Win some, lose some

Well,  I had to make eight boys write, “I will not talk when others are speaking in English class because it is rude.”  100 times.  Correction:  four of them continued to speak, so they have to write it 150 times.

The day before, I had an entire  class of boys write 100 times and miss the entire lesson.  One boy just wasn’t writing at all, so he got 150, and another boy was writing in kindergarten size letters at a snail’s pace just to bother me, so he too got 150.  I told this class we would continue this exercise at the beginning of the next class until everyone’s assignment was finished, and then I berated them because they are 16 and the last time I had to do this was when I was eight.

English speaking class is so unimportant to them, nothing I or anyone says is going to divert them from the idea that this is free time/social time.  This idea is so etched into their heads that even with the threat and execution of actual work, they can’t not talk to each other.

Contrast this with tonight, it is 9 pm and I am walking past all the classrooms on my way home from my evening class.  The school is nearly full, the doors to these classes are open, there are no teachers in these classes, (some are patrolling the hall) and yet the classrooms are nearly full and it is DEAD SILENT.  I mean, DEAD SILENT.

Again, this would NEVER happen in America.

The evening class was, btw, very promising.  I sold the class (yes, we have to peddle these extra classes to our own students – you know- the ones falling asleep and talking)  by pointing out the class size, pointing out how in America the entire class would be white and only two or three would be Asian, and then telling them that probably none of them would be Korean.  How do you deal with that?

15 students signed up out of 20 slots, some with zero notice from me.  Makes me really happy, as this class is my raison d’etre for being in Korea, and the kids who signed up are very sharp and VOLUNTEERS.  I’m looking forward to the next 13 ninety minutes classes we have together, and I pretty much have the entire curriculum all laid out:  the history of Asians in America, Asians in the media, Racial stereotypes, challenges, etc., etc.

We watched one short video on the kind of assumptions they are going to encounter if they speak to someone in America. Then, we watched two different videos on Asian identity and culture shock.  Four of the kids had already lived abroad and shared a little of what their experience was like.  When I asked them what kind of hardships they thought they might face, they thought being short would be a problem.  One of the kids had lived in Wisconsin for a year, so he had to deal with being the only Asian and the burden of being tagged genius while stumbling with his English, etc., etc.  But then I mentioned kimchee, and that they wouldn’t be able to eat it everyday – in fact, it would be hard to find.  The boy from Wisconsin nodded and told everyone it was a two hour drive to find kimchee, and that he was lucky if he got it once a week.  This was something all the kids could relate to.

Unfortunately, I had too much to say and when pressed the kids didn’t talk much.  But I think they enjoyed everything I had to say, so hopefully next time I can work on my conversation pulling skills.  Tomorrow We’re going to play the name game, since I can handle learning 15 (vs. 600)  and I’m going to pretend to be an ignorant American and ask them some pretty offensive things and see how they respond.  Then, we’ll watch the videos of Asian American history, so they can have a sense of what others assume they represent and enough background information to be able to navigate through those predjudices.

Oh – I have so many great plans for this class – I can’t wait to implement them!

2 thoughts on “Win some, lose some

  1. I’m sure you will become a famous teacher, famous for your involvment, the originality of your teaching, for who you are,…
    Your students will some day talk about the foreign english teacher they had.

  2. ha ha ha! You are so supportive…

    I think I am not young enough or lively enough for that. But I DO get some instant feed back with heads nodding in agreement or understanding, so that’s something.

    The biggest challenge with teaching in the regular classroom of 40+ is to not get embattled. I want them to see when I disapprove, but that look sticks on my face too long. Once you get embattled, you forget yourself and forget the children are not the enemy, the system is the enemy. So I need to find a way of controlling behavior that does not blame them or turn me into their enemy. I will still hammer in the respect theme.

    For the evening class, I would really enjoy getting involved with them, and finally – there is some opportunity. It is nice to not have the kamikaze look on my face!

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