So the protocol here is that all of the native English teachers have another Korean English teacher from the school in the room when we are doing our lessons. Their degree of involvement from any point after that completely depends on your situation. I feel incredibly lucky to have the co-teachers that I have, who are not only highly competent teachers themselves but are also actively engaged with my lessons while I am teaching. They have made my transition into teaching middle school way easier than it could have been, and their kindness has also helped to make me feel welcome in my new city. Not everyone is as lucky as I am, and I realize that.
But anyway, one of my co-teachers told me yesterday that she would have a meeting during our class today so I would have to teach on my own. But because there is a God, and he loves me, it was a grade 1 girls class. Arguably the one demographic that 1. is still very much enchanted with me and 2. is generally a very attentive and sweet group. I wasn’t really worried about it but I was very curious as to how the dynamic would be different.
I was just talking to a friend the night before about how I like that my co-teachers are really involved during the class period, and he likes that his co-teachers take very much a back seat in class. So after just thinking about how glad I am that they are always actively engaged with my class, I was interested to see how I would feel on my own.
I’m thankful for the fact that I had already given that lesson 4 times before because at this point I knew the lesson really well, I just needed to make sure to control the class. But when I walked in part of that work was already done for me because they were VERY excited that I would be teaching them alone today. Not because the co-teacher wasn’t there, I think they were just really curious as to how the class would be without a Korean teacher in the room.
And so their good behavior lasted exactly as long as it needed to, just long enough to make it through my power point, before we moved on to the speaking activity which is when things always get a little rowdy. And I mean that in the best, cute Korean 6th grade girls, kind of way. Basically there’s just a lot of high-pitched squealing and giggling.
The biggest hang up of the whole class was just that one group was trying to ask me how to say raccoon in English but it took wayyyyy longer than it should have and I ended up resorting to using google translate on my phone which felt like a bit of a loss. But gosh darn it they really wanted to use the word raccoon in their “How are you today?” dialog.
Teaching alone definitely felt different, especially in the first few minutes of class, not having the Korean teacher there. It felt much more like they were my students. Somehow the interaction between us was more like a conversation. Or at least they seemed to understand that they would have to really pay attention to what I was saying because no one was going to explain the directions in Korean after.
And the most interesting things was that I felt like I wasn’t having to monitor my speech so much. I was being myself, which I often refrain from because I know that my mumbled offhanded comments won’t be understood. I try so hard to pace my speaking in all of my classes because I know that’s the number one thing that my co-teachers and students alike would ask of me. But I didn’t have to be nearly as conscious of it in this class, and they seemed to understand me really well.
And they were actually able to do the activity well, better than some of my other grade 1 classes. The general noise level was a lot louder but part of me doesn’t care too much because I could hear plenty of English being spoken as they worked on their dialog.
I’ve been doing this lesson with all my grade 1 classes (there are 7 total) and so far some of the highlights include today’s…
“Hi Monkey how are you?” “Not good, I have no banana.” “Oh, here have my banana!” “Thanks!”
and one from a boys class that went like
“Hi how are you?” “Not good, I’m constipated.” “Oh that’s too bad.”
You can imagine my surprise when while writing a “how are you today?” dialog this tiny little kid asks me, “Teacher how do you say when you can’t poop?” Anyway I like this lesson. I’ll be sad to see it go.
Then after class one girl who I had bumped into while walking home after school yesterday, came up and gave me this beautiful letter she had written for me. I had told her that she spoke english well, and she wrote the whole letter to say thank you for that. It was so sweet and I’m not going to lie I might have started to get a little emotional when I got back to my desk and read it.
My theme in Korea continues to hold true. If you just push though this moment, then next, and the next, you will survive. And often, it’s just that next moment when something beautiful happens to make you forget all the bad ones before it.
Thanks for reading!