Monday, October 26, 2009

Today was a good day

It's been a rough week. On top of fighting off the crud (the technical name for coughing and sneezing up various particles of your lung...or something), last week was also pretty rough in the classroom. My Spec 4 class (13-14 year olds) is comprised of 3 girls who think they know everything and 1 poor boy who does his best to avoid any attention whatsoever in class. The girls were being particularly difficult and ignoring my requests to stop talking in Korean/participate/etc.

It took a Korean staffer chewing them out for them to pay any attention. It's very frustrating to A)know that you don't have control of your classroom and B)feel like you're almost powerless to do anything about it and that it takes someone who speaks their language to put them in line. This is a typical problem for foreign teachers, however. For the most part, students see our classes as "play time with foreigners," whereas they know that the Korean staff can better discipline them and commands a lot more of their respect. They also know the Korean staff can communicate directly with their parents, whereas I have to communicate through my coworkers, which means something is lost in translation, if it gets done at all.

On top of dealing with teenage angst, I also graded my unit tests for my first graders and felt absolutely useless as a teacher. Two students made a B on the test, while the other five grades ranged from 24 down to 8.....out of 100. To see those kinds of scores across the board means either the students aren't paying any attention and not learning their colors or I didn't communicate the lessons well enough to them and the kids who are naturally ahead of the curve were just able to do well like they normally do. Or some combination of both. Either way, it makes for a frustrated teacher.

All of that frustration made me want to stay in bed this morning. To just drag myself into work at the last minute and not care because, obviously, the kids don't care and aren't learning anyway. Luckily, I snapped out of it, cooked myself a good breakfast, and had a good laugh watching the Daily Show before heading into work.

I'm glad I did.

My two morning classes rolled on fairly well, with the kids staying involved and paying attention. My second graders were particularly captivated with the game I brilliantly titled "Put the Days of the Week Flashcards in the Right Order." The girls dominated. My third graders appeared to be getting a better grasp on past tense versions of is/are/am and were very enjoyable to work with.

My Spec 3+ class, which is primarily 12 year olds, however, simply blew me away. They are undoubtedly my favorite class. Not only are they well behaved, but they are eager to learn, force themselves to speak only in English, and are at the conversational level where they can really enjoy my sense of humor. In that classroom, I get to joke with my students instead of scolding them or having to coral them. In that classroom, I find ways to bring in my laptop to show them pictures or videos pertaining to our class, because they are eager to see it, to expand their knowledge.

Today, however we were starting a new story in our reading, "Leah's Pony." It's a great story about a 1930's family dealing with the Dust Bowl and having to auction off everything they own, only to have it all purchased as cheaply as possible by their neighbors and given back to them. Skimming through the story during my lunch break, I almost teared up at how simple and beautiful the story of generosity and self sacrifice was, as exemplified by Leah, the daughter, who sells her beloved pony in order to try and buy her dad's tractor at the auction so they can continue to farm. The kids were really getting into it.

I explained what an auction was and we had a mini auction of our own (for which my white board marker sold for an amazing 1 billion Won). When we got to the point where Leah sells her pony and makes her 1 dollar bid on the tractor however, one of my students looked at me, wide-eyed, and said "Mr. Thompson, this is the best story I've ever read." They all agreed and were so excited to see how it played out, to see if Leah's generosity and sacrifice would inspire the others at the auction. It did.

To have a student be able to communicate clearly and effectively with proper grammar, good structure, and a good vocabulary is a great thing, and one of my overall goals. To have students connect with a story in a second language and make the claim that it's the best story they've ever read simply blew me away. Today I was reminded of the beauty and power of language.

It was a good day.

Also, I got to show them the lyrics and music video to know, for Halloween. And who doesn't love dancing zombies?

P.S. My Spec 4 class was a lot better today too and really got into the creative writing assignment as well, which was amazing because they never get into anything. Ever.

Quirky Things in Korea

Korean food delivery has two parts. Part 1: They deliver your food, along with dishes, plates, cups, etc. Part 2: Another person comes by when you're done to pick up said dishes.

Also, McDonald's delivers. McDelivery.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you had a good day! Keep your hairy chin up, dearie.

    Love, Jeanne