Monday, 5 December 2011

School Days

So, it’s undeniable. Nathanael had a great idea. He recently posted a blog about his students and I thought it would be a good idea to steal his idea ad write about my students. I’m sure both blogs will be vastly different as we’re obviously writing about different humans. Nathanael can take credit though.

There aren’t many students at my school that I don’t like. Sure, some of them can be annoying at times but for the most part they are friendly, eager to learn and a joy to be around. I didn’t really have any expectations before coming to my school. Mainly because I didn’t know what level I would be teaching. Working with EPIK is a risk, you could get any school, at any level in any region of the country and you don’t find out where you are being placed until the day before. Orientation certainly prepares you for the best and worst case scenarios but in terms of what to except from the students, I’ll be honest, I had no idea.

Kids are kids. No matter where you are they are genuinely free spirited, open minded sponges with a youthfully naive world view. They are fun, excitable and emotional. I’ve even read about children in North Korea getting into trouble for being this way (making eye contact with foreigners), which is absurd, a kid is a kid. At the same time they have these vibrant and individual personalities from the youngest of ages. If I was going to be teaching elementary then that’s exactly what my expectations were, and obviously they were right.

I’ll talk about each of my classes one by one to give you an idea of the personalities of my students. I know a lot of their names by now but most Korean names all sound the same so it can be tough sometimes, where I don’t know a student’s name I’ll just describe them.

Firstly, Kindergarten, I have about eight to ten students in my kindergarten class, they never all seem to be there at the same time. I teach them once a week in the kindergarten classroom at the end of the school corridor. They are probably (without accounting for sixth grade) my most well behaved class. Which is insane. Before the lesson when I’m setting up my materials they are usually deadly quiet and as soon as I start teaching they get really excited and involved without being at all disruptive. There is no curriculum for these kids so I just teach them whatever I want. This week was weather, as its snowing and all. There is a very cute little girl who always wears a different pink dress that sits right at the front of class and likes to dance with me during songs. She also likes to dance with me at the bus stop as her family must own the shop directly opposite. Her English isn’t very good at all, in fact it’s probably the lowest in the class but she is easily my favourite. There aren’t any little brats in this class. All of the students join in, sing the songs, repeat the words and play the games and I usually read them a story every week that they have no way of understanding. The words ‘one more time’ gets used a great deal when they want to read it again though.

My first grade class is my least favourite group of kids. I don’t dread teaching them but they can get out of control sometimes. There used to be six of them but one has been missing for about two months now, I assume I’m down to five. Three boys and two girls. One girl is very good at English and picks words and phrases up straight away and the other girl tries really hard but sometimes just can’t grasp it. They are both lovely but often get dragged down by the boys. Out of the three boys one is really well behaved and really proficient in English, one gets it sometimes and other times can’t be bothered and the other will probably never pick it up. I don’t quite know what his deal is, he likes to get up at the front of the class with me and mimic everything I do. What I point to, he points to. What actions I do, he does. When I walk, he walks. The only thing he doesn’t copy is the damn language. When my first grade co-teacher is in the room with me the class goes smoothly and I feel like they learn a lot, however, when she’s not there, they go mental. They are hard to control with no Korean but some tactics I use are sitting down in the middle of the disturbing table. This always gets their attention back to me in a comedic way. I’ll be really silent and just single out one student to stare at, this eventually works but takes some time. Other times I’ll just start doing some crazy things at the front of the class to get their attention back. I never raise my voice in class. I will never raise my voice in class. I despise any teacher who ever raises their voice in class. The only time my voice will be loud is when teaching them new words or sentences. First grade is usually the only class that needs any kind of disciplinary action though.

Second grade used to be my favourite class but not so much anymore. They are a great bunch though. There is one little chubby kid who always wears a waistcoat and whose English is far above the level of the rest of the class. He always answers my questions and helps me calm the rest of the class down. Sometimes he’ll get so annoyed at the rest of the class he’ll start kicking and screaming. He’s amazing. There is one kid who marvels at using the English I’ve taught him to describe my features."Teacher ugly,""Teacher fat." Shit like that. He’s amazing. There are lots of girls in this class, in fact those are the only 2 boys in the class of 8. They are very good at English and pick things up very easily. I have a lot of fun with this class. We play lots of games and laugh a bunch. Recently we learnt the months of the year and every time it got to October and I said Octopus they would crack up. It’s the simple things.

Third grade are a good bunch. There is one girl in particular who likes to pull funny faces with me. I also play the what’s the loudest noise you can make without laughing game with students as they come into class. They always laugh. They are good at English, but it takes some effort. There is one kid with an annoyingly whiny voice and another kid who is sometimes on the bus with me in the morning. They are well behaved and I rarely have problems with them unless they are screaming ‘game, game’ but they know we’ll always get to a game eventually. I just have as much fun with these kids whilst teaching them English as I can. This class has grown on me in the last few weeks and I look forward to my after school classes with them.

Fourth grade are now my favourite class and its the class whom my main co-teacher is in charge of. I eat lunch with them everyday and have a hilarious time with them in every single after school class. I recently gave a class with a student (Ji-Su?) on the back of my shoulders. The week after that I gave a class wearing his glasses, although I gave them back eventually as he couldn’t see the words on the power point. This is also the class with my little trouble maker Min-Su. He’s amazing. The teachers just treat him wrongly. He hates English they say, but he doesn’t. Back when I taught supplementary classes which were classes for the students who were bad at English he would take part all the time. He just finds it boring. He spends most of the class drawing on his English book and if that energy he has for drawing was just harnessed by the teachers rather than downtrodden then he would be able to pick things up. He is disciplined totally out of proportion and I feel kind of sorry for the guy. I’ve got him sitting at the front with everyone now where as he used to sit at the back alone, and he actually hangs around for after school classes sometimes as well, when he does I make an effort to include him any way I can. The class has 3 boys and 3 girls. The other two boys (not Minsu) are great, they say they are dumb but they aren’t and they do try. The girls are great at English and pick things up almost instantly. Fourth grade are a joy.

In fifth grade there are three students. This used to be my favourite class but fourth grade has been so great recently that nobody comes close. There are 2 girls and 1 boy, both girls are pretty good at the language but Sun-Young (the boy) struggles a little although he is improving. I teach fifth and sixth grades with a separate specialist English teacher and he is fantastic at his job. These classes are often highlights of the week. I also teach them for 40 minutes on my own once a week. With fifth grade these are some of my best classes as I can really teach them something as they understand so much already. A great bunch of kids.

Sixth grade is hell. My 40 minute class with them every Friday is something I dread. There are two girls, Yu-Jin and So-Woon. They are both good at English but they are unbelievably disinterested, Yu-Jin more so than So-Woon. They do homework in class, they speed through the text book activities before I have a chance to get to them, and they are so quiet and reserved. I guess they are just getting ready for middle school but it can be really tough to teach these two. Mainly because it’s hard to get them motivated. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t. Every week I come out of class and tell myself that I must try harder with them. They’ll be leaving soon anyhow.

So that’s my school and my kids, I would talk a bit about the teachers I work with but I’ll save that for another time. For now my well traveled followers I bid you farewell.

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