The Law of the Land

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Sometimes kids lock horns with each other in  surprisingly intense ways. The epic battle over the empty seat.  The squabble over who turned in their work first.  The showdown over who gets to write the answer to question number 7 on the board.  In America, the teacher is usually the go-to mediator for such disputes.  As the adult in the room, he or she gets to make any and all final rulings with regard to classroom policy and procedures.  

However, here in Korea, there is a god higher than that of the teacher’s authority, a totem so sacred that to defy its judgment would be like spitting on the taeggukgi, the symbol of what it means to be South Korean.  This arbiter is exacting, lightning quick, and utterly beyond reproach.  It does not play favorites, nor is it swayed by tears or pleas or even good behavior.  Its word is law, and every student unquestioningly accepts this as truth.  

For a teacher, this is awesome. I can settle any dispute without looking like the bad guy with three short words  

Jimmy and Billy about to come to blows over a seat?  All I do is look up from the blackboard and say:  ”Kai, Bye, Bo”.  These three nearly omnipotent syllables are short for “가위 바위 보” (pronounced: kah-wee, bah-wee, bo).  Translation: Scissors, Paper, Rock.  

More effective than any other method of conflict resolution I’ve ever seen, Rock Paper Scissors is the supreme law of the Korean classroom, mostly because the kids accept it as such.  Occasionally, the loser will press you for a 2 out of 3, but even he knows he’s just kidding himself because the Almighty has already decided his fate.

가위 바위 보 settles everything from who gets to read first to who gets the last bite of the snack you’re sharing.  It is absolute, and it is also the foundation for about a dozen other children’s games, most of them involving the winner getting to hit the loser.  It is the ultimate decision-maker, and these kids can “Kai Bye Bo” at lightning speed, in multiple elimination rounds, to determine what order they line up in or who their team captain is.  It’s mind-boggling to watch.  

They haven’t added the Lizard-Spock iteration yet, but I’m waiting for it.  

Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Busan, Korea, Rock Paper Scissor, Teaching


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