I handed out the paper, except for this one 15 year old girl who produced the venomous words proudly. The rest of the class died in a sea of laughter which immediately put me in a vulnerable position, something which was, until that point, extremely unfamiliar to me.

Teachers in Vietnam have poll position in the respect ladder, they even rank above parents. So much so, we even have a Public Holiday dedicated to our efforts (roll on 20th November). I’ve never let this respect go to my head though; I am the friendly teacher, the one that tries (probably too hard) to be best mates with all of her students. As a result, I’ve always had a great rapport with my students and I use disciplinary methods very rarely. So this latest incident has really quite shaken me.

Regardless of the events that followed, I’ve since been preoccupied with de-constructing the whole lesson in my head. I have so many questions that need answering.

Did this young girl know the true meaning of what she was saying?

Was it just a phrase she picked up from the latest Hollywood release?

Did she just want to impress the boys around her?

Is the Vietnamese translation seen as jovial slang in their culture?

Maybe she just overheard a foreigner saying it in the street and thought it sounded ‘cool’?

Or could it have been a way for her to vent her teenage worries and frustrations? (We’ve all been there).

Or am I just creating excuses for her? Maybe she knew exactly what she was saying and was happy to suffer the consequences?

The latter of which poses a worrying thought: what hope is left when students of a different nationality are insulting you, their teacher, in your mother tongue?

Anyway, not one to whine, it’s probably time to brush the incident under the carpet and move on!


The show must go on!


23 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cornishkylie
    Sep 19, 2013 @ 14:29:04

    I too have had one or two F bombs in the classroom here in Thailand. I always put it down to them seeing it on movies and television, and hope that they don’t understand quite how rude it is!


  2. emilysford
    Sep 19, 2013 @ 14:33:11

    I had a Vietnamese shout “Fuck you” while I was crossing the road a few weeks ago after his friend had just said “Hello” to me, I too was completely shocked and all of those questions you’ve posted ran through my head, but then I also wasn’t sure if they really understand the full meaning of it. Language barriers eh!


  3. Solo Wanderer
    Sep 19, 2013 @ 16:04:57

    Wow. Wouldn’t know how I’d react if I was in your place. Will probably be shocked and would have to count up to 1,000 to calm myself.


    • kerril29
      Sep 19, 2013 @ 21:26:10

      I was pretty shocked, the only word I could mutter for the first few seconds was ‘out’ and gestured towards the door. I think my face went pretty red though haha!


      • Solo Wanderer
        Sep 20, 2013 @ 10:05:26

        Kudos for your composure. Would probably let the student get out of the room but not with a simple gesture. 🙂 Another proof I can’t be a teacher. Hope the kid realizes she’d done wrong and offer an apology.

  4. Rich
    Sep 19, 2013 @ 16:50:02

    That is disheartening. one of the attractions of Vietnam and most of SE Asia is the politeness and respect they share. Sounds like the youth in your class has been taking lessons from students here in the USA.


    • kerril29
      Sep 19, 2013 @ 21:26:58

      I know, it’s such a shame – I can only hope she didn’t know what she was saying! I take comfort though that this has only happened the once in 2 years.


  5. Expat Eye
    Sep 19, 2013 @ 17:48:38

    Hopefully she didn’t know what she was saying. Will you have to report her to anyone else?


    • kerril29
      Sep 19, 2013 @ 21:28:24

      I reported her to the head of department, but there’s nothing really that can be done. She’s a paying student, and unfortunately, it’s the money that matters most out here. I did get an apology from the girl in question though, I guess that’s better than nothing.


  6. neihtn2012
    Sep 21, 2013 @ 01:21:55

    Many years ago, I arrived in California as a Vietnamese refugee. On one of my first days there, I was walking in the parking lot of an apartment complex. A young, maybe 2 or 3 year-old girl, was standing near a car. We looked at each other, I smiled and, out of the blue, she said “F… you!”. I was too shocked to say anything, and what could I say?

    This is not to excuse your student in any way, but I sympathize with your situation. At least she apologized eventually. Mine never did, and to this day I still remember this unexpected awakening to America.


  7. sf
    Sep 27, 2013 @ 10:10:22

    Oh yes, I’m pretty sure the student knew exactly what she was saying. And was just testing to see how you’d respond, besides wanting to be “looked up to” as a bully to everyone in school, including to the teachers. Even in cases like that though, it helps to remind oneself that mean folks are that way because they’re being treated worse at home. Sort of like a gradual hard shell that they’re creating for themselves, in order to not get hurt by others in the future. Maybe she was sure she was going to do terribly on that quiz and didn’t want to be taking any future unexpected quizzes, so had said/done what she thought would help cease it, while giving herself the upper-hand in the eyes of her peers.

    I commend you for being a teacher and especially in another country. You’re awesome in my book! I’ve often wondered if teaching was for me, but quickly chucked that thought aside because I was sure I’d lose my voice from hollering “Shaddup class!” so often. Haha!

    If ever you may want to consider teaching at another country one day, you might want to try Korea. Just like in Vietnam, teachers are recognized to be respected. But the additional bonus is that the majority of Korean parents often believe that giving material gifts to their child’s teachers will actually provide for their child to be looked upon or treated better by the teachers. That of course, is not a good thing and shouldn’t be the case. But it continues to happen and my friends (whether in Korea or back home on Guam) who work as teachers to Korean students receive material gifts galore by their students’ parents.

    Just thought I’d mention that to ya, in case you may have had interest in working in another Asian country sometime in the future, as well.


    • sf
      Sep 27, 2013 @ 10:15:27

      Sorry my reply is so long, but I had somehow forgotten to mention what I had wanted to say in the first place. It’s crazy to me when my fellow Asian friends (whether Korean, Chinese, or Japanese) are always cursing in English and even in Chamorro (Guam language). I’d continually ask them to either stop cursing or to do so in their own language. And ask them, “Why the heck you gotta curse in English?! Say it in Chinese!” (or Korean, Japanese, etc) So yes, friend, it DOES happen and these Asian friends of mine are PARENTS with kids in grade school to adult children. It had always been a wonder to me why they’d swear in English, when they’re more fluent in their own language.


      • kerril29
        Sep 27, 2013 @ 10:38:10

        Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I appreciate all your words and agree with you 100% 😀 while it is a bad thing to have happened, I do of course acknowledge that students in Vietnam are not alone in this. However, I felt the situation was dealt with well and I have since had an apology from the student, so I’m satisfied. I also have a friend teaching in Korea and he loves it, not sure what my future plans are, but I haven’t crossed teaching in another country off my list – I absolutely love it! It also makes travelling a hell of a lot easier, so for me, it’s win win 😀 Thanks again for your comment, I really appreciate you stopping by!

  8. jashuynh
    Oct 08, 2013 @ 11:46:09

    wow, i’m shocked too and feel ashamed of the little girl by only reading the post. no wonder if your face went red at the moment. She would better realize soon how bad the F word is and feel sorry for herself. In the end, high techs and lifestyle may cause bad effects on the youth and probably drive them crazy @.@


  9. noelleisme
    Oct 20, 2013 @ 20:43:31

    That was my 1st reading this…and I was surprised (not because that student’s bad word) cos 1 of my teacher of English-Ms Marina used to have the same! Psycho Noelle is the unique blog which I keep writing the truth and also my mind about the events I got every year 😀 So no lie in my post…, sorry I don’t want to compare you with my teacher… 😀
    I was a tiny student of Marina when she got that class 1 week earlier (the reason why I was late in that class, I will keep secret it cos I didn’t want to remind me about it in some cases). Some student of the class said they wanted to have another teacher, cos Marina is rapacious when she kept speaking overtime so they had no chance to practice, and her pronunciation let them bored…Yeah she kept campaigning my class to leave a feedback on Marina, I can’t believe that she did it 3 times, Marina was demonstrating while actually she is the enthusiastic teacher…When the door was opened, I saw something weird, yeah she was really sad, she moved with her lower head and she taught us without her smile, all I got was “I am sorry cos the class is too boring”….overtime!
    I just knew what happened when that student told us about her feedback last week, it was the reason why my teacher kept saying “Sorry”, sometimes the student was mixed so…the teachers will get something like your story, they are not in the same level…Some students thought you are good and they will wholeheartedly support you, another ones thought your ability can’t suit them! It weird when someone said that they didn’t understand anything from you, they required you to change your way or tell you to teach slower although your voice is clear.
    So just ignore them, pay attention to the ones who respect you, don’t care about these black stars! They would understand how precious you are if you left their class!…I am always keep my secret feedback about my teachers when I was taught through every class so I understand exactly what was happened…So sorry to hear that Ms Kerri, stay strong and keep smiling 🙂


    • kerril29
      Oct 20, 2013 @ 21:40:06

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful words and taking the time to share your experiences. I appreciate the effort you have gone to here 🙂


      • noelleisme
        Oct 23, 2013 @ 16:13:57

        I hate being a part of the class which contain the troubles through every period, but I have no chance to choose my suitable class. I just ignored them and pay attention to my lesson and my teacher only.
        The class that Marina retrieved was the most scary course of mine, I kept looking at the door to ensure my teacher wouldn’t leave. Perhaps I was failed if Marina didn’t describe and suggest the test’s info through the final test, but no one remembered what she did to improve their skills.
        Thar disorder exists in every class you receive, I remembered this sentence from my Physics teacher when I was studying in High School: “I am here for the ones who studious and respect me, not to suit the pesky ones”. So…sweep your mind that you are not good enough to control them cos Idle folks lack no excuse, every class of you exists the students who keep playing games, chit chat to each others during the class, someone just be there to suit their parent, not to improve their knowledge! I know that it’s too hard to accept the ones you don’t want to work with, but pls stay enthusiastic and paste your eyes to the ones who studious and respect you ^^.

  10. Trackback: Happy Teacher’s Day to every teacher in the world ^^ | Psycho Noelle

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