Monday, April 25, 2005

thanks, Mom

In an email titled, "Make a difference at my old school!", my mother writes:

Dearest Kevin,

Congratulations! How exciting! We are all happy for you. Church people, my Washington Korean Women Society members, and your brothers are happy for you.

I have no doubt that you will make the biggest difference in that school's English department. I am sure that you are in brainstorm mode for that drama class. Kevin, please do your darnedest. Please do remember not to use dirty(bad) language or rough slang with your students in Korea.

Melinda M, the church office manager, wants to know the name of the school etc... she said that many people ask about you. So I am sending an e-mail to the church office today. [Pastor C.] went to Israel and Jordan and when he returns we will have a big going away party. Write him a little note when you can.

I hope you are sleeping well this hour. Dress smart, shine your shoes and have fun and most of all "PEACE."

God bless


um ma

It was a great way to start a Monday. In reality, though, my Monday was simply an extension of Sunday: beginning-of-semester nerves kept me awake until 5AM, and I slept only for an hour, trusting that my alarm clock would be loud and obnoxious enough to rouse me from jittery, discontented pre-REM sleep.

I've planned out my six weeks of teaching, and all that's left is daily lesson planning, a task made much easier by the fact that I've mapped out how every single day should generally go. I've included little hitches in the calendar like Children's Day (a national holiday), my trip to Osaka, and make-up classes.

I got to my building way early: about 6:45AM. No one was in the office when I arrived, and in my mentally scattered state I had trouble figuring out how to make double-sided (ap-dui, literally "front-back") copies. Later in the day, I asked an office staffer how to do it. She said, "You have to copy one side, then run those copies through again to print the other side."


I found my attendance sheets, which didn't make any sense to me until A, another Western teacher who'd arrived scarily early, helped me out with them. Because this department divides a standard semester into two halves, I have to keep the current attendance sheets and use them until I run out of space. I can request reprints, but A said I'd probably have to re-mark all absences and late arrivals on the reprinted forms. Sounds like a hassle. Now I'm conflicted: my urge to be neat is clashing with my urge to be lazy about administrative paperwork.

I had three classes today, and had been warned that, because we are technically mid-semester, absenteeism would be high, then would be high again toward the end of the term. In true hagwon style, our department doesn't give grades, per se, although students receive homework assignments and take quizzes and tests. Matriculation to a higher level is determined through a combination of test scores and personal assessments by the teacher, almost as if these were credit courses using a pass/fail system. The problem is that if you don't teach a course for credit, students often have trouble dredging up the motivaton to attend class, especially when they have tests and papers in other classes to worry about. Several teachers I spoke with made this point, and it's something I'm familiar with from working at regular hagwons.

The upshot of the above is that I had only four students attend my first class of the day, most of them arriving late and confused about classroom numbers. My second class of the day had five students, and my third class had... no one.

Thus, I waited (A waited, too: she'd had quite a few students in her earlier classes, but no students in her third class, so we talked a bit). A said we had to wait only 20 minutes, and if no one showed up, we were free for the rest of the hour. Since that was my third and last class, I was free for the rest of the day, except for office hours. I've been told that students don't tend to visit teachers during their office hours, which I suppose leaves me free to hobnob, do paperwork, and try to look busy.

I'd intended to keep office hours from 11:15 to 2PM today, but was simply too tired. I went back to my place for a much-needed siesta, barely able to dredge up the energy to say hello-and-goodbye to the cute teacher in the office before schlepping on home.


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