Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Teaching has its up and its downs. And its rock bottoms.

Remember last week's slightly dramatic, woe-is-me post about my 6th-graders? Well, I figure it's time to update you all on the situation a bit and to reflect.

After I posted last week, I talked to my head teacher to come up with some solutions. I'm new at this whole teaching thing and he relates to those boys on a different level than I do. I wanted a game plan for the next time I saw those boys and I really wanted to engage them so there wasn't any room for the usual nonsense.

But such is not the Korean way. Instead of engagement strategies, I was given a golf club. He said "This will get their attention." First, I'm really hoping he was referencing Roosevelt's Big Stick theory. And second, since I have a sneaking suspicion that he was not, I do not like being a traditional disciplinarian. I fully believe that when you start yelling in a kid's face, s/he tunes you out and you've lost them.

So I basically went into my next class feeling dejected with no clue as to how to reach the boys except to engage them with the assigned topic, one I personally find really interesting: space. And it was a disaster.

My students gave me the finger. They swore at me. They blatantly ignored my requests that they speak in English. They mocked me in Korean. They carried on conversations for five minutes at a time (quite the time-suck in 40 minute class). And they didn't even care that I had two really cool experiments and an interactive lesson (that went beyond the textbook that they are always complaining about) that was student-driven. It was your proverbial ace-in-the-hole lesson and they didn't even give me a chance.

I left the class and went immediately to my head teacher. I asked him how much longer I would be teaching this class. And then I burst into tears.

Straight-up ugly cried.

I'm not proud of this moment. But it led to some changes. And some more bad discipline advice. But mostly to some changes.

Head Teacher immediately went to find out what happened from the students, since I couldn't really speak to most of it since it was 90% in Korean. The girls (oh, my angelic girls) said that the boys were making fun of me, making fun of each other, the lesson and doing or saying anything to get a laugh. And then he reamed them out. And now, the owner of the school is teaching the other half of the class.

But even more important are the changes I'm making in myself and the way I teach the class. When I started, I was basically handed a textbook and told to teach the same lesson two days in a row. Once November begins, I have more control of the material, their homework and their tests. Uhhh, like, they're actually having homework and tests now. I am getting creative. I've been googling on my off time.

The one thing that has made me feel better throughout all of this is when our foreign head teacher said "Oh, those boys? I feel sorry for whoever has to teach them. They're awful!" And he's been here almost a year. That's my booby prize.


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