Despite what the title of this blog might suggest, I finally feel like I am starting to hit my stride with teaching. Well, as of yesterday I did. Today brought on a whole new set of concerns. Of course there are difficulties everyday, the main one being the language barrier, but I finally feel like I am getting in a routine with each of my classes. I’ve been with most of them about a month, so that’s 4 - 5 classes with each of them. They are starting to understand me as a teacher and hopefully that “testing the new teacher phase” is mostly over with. Thank goodness.
Today was supposed to be a very easy day for me so I was looking forward to getting in some good planning time. Lesson plans are pretty much already made but I do like to try and find fun activities or videos that I can share with my students to make our 80 minutes together more fun. Today’s scheduled went something like this…
4:20 - 5:40 5th grade
5:40 - 7:00 Break/Prep Time/Keep myself entertained time
7:00 - 8:20 8th grade review class
8:20 - 9:40 7th grade review class
9:40 -11:00 Break/Prep Time/Keep myself entertained time
The 7th and 8th graders have finals coming up in the next few weeks so my normal schedule has been temporarily changed to allow for review classes for them. They go something like this:
First 50 minutes of class: They sit quietly and do a few pages from a study guide
Last 30 minutes of class: We go over the answers as a class.
Pretty easy day, right?
Ha. That was a cute idea.
My first class started really well when a student brought me fish bread, one of my favorite Korean snacks. It’s not really “fish bread”, it’s a sweet bread/waffle like thing with yummy filling, in the shape of a fish.
(this is borrowed from somewhere on flickr - not my photo)
About 15 minutes later, I put the same child in the hallway for driving me crazy. Yes, that’s exactly the reason I gave him as I put him out in the hallway. Then it just spiraled down from there. They are normally a fun and silly little class of 11 year old boys but today they were too much. The only real class I had today and they were driving me batty.
When that class finished I had 80 minutes to myself where I could start working on my other things. I received a package from my cousin Mary in New York as I was leaving for work so I took it with me. It was awesome! Comic books (which we actually talk about in one of my classes!), lots of books for the kids, magazines and stickers! Fantastic! I love it! Oh, and there was granola and a variety pack of twizzlers! A wonderful box! Yay! As I was looking through the books I ate about half the bag of twizzlers. Oops.
Other than one rogue girl, the 8th grade review class seemed easy enough. They were quiet when they were doing their study guide so I was able to keep reading through my new supplies. Then it came time to do the answers. Still silent. Ugh. I try really hard to encourage voluntary participation because in Korea it is much better to not give an answer than to give a wrong answer. I whole heartedly disagree with that concept, however, I try to respect and not embarrass my students unnecessarily.
I started bribing them with Twizzlers.
Note to self: Korean children do NOT like Twizzlers.
In my eyes, it was hysterically funny. You would have think I poisoned them because of all the drama. It was probably fairly similar to my reaction when trying some of the Korean candies they bring me. I shared the chocolate granola in order to regain their trust in my food choices. The granola was “very delicious” they told me and faith in Teacher Amy was restored.
Then the 7th graders. Oh dear Lord, please help me. Two boys who started out goofing around with each other, ended up about killing one another. They were sitting in the same row with an empty seat in between them. After about five minutes of bickering one of them kicked the empty chair at the other one. “Get out of my classroom.” Period, non-negotiable, this is not a democracy. “Get out.”
So here is the hardest part of teaching in Korea. I don’t know any of what either student said. I don’t know who instigated it. I have to put all my faith in my own observations and “testimonies” of other students, both of which are not always accurate. In my life I work very hard to always be fair above anything else and that’s difficult for me here.
After a few minutes in the hallway I let the still very angry boy back in. Immediately the bickering resumed. I sat between them. They didn’t care. I asked a student sitting behind them what one of the boys said. The boy that I let remain in the room while I kicked the other one out, mind you. He was making fun of the other child calling him “poor.”
Those little children had no idea what was about to happen next. I am surprised no other teacher came to my room to see what was happening. I cannot and I will not tolerate anyone making fun of someone else, especially not for reasons that as a child are beyond their control. I only know one word of a good 10-15 minutes of arguing so I really don’t know anything of what happened, who started what, and how many petty insults were shared between the two. But we had a nice little discussion. And I didn’t have any further problems with them for the rest of class.
And then I bribed everyone with Twizzlers as we went over the answers.
Thankfully, the candy went over much better in the 2nd class. A few students actually asked for more.
And this was supposed to be a fun day…
Author’s note: I LOVE Twizzlers. They are my FAVORITE candy. Send me more Twizzlers. Please and Thank You.
And Thank you, Mary for the box! I love it!