The difference between love and a stick

Each semester, I get to know our course participants via dialogue journals. I’ve written about my apprehension in giving this assignment in past (The Bittersweetness of Dialogue Journals – Take 2), but this journal entry, written by Mr. Go Jong-hyun, is another wonderful reminder of why I keep doing it.

Mr. Go was kind enough to let me share his entry with all of you. This is especially meaningful considering the topic of my last post, The love stick that motivates (I highly recommend reading the heart-wrenching, yet enlightening, comments).

In response to the question, Who was your favorite teacher? Why was he or she your favorite teacher? How would you like to be like him/her?, Mr. Go writes:

I was asked those questions in the test to become an English teacher several times. Whenever I think about it, I cannot help remembering my old home room teacher whose name was Kyoung-hwa Kim in the middle school. I was second to last in the elementary. I even had to have the supplementary classes for the students of underachievement in the elementary school. I was beaten with sticks, even slapped in my face by some of my home room teachers because I couldn’t do my homework. No teachers complimented me because I was poor at studying. However, I took the head in cleaning up the classroom. When I was a first grader in the middle school, most students shirked their duty during the clean-up time, but I steadily cleaned up my area. One morning, Ms. Kim spoke high of me because I cleaned the classroom diligently in front of the all classmates. She also said I would excel in study. I was panicked for a while, but very happy to hear that. Her compliment changed me. Her positive reinforcement and trust in me got me not to let her down. I studied and tried to be the best student to rise to her compliment. Finally, my score improved very much, and I became a class leader. I can’t forget her, and am in debt forever to her. Kyoung-hwa Kim was and is my favorite teacher always because she was the best example of the teacher.

The compliment and belief of a teacher have wonderful and compelling power to change and motivate students. I teach where there are many naughty and low-level students comparing with the other academic high schools. However, I always try to look on the bright side of them, and believe them. I always made zealous effort to have trust in my students; they can be changed. I believe the power of optimism and trust. I will compliment my students on every efforts, unique talents and strong points as well as good scores like my great teacher, and then students will rise to my expectations.

Thank you so much Mr. Go.

7 thoughts on “The difference between love and a stick

  1. Lovely and touching story Josette. I strongly believe in complimenting students and how this impacts on their lives not only as learners. My question is Do students who feel complimented do better just not to let teachers down? Is this good?
    And as for Chiew’s questions: I can’t even imagine hitting students, actually hitting anybody.
    This story reminds me of the movie “Ann and the King” and her suffering when her learners were punished.
    In my country teachers would be fired and suited if they ever hit a student, yet, there are many stories about hitting students and hitting teachers.


    1. Debbie, thank you for reading and for adding your thoughts to the discussion. I particularly enjoyed your questions, “Do students who feel complimented do better just not to let teachers down? Is this good?” Very interesting and important to ask oneself this. My take on this is that it depends on the quality of the compliment. Does it provide specific details (I like your choice of adjectives here to describe your main character.) or is it just empty praise (Good job!)? It seems that this would direct the student towards learning rather than trying to impress.


  2. what a lovely, inspiring story. I’m currently reading David Copperfield and these stories I read of hitting students (and what I occasionaly witness at school) worryingly resemble Dickens’s 19th century tales! Time for a change Korea.


    1. Thanks for reading and for your comment Gemma. Yes, I think change is needed. You said you still witness hitting at your school. Considering the ban, is it done in secrecy or in plain sight?


      1. I’ve only witnessed a couple of physical punishments in the staff room. I don’t think it goes on in secrecy much now as I have asked Ss about it and they say it doesn’t often happen. Ts still carry the sticks but seem to use them as a threat or to get Ss attention!


  3. Thanks for sharing this, Mr Go, Josette. Question now is do you hit your students or have the urge to? Do you feel that motivation by trust and kindness is superior to that by punishment?


    1. Again, Chiew, thank you for asking these questions. Although we would gain insight from Mr. Go’s response, I also want to make sure he has the choice to not respond. Either way, I am grateful for your questions and his decision.


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