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!