Today the lesson plan for my upcoming open class was due. After putting it off until the last minute, I turned it in knowing it wouldn’t be received well, and sure enough, the co-teacher came back and wanted me to revise it.
See, instead of the typical lesson plan I spent last evening looking for a template that was fluid and conceptual, vs. one that dissects every minute of the hour into micro scrutiny. She wanted me to at least add the time-frame for each section of the plan, and I argued how that didn’t reflect how I taught. “But,” she asserted, “all the teachers do it this way. They’ve been doing it this way for a long long time.” And she wanted me to do it more like the lesson plan example we had from the middle school open class we’d attended last semester. The one that was two pages of intro and another FOUR PAGES of breaking down one hour, complete with scripted monologue for the teacher and scripted action of the student, down to every 5 minutes of time.
I argued how over-planned it was and reminded her how awful the lesson was, how it crammed too many things in, and how far away it was from a real learning experience. She agreed, but said I should still revise my lesson plan. Then I told her, “Look. How is Korea ever supposed to change for the better if everyone continues to do things they know aren’t good, just because that’s the way it’s always been done?” I then told her this was my protest and me changing things, and that this is what I want to submit and if it fails, then she can just say it’s all my fault. “Okay,” she said, and smiled.
I think she’s actually happy I’m such an upstart. She hates the book and these stupid monkey shows too.
This is the passive co-teacher, btw. I don’t know if it was my complaints about her or my standing firm making the students in that one class take my written punishment seriously, but she’s actually been supportive with the classroom discipline of late. We’re working pretty well together these days, and much of that has to do with throwing the book aside.
Yesterday we had one of those free-form lessons, and I brought up topics for the kids to just try and discuss. One of them was about me getting a tattoo. I told the kids foreign teachers couldn’t be hired if they had tattoos, and I asked them if they felt that was logical or not. Then I told them that many foreign teachers actually had tattoos but they were hidden under clothing. Anyway, one of the students said it didn’t look good, and another student showed me her tribal stylized dragon tattoo. I really love these conversations with the kids – it’s a struggle, but somehow they manage to find a way to express themselves: telling me tigers and dragons were mafia but anything else was okay, that people with tattoos were not bad people, and that (once again) it was mostly only the old people who stigmatized people in that way.
And so I will stick to my questioning and challenging the students, making them be responsible for getting their own clarification, making them find their own path to expressing themselves, giving them topics they are interested in enough to make the effort over. And I will protect it’s dynamic nature and let it meander where it wants to and won’t confine it to 5 minute increments, damnit.
Prior to turning the lesson plan in, both co-teachers have told me how this open class is more important than the others were, and that there are VIPs coming in from the school district to observe. Just a little pressure there…I hope the class will prove to them that we don’t need to invent some extraordinary one-time-only super lesson, that we don’t need to stress out and freak out expending huge amounts of energy on materials we’d never use in a daily setting, and that it’s less valuable to force an ingenuous performance and more valuable to see a real demonstration of actual teaching in action.
So today I’m just hoping I got my mojo next week, so this gamble pays off! I think it will go well, as the topic is explaining Korean customs. And hey – I’m a foreigner! Just try and explain it to me, I dare you!
Not that it matters, since I plan to move on. But it does matter if I can help free future teachers of some of the artifice we’re forced to conjure up for this annual exercise in self-justification.
And part of me is also feeling some alarm at the state of the union back home, as I just spoke with a former colleague who has been unemployed the past three years and only had one short stint delivering pizza before being laid off, and then there’s another former colleague who was unemployed for a couple years and is now working in China, separated from his wife and kids just to make a buck. I’m probably heading the wrong way, and while my particular job sounds promising, I do fear just seeing/feeling the unemployment of others. I guess I can feel very fortunate I came here when I did and have managed to weather the past three years so well, with a fairly easy job and a comfortable living.
And it’s not been without its good moments and the lessons have been priceless.