- Teacher: British, male, late 20s
- Student A: Korean, male, late 20s, graphic designer, high-beginner
- Student B: Korean, female, early 20s, economics student, pre-intermediate
- Student C: Korean, male, mid 20s, university student, devout Christian, beginning
- Student D: Korean, female, mid 20s, university student, intermediate
ACT I SCENE I
(Based on real events)
Int. A modern language school in South Korea. A large classroom. It’s 7pm, and the place is semi-busy. The TV at the front of the class is showing a news report from the BBC about a massacre at a school in Pakistan. Three students crowd around the TV, watching, trying to see if they can understand all of the words that flash up on the screen. The Teacher enters, there are three tables of 4-5 students. It’s a discussion class, but the students are already in discussion. Without introducing himself, the Teacher goes and sits at a table with Students A, B, C, D.
Student B has her iPad out, and is showing student A images from a recent trip to Morocco. Students C and D are watching on silently. Teacher sits down between Students A and B.
TEACHER: May I sit here?
STUDENT B: Sure… (looks back to Student A) this is the desert in Morocco. There is nothing there. It’s all desert.
STUDENT A: You can’t see anything. Is it hot?
STUDENT B: Yes. Very hot. Mmm.
STUDENT A: Why do you go to Morocco?
STUDENT B: I want to see the new place.
STUDENT A: Do you have experience of another country?
STUDENT B: Yes. I went to Paris.
STUDENT A: For a vacation?
STUDENT B: No. Exchange student.
STUDENT A: Wow. You can speak French?
STUDENT B: No, my classes were English. I was the worst student. I can’t speak English. I hated my school.
STUDENT A: I want to go to Paris.
STUDENT B: Paris is beautiful.
STUDENT A: I want to go to the Eiffel Top.
STUDENT B: Ah, no… Eiffel Tower is dangerous.
STUDENT A: Dangerous? … Ah, you mean the gypsies?
Teacher looks at Student A with a confused expression.
STUDENT B: Umm…
STUDENT A: Many people steal things at the Eiffel Top.
STUDENT B: Ah, you mean black face man?
STUDENT A: Yes. Gypsies. Lots of gypsies.
TEACHER: (To Student A) Do you mean thieves?
STUDENT A: Yes. Gypsies. Thieves.
TEACHER: Oh, I think you can just call them thieves.
STUDENT B: Black face man… black man. (To Teacher) can I say black face… black man.
TEACHER: Umm.. well what do you mean?
STUDENT B: Man with a black face. Is it okay to say black man?
TEACHER: Well, you can say black man, but I don’t understand why you want to say it.
STUDENT B: Near, the Eiffel Tower, there are lots of black men. I can say black man?
TEACHER: You can, but I don’t know why you want to say it, because he (Teacher gestures towards Student A) is talking about thieves…
STUDENT A: …so many gypsies…
TEACHER: …and you are talking about black people. You can say black people, but why are you connecting the two?
STUDENT B: Near the Eiffel Tower there are many black men.
TEACHER: So, are you saying that black people are thieves?
STUDENT B: Not all, but in Paris many thieves are black people.
TEACHER: Hmm.. OK. I think you need to be careful?
STUDENT B: Really? Why?
TEACHER: Well, when he is talking about thieves, and then you talk about black people, it kind of sounds likes you are saying that black people are thieves. I don’t think that’s fair. Some black people might be thieves, but some white people are thieves and some Asian people are thieves too. Black people aren’t thieves. Thieves are thieves.
STUDENT B: Oh. Yes. It’s not black people. I will be careful. Thank you… Hmm… I see… (Student B sits there contemplating what Teacher has just said).
STUDENT A: But the Eiffel Top is dangerous. Because of gypsies.
STUDENT B: Yes.
TEACHER: I think any place where there are many tourists can be dangerous. Even in Seoul, there are thieves.
STUDENT B: Ah YES! Sydney. Australia. Sydney is very dangerous.
STUDENT D: Why?
STUDENT B: The Muslims. The Muslims are a problem.
STUDENT D: You mean the attacker in the cafe yesterday?
STUDENT B: Yes. These days Muslims cause a lot of problems.
TEACHER: Whoa! It’s not Muslims who are causing the problem.
STUDENT B: Islams?
TEACHER: No. It’s not Muslims or people who follow Islam that are creating the problem.
STUDENT B: But he was Islam…
TEACHER: OK. The gunman in that cafe was Muslim, yes. But how many Muslims are there in Australia?
STUDENT D: I don’t know… a million?
Teacher thinks about that answer for a moment, knows it’s not correct but decides to go with it any way.
TEACHER: OK. So let’s say there are a million Muslims in Australia. How many gunmen were there in the cafe? One right. There was only one. That’s one out of a million! It’s not the Muslims.
STUDENT B: So, Islams are not a problem?
TEACHER: I don’t think it’s Muslims who are a problem. It’s terrorists.
STUDENT C: Muslims are right. Right. You know right? Muslims are right. Korea is right. Muslims more right Korea.
TEACHER: But you can’t blame Muslims. I think the media is not always fair on Muslims. You know yesterday, there was another shooting in Pennsylvania in the US?
STUDENT B: Pens…?
TEACHER: Pennsylvania. It’s a state in the US. It’s a place in the US. There was a shooting there yesterday.
The Students look blankly at the Teacher
TEACHER (cont): Did you hear about the shooting in the US?
STUDENT D: No.
TEACHER: OK. So there was also another shooting in the US yesterday. A gunman killed 5 or 6 people. This is also terrible, right? But in the newspapers, they talked about the man from Sydney as a Muslim gunman, but in the US, they only said gunman or attacker. Do you think that’s fair?
STUDENT C: I don’t understand. What does he say? (Turns to Student D) Can you translate what he says?
STUDENT D: Umm.. I don’t know his point exactly.
TEACHER: So, I’m trying to say that when a Muslim person does something bad, the news always says his religion. But if it’s another person, if it’s a Christian, they never say a Christian attacker. It’s only when it’s a Muslim.
STUDENT C: Teacher, are you Muslim?
(The Students burst into laughter, with the exception of Student C)
TEACHER: No, I’m not. I’m not a Muslim.
(More laughter. Again except for Student C)
STUDENT C: Sorry, teacher. Sorry… Sorry. I just wonder.
TEACHER: It’s OK. Honestly. Don’t worry.
STUDENT C: Sorry. I just think… why you protect Islam?
TEACHER: Well, Muslims are not terrorists. Terrorists are terrorists.
STUDENT B: What is different Muslim and Islam?
TEACHER: Well, Islam is the religion and a Muslim is the person who follows Islam. At least I think that’s correct. I’m not 100% sure.
STUDENT B: Ah okay. It’s not the same?
STUDENT C: What he say?
(Student C stand up, and moves to a seat directly next to Student B so that he is closer to the conversation.)
STUDENT D: (To Teacher) So, are you a Christian?
TEACHER: No. I’m not a Christian.
STUDENT B: You are atheist?
STUDENT C: (To Student B) What?
STUDENT B: (Translates into Korean)
TEACHER: Umm… well, not really. I think people might call me an agnostic?
STUDENT C: What is it?
TEACHER: I don’t believe in God, and I don’t think there is a God. But I really don’t know.
STUDENT D: So, you don’t care?
TEACHER: It’s not that I don’t care. Rather, I just don’t think we can ever know. I’m interested in other people’s opinions. But I don’t think that there is anything higher up. I am happy to accept other people have opinions and I think it is absolutely right for other people to believe different things.
STUDENT C: In UK. Christian is not strong.
TEACHER: Umm.. what do you mean?
STUDENT C: I heard Christian is not strong in UK. In Korea, Christian very strong. But UK not many Christian.
TEACHER: Ah. Well, I think a lot of people say they are Christian in the UK, but not all of them go to church or practice Christianity.
STUDENT C: Why?
TEACHER: Good question. Umm, I don’t know.
STUDENT C: Many Muslims in your country?
TEACHER: There are more than there are in Korea.
STUDENT C: How many?
TEACHER: I don’t know. I can find out if you like.
(Without waiting for an answer Teacher pulls out his phone and types ‘Religion in UK’ into Google. He clicks on the first link which takes him to a Wikipedia entry that contains pie charts breaking down the different religions in the UK.)
TEACHER (cont): So it says here that 4.4% of the population in the UK follow Islam.
(Teacher shows the phone to Students C and B)
TEACHER (cont): And it looks like almost 60% of people are Christian.
STUDENT C: (Surprised) That’s more Korea! I heard Christian not strong in UK.
TEACHER: Yes. As I say, many people say that they are Christian, but they don’t really do anything.
STUDENT C: How many Muslim?
TEACHER: See here, it says 4.4% of people are Muslim.
STUDENT C: How many people?
TEACHER: Umm… There are 63 million people in the UK, so I don’t know. How many is that?
STUDENT C: Many! Surprised. I don’t know Muslim in UK.
TEACHER: There are a lot of different cultures and religions in the UK.
STUDENT B: Is there a temple in the UK. I never seen a temple in the UK.
TEACHER: I don’t know. There might be.
STUDENT C: No Buddhism in UK.
TEACHER: Well, actually my mother is a Buddhist, so there are some in the UK.
STUDENT B: So there is a temple?
TEACHER: Well, not for my mother’s type of Buddhism. It’s different from Korean Buddhism. She follows a Buddhism from Japan.
STUDENT C: Oh.
TEACHER: They don’t have temples.
STUDENT A: Does she have a … (points to his wrist).
TEACHER: Oh, you mean beads. She doesn’t wear beads on her wrist, but she does have some beads that she holds in her hand (Teacher puts his hands together and rubs). When she chants she rubs the beads. It’s a bit different from Korea.
STUDENT C: You are Buddhist?
TEACHER: No. I’m not Buddhist. Only my mother is.
STUDENT C: Oh, most people follow parents religion.
TEACHER: I think a lot of people do, but not always. Actually my mother became a Buddhist when I was 10. But she never made us become a Buddhist too.
STUDENT C: Oh. Why?
TEACHER: I think I’m a bit more independent. My mother said I could choose.
STUDENT C: I think you are very… (Korean word)
STUDENT B: (Translating) stubborn…?
STUDENT C: Stubborn.
STUDENT B: Stubborn… is that right?
TEACHER: I don’t know.
STUDENT B: Strong? Stubborn?
STUDENT D: I think just independent. Strong mind.
STUDENT B: But Muslims. You must be careful.
(Teacher rolls his eyes)
STUDENT B (cont): My friend in Rome. Very dangerous. They attacked her.
STUDENT A: Who?
STUDENT B: Two Muslims. With a knife.
STUDENT D: Really?
STUDENT B: She is walking down the street. Two Muslims hold the knife.
STUDENT D: How do you know they are Muslims?
STUDENT B: They are wearing hi… (She stops to think. Draws an imaginary circle with her finger around her face) hijab. They put the knife to her. (She gestures holding a knife and pointing it at her chest).
STUDENT D: (laughs) Really? A knife? Maybe they just want to cut some bread. Maybe they want to give her the knife.
STUDENT B: No. They tell her come with me.
STUDENT A: Is she OK?
STUDENT B: Yes. She ran away.
TEACHER: Where was this? Rome?
STUDENT B: Yes. Rome. Two Muslims put the knife to her and say you must come with me. But she ran away.
STUDENT D: How?
STUDENT B: She screamed and shouted a lot. Some foreigners saw her and they helped her run away.
STUDENT B: Yes, people in Rome. Local people.
TEACHER: I see.
STUDENT B: She ran away. But scared. Muslims are dangerous. Be careful.
TEACHER: I don’t think it’s fair to say that Muslims are dangerous. This means all Muslims are dangerous. But they are not. I think some people are dangerous.
STUDENT B: But they are Muslim.
TEACHER: Yes. I understand that. But do you remember back in 2007, there was a man who went into a university in the US and killed lots of people?
STUDENT C: What does he say?
STUDENT B: Ah, you mean Korean?
TEACHER: Yes. He was Korean. He killed more than 30 people at a university in the US.
STUDENT A: Really?
TEACHER: Yes. But even though he was Korean, people didn’t go around saying that Korean people are dangerous. It was just one person. He was crazy, but we have to be careful.
STUDENT B: Oh, I see. Korean people.
TEACHER: Right. If we judge people on one crazy person’s actions, it can be dangerous.
STUDENT C: What he mean?
STUDENT B: In America, a Korean man killed many people.
STUDENT C: Really?
TEACHER: Anyway, my time is up here. I have to go an speak to some other students. It was nice talking to you.
STUDENTS (together): Bye.
Fade to Black
Comments/criticisms/observations are welcome.
- How did Teacher react to the situation?
- Should he have engaged students on such controversial topics?
- Is it an EFL teacher’s place to explain things (as he/she sees them) to students?
- Should Teacher have tried to steer the conversation away from these topics?
- Have you ever had a conversation like this?
- Is Teacher too opinionated?
- What did Teacher do wrong?
- What should Teacher do differently next time?
- What is the purpose of discussion classes in the EFL classroom?