Friday, 9 March 2012

Back to School

Why haven’t you written a blog all week you selfish capitalist? Well, I’ve been astronomically busy with the first week of term. My workload has pretty much doubled this semester. I thought I’d write about the differences between last semester and this semester. Because, that's entertaining, right?

Well, my timetable used to be pretty evenly spread out over the week with Friday being the only day in which I had six classes; those six were evenly spread throughout the day as well, leaving gaps for any last minute planning in-between classes. This semester my classes are pretty much all in the last 3 days of the week. Monday, I have kindergarten and that’s it. A good day for planning the rest of the week.

Tangent alert. I’m about to go off on a tangent about my new kindergarten students. They are really young. One of them looks like he’s only just left the birth canal. Was that a little crass? I’m exaggerating of course but they have no English ability. They are fresh and new. In my first class I taught them the ABC song and went through some flashcards of some basic alphabet related words (Apple etc). They seemed to enjoy it, despite being so low level they are very well behaved, all eyes looking up at me from the floor. Which makes for successful classes. Songs, thats how I’m planning to win them over. Lots of songs. I wish I had some hand puppets as I feel like that would be another good way to engage them. Meh.

Back on track. So, Mondays is for planning and its pretty much the only opportunity all week that I’ll get for planning. Tuesdays used to be my favourite days as the specialist English teacher who was totally awesome but has now been drafted into the army used to teach with me. He was such a good teacher and so helpful. I didn’t ever need to plan anything myself for his classes (4 in total), now he’s gone and not being replaced I’m left with those classes myself. Which is both good and bad. They are my favourite classes (1 and a half hours of 5th grade and 1 and a half of 6th) they are the highest level students in the school and they enjoy my classes. This encourages me to always make them lots of worksheets and fun games and activities that don’t appear in the text book. I teach these classes solo without a co-teacher and they are my favourite classes of the week but they are no longer on Tuesdays, they are at 9am on Thursdays and Fridays, I’ll get to that later.

So, what happens on Tuesdays now? I have 3 normal classes (2 after school). I see Grade 1, Grade 2 and Grade 3. My three worst classes. Grade 2 being the best of the bunch. Grade 1 have just moved up from kindergarten and I have yet to have a co-teacher in the room with me during those classes. If there was a co-teacher there then I feel like the classes would be more successful, however, it’s really tough when I’m on my own. They run around, they jump around, and I really need to try hard to find activities that will engage them. I’m looking to really improve in these classes in the coming weeks and find some methods that can allow me to teach them more successfully.

Grade 2 are a joy, there are a lot of new students in the class and all of the first graders from last year. The new kids are all really sweet (nearly all girls) and their English ability is at the level it should be at this stage. We play basic parlour games and learn mostly nouns and some adjectives, usually using flashcards as prompts (I’m trying to steer away from heavy computer based classes this year). Basically I’m just trying to improve on their vocabulary and help them form basic sentences.

Grade 3 are my worst class. All the best students from last years grade 2 have left and all the troublesome ones have stayed making for a nightmare in after school class (yes, its sad to report that waistcoat boy has moved school). This is contrasted with great textbook classes. The reason for this is the new 3rd grade teacher is a middle aged man. He’s a nice guy, he seems very gentle, amenable and approachable. In Korean society, as far as the kids are concerned, he is to be heavily respected. So, during textbook classes when he is co-teaching with me the kids are great. They listen, they participate and I have no doubt that they learn. When he goes away they think they can get away with anything. Therefore in after school classes I’m spending more time on discipline than on educating them which is a trial and one I’m hoping to find solutions to soon. I just need to be patient with them and try and make those classes as entertaining as possible.

Wednesdays is when the fun begins. I have 6th grade and 5th grade first. Then 4th. Then 3rd. All textbook. Then I have 1st and 4th grade for afterschool classes after lunch. That’s six classes in a row with no breaks. This is the same on Thursdays with double period 6th grade, 3rd and then 2nd with 1st and 3rd after school. These days go by really quickly but I have to plan so much more than I did last semester.

Last semester I could plan 3 afterschool classes and I would deliver those classes to both 1st and 2nd grade, meaning 6 classes, 3 lesson plans. I can’t do that anymore because of the vast difference in level and ability. Last year I didn’t have to plan the double period 5th and 6th grade classes, which is a lot of work as I try really hard with these classes, this year I do have to plan those classes. Last year I could plan 3 afterschool classes and I would deliver those classes to both 3rd and 4th grade, meaning 6 classes, 3 lesson plans. This year they are using different books. Already, thats an extra ten lesson plans every week. Put making resources and activities on top of that and the sum of it is I’m a busy bunny.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. This week has just felt a lot busier in terms of workload than I am used too. I will continue to try my best and overcome some of the issues that have arisen in class. For the most part every class this week has been a success. Especially in 4th, 5th and 6th grades. I may be teaching on my own a little more and I may have extra classes to plan but it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it.

I’m looking forward to a weekend off and I’ll be ready Monday morning to come in and plan my week. I'm thinking of buying a whistle so I can blow it when things get out of hand. School is officially back in town. No more desk warming. I can’t believe its March.

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