Like any teacher, I have many rules to maintain order in a classroom and provide a safe environment for students to learn in. My first semester at a private secondary school in Nantou City was quite challenging. With the exception of a few minor incidents, the high school classes I taught there required very little discipline. The junior high classes were another story. I had posted my own rules in the classroom that all the students agreed upon shortly after noticing that none of the rooms had their own rules posted. Students fully understood the consequences for negative behavior and after a few weeks most of the incidents involving students throwing objects at each other, using windows to enter and exit the classroom, using Taiwanese curse words to greet teachers, and fighting, had decreased dramatically and in a few classrooms ceased all together.
Such proactive discipline however angered some parents who may have been unaccustomed to hear that their children who were little angels in elementary school had turned so quickly once being sent off to live in a dormitory several miles away to attend middle school. I was teaching there 18 hours a week and had requested that I only work 10 hours the second semester because the school was a stressful environment, I had plenty of work at my other job that paid more money, and I wanted to exercise a couple mornings every week.
Starting the second semester I was informed that instead of ten hours a week I would be given three. My supervisor told me that I kept great control of the classroom, but my disciplinary-style just didn’t fit how they wanted a foreign teacher to run a classroom. I told them I respected their decision and was later given two extra hours another morning to teach physical education to junior high students [no, I don’t know why either].
All seemed to be going well this semester, my three senior classes were busy preparing for an annual performance and my junior high PE class did a lot of running around. We had some time left during one of my senior high classes after our performance practice to do a team-based activity involving Q&A and points for each team. As I stood by one student and was coaching his answer another across from him was giving him a hard time. As I turned to tell the other student to cut it out the student in front of me took out a utility knife [like the one posted above] and pointed it threateningly at the other student. Unfortunately, right at this moment I stuck my hand out and received a long laceration spanning the width of my palm. Naturally, I dropped an F-bomb and may have said son of a bitch as well. There were only about three minutes left in class so I told the students to put their heads down and I would be leaving the classroom early for medical attention. A few students followed me out the door and guided me to the nurse’s office. The nurse was in the lunch room helping to prepare food so one of the students helped to clean the wound while another retrieved the nurse. A quick visit to an area clinic confirmed the nurse’s assessment that no stitches would be necessary.
Back when I taught the junior high classes, I confiscated these knives anytime I saw children playing with them. In fact, at the end of the first semester a line had formed at my desk of students who wanted back all their confiscated items from me.
Anyways, for those concerned, the wound is healing quite nicely but holding a pen is a little difficult at the moment. Anyone teaching in Taiwan has probably seen these knives in students’ pencil boxes so please be proactive and not allow your students to carry them into your classroom. I am a bit relieved it was my hand that got slashed instead of a student’s abdomen had one been so unfortunate to be walking by at that time.
I quit the school as of yesterday, one day after the incident. There have been several extremely negative incidents since I started involving both students and teachers and I have not been satisfied with how the school resolved those issues.