Somehow, I managed to sit through thirty-seven pecha-kuchas today. It would have been thirty-eight, but one student was absent because he had to go for a government-scheduled checkup in preparation for his required military service.
As with yesterday's class, there really were no stand-out presentations, which was a bit depressing. I marked down a lot of students for reading straight from their notes, facing away from the audience, speaking softly, not presenting with any energy, etc. Today's two classes also had students who didn't know how to do the auto-advance function for their PowerPoint slides, thus leaving it up to the savvier students to help them. Time was wasted. Somehow, miraculously, I managed to finish the classes without running too far overtime.
My other problem today was that the kids* needed to be told repeatedly to stop whispering, passing notes, sleeping, and/or trying clumsily to use their cell phones without my knowing. It really doesn't take much mental candlepower to figure out who's surreptitiously using a cell phone, but the students often seem to think they can pull that stunt off. I'm not sure whether to chalk that up to adolescent stupidity or to a simple lack of respect for the teacher's mental faculties. And about that "lack of respect" thing—these are Korean students, who ostensibly respect their teachers (ha!—and if you believe that, I have a live velociraptor to sell you), or so the propaganda goes, but they have little trouble passive-aggressively dissing the foreign profs. If you confront them about their disrespect, they get all wide-eyed and claim they never intended any harm. It's all bullshit, of course; Korean students operate on a double standard when it comes to what they think they can get away with: native-Korean professors get far more outward respect, while we fuzzy little furriners are slightly less than human. This fact never gets mentioned aloud in class, but it's definitely an underlying dynamic.
Three students in my 3PM class stood out for not-so-good reasons today. The first student was clueless: at the beginning of class, before the presentations began, I had told everyone to use the smaller podium (there's a large podium with a computer, monitor, keyboard, and sound-management system inside it, and there's a smaller, bare-bones, non-teched-up podium next to it at the front of the class), but one girl tried to hide herself behind the large podium. I told her to move over to the smaller one, even saying that I had mentioned this before class started; she looked at me, moved tentatively over to the small podium, then snapped right back to the large podium. When I asked her afterward why she had ignored my directive, she claimed that she hadn't understood what I'd said. I told her that, next time, she should ask me to repeat myself or to make myself clearer if she didn't understand me. (Another example of social immaturity: she tried to get by while pretending to have understood me. Instead, she ended up looking rude, even though rudeness wasn't her goal.)
The second student did a presentation on healthy eating, punctuating his spiel by looking at me and saying, "So, Kevin, please don't eat too much!" or "So, Kevin, this is why you should eat healthy food!" Those were degrading, Tyrion Lannister-style** moments, and I had no choice but to smile a tight-lipped smile and laugh along with the rest of the class. I had to wonder whether the student would have dared say such a thing if I had been a fully Korean teacher. I doubt it.
The third student was, in a sense, even more insulting. He wasn't directly insulting to me, but it was obvious he had prepared almost not at all for his pecha-kucha: he had no respect for the assignment. As I've mentioned before, pecha-kuchas involve using PowerPoint slides set to auto-advance: twenty slides in twenty seconds. In a well-done pecha-kucha, the presenter ought to have almost exactly twenty seconds' worth of verbiage to say per slide, segueing neatly from slide to slide with smooth verbal transitions and—this is crucial—no pauses. This student, by contrast, said about five or ten seconds' worth of content per slide, trapping us inside twenty painful pauses lasting ten to fifteen seconds each. It was brutal, and yes, it was insulting: the student obviously hadn't cared enough to spend his allotted two months prepping a decent presentation. There's no way in hell he's getting a passing grade for that stinking pile of shit that he tried to shovel my way.
But thank Cthulhu it's all over. I have to tally up the scores, dock some participation points from the more obnoxious students, and enter the numbers in my spreadsheet.
*And they are indeed kids—I use this word literally, not as a cutesy diminutive, because Korean college freshmen are at about the same social and sexual maturity level as American high-school sophomores. They're way too gawky and awkward, and they know so little about how to interact properly with others, especially with foreigners.
**For those who don't get the reference because they live in caves and have avoided George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire epic-fantasy saga even longer than I have: Tyrion Lannister is a dwarf, one of the principal characters in the series, a scion of the powerful House Lannister. Because of his short stature and malformed physique, Tyrion ends up being the butt of many a joke at his expense. He's learned to develop a thick skin, but every once in a while a remark will prove too cutting for him.