Friday, December 31, 1999

slacker culture

[Originally published on December 13, 2014, at 9:10PM.]


At Dongguk University, the semester runs sixteen weeks. Like a good boy (or like a chump, depending on whom you ask), when I planned out my syllabus before the semester began, I slated my final exams to take place at the most logical point in time: the final week, i.e., Week 16. Well, Week 15 just came and went, and all week long I kept hearing from my colleagues that they were finishing up their finals a week early. Da fuck is dis shit? I wondered. Apparently, staging finals a week early is a pretty common practice in my department. I see it as a form of slacking—a way to get out of school as early as possible so a prof can jet off to Thailand or Malaysia or wherever all the sooner. Hey, I'm not in love with the admin-related tasks I'm going to have to do at the end of the term, either, but if I've been given sixteen weeks in which to work with the students, then I'm going to use all sixteen.

So by this past Friday, many of my colleagues were bragging, "Oh, I'm already done with exams!" I can only imagine what sorts of compromises they had to make, when teaching the textbook, in order to finish ahead of schedule. Weeks earlier, many of these same colleagues had been groaning about how behind they were in the book. Catching up to me, then overtaking me, must have required some judicious (not to mention suspicious) curriculum-cutting on their part.

When I asked my coworkers what they planned to do during Week 16, since they'd gotten everything done by Week 15, they shrugged and said they would allow the students to float into class for consultations about their grades. Many suspected that at least half of their students wouldn't bother to show up, which sounds plausible. Korean students are paradoxical that way: they're obsessed to the point of fearfulness about their grades, but they never seem to take the initiative to check on their grades, periodically, throughout the semester. Both at Daegu last year and here at Dongguk this year, I've had almost no students come up to me and ask, "How am I doing, grade-wise?"

Here's how I planned out my sixteen weeks. We had to teach a ten-chapter book in that time. Classes met twice a week.

Week 1: Intro. Can't expect the students to be on-the-ball enough to have purchased their textbooks, so no one assumes the students are ready to go in the first week. In fact, it's likely that several students will drop out within the first three weeks; a teacher's attendance roster doesn't truly stabilize until the end of the month.

Week 2: Training. In my case, this meant training the students in how to teach the book's lessons, since I wasn't going to be the one teaching.

Week 3: Unit 1, taught by the teacher.

Week 4: Unit 2—the first student-taught unit. This will hold true through Unit 9: the students will team-teach.

Week 5: Project 1. You'll recall that our department mandates that we do two projects per semester with our students.

Week 6: Unit 3.

Week 7: Unit 4 + round-robin review.

Week 8: Midterm exam. We're halfway through the semester.

Week 9: Unit 5.

Week 10: Unit 6.

Week 11: Unit 7.

Week 12: Project 2.

Week 13: Unit 8.

Week 14: Unit 9: final student-taught unit.

Week 15: Unit 10 (taught by teacher) + round-robin review.

Week 16: Final exam.

Sorry, colleagues, but I won't be giving in to your slackerism. Next semester, I'll be working right up until Week 16. I have no intention of shortchanging my kids. They won't appreciate what I'm doing or why I'm doing it, of course, but maybe one day they'll understand.




Charles said...

We have 15-week semesters, and undergrad classes meet twice a week. I gave my final exam on the second day of the fifteenth week. *shrug*

Kevin Kim said...

Most excellent.