Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Events of the Day

First, I gained an interesting little cultural tidbit from my first grade lesson. The starter assignment is to write three sentences, using relative clauses with where, along the lines of "A bakery is a place where people bake bread, cakes and donuts." Then I go, "Mmmm, donuts!", like Homer Simpson.

I provide a list of several places, park, museum, hospital, etc., as the subjects for the sentences. But I was initially confused when a student said, "A bank is a place where I go in summer vacation." I started to phrase a gentle correction, until co-teacher Mr Wright pointed out that often Seoulites will take a refreshing break in the air conditioned comfort of any nearby bank. So when variations on it happened twice today, I was prepared.

I was not prepared, however, to provide an impromptu lecture on teaching methods to a group of international visitors. I was told on Monday that a group consisting of educators--either fifteen of them from some southeast Asian country, or a group from fifteen different southeast Asian countries (and I'm still not sure which it was)--would stop in my classroom today to watch a portion of my lesson.

Well, that's no problem, I am generally proud of what goes on in my class, and the kids behave better when there are visitors, anyway. Due to an unfortunate snafu, they were scheduled to do this during my planning period. But rather than come back later, Miss Lee ushered them in, sat them down, and assured them I would be glad to answer any questions.

The visitors were polite but incredibly curious, and peppered me with questions about my teaching strategy, my impressions of Korea, how the students are, and my personal life for fifteen or twenty minutes. Teaching strategy is simple but not easy: create an environment where students can be comfortable speaking imperfectly; provide opportunites to practice the four pillars of language acquisition, which are speaking, listening, writing, and reading; be consistent (for instance, there is always a starter activity on the screen when students enter the classroom), be firm, treat students like human beings but don't take any shit, and smile; and insist your co-teachers be fully involved in the activities.

Someone asked me what I thought about teaching at an all-boys school, and I pointed out the advantages of single-sex education in the adolescent years: girls are more confident, and boys are less distracted.

Then I related that when I first came to Young-il HS, no one thought to mention that it was an all-boys school. My very first class, I noticed vaguely that it had only boys, but I knew that many schools had segregated classrooms. By the third period, it was still only boys, and I wondered if the all-girl classes were just in the afternoon or something. Anyway, by the time I left at the end of that first day, and saw a thousand boys streaming out the school gates, I finally realized the truth!

I learned yesterday that I am supposed to stay after school on Thursday to meet with the new native speaking English teacher from Mok-dong HS and his principal in order to share some pointers on how to teach high school classes. Now, technically, I don't have to do this, since my contract clearly releases me from duty at 4:30--but OTOH, I get to leave at lunchtime every Friday since I finish my classes then, even though my contract also specifically states I am to remain at school until 4:30. Hell, it's the least I can do.

I just wonder what I'm supposed to tell him (or her)...

Bonus Photograph: Having some photographic fun on the subway.


SuperDrew said...

I had to meet with someone from Se Hwa High School about the same thing. Basically I said 'dont panic' and gave him an idea of what life was like in Korea. I dont think they are going to bother you for exact details on what to do, but that kind of stuff varies from person to person, I guess.

Tanner Brown said...

Cool cool cool photo.