Friday, September 13, 2013

class wrap-up

My Wednesday beginner-level classes got off to awful, awful starts, but by the end of the 90 minutes, they were a bit better. I continue to have faith that things will improve as the students get used to doing the round-robin format, but that faith was, I admit, profoundly shaken on Wednesday. This style of teaching and learning is difficult for everyone: it's difficult for me because I'm fighting the inertia of immature students, and it's difficult for my students because they have problems overcoming their own culturally generated hangups and hesitations. I imagine I'll get a lot of complaints on my midterm evaluations (students fill out a survey in the middle of the semester), but shigata ga naithat can't be helped. The students don't see very deeply, so I don't expect them to understand, until much later, what this class was all about.

One team in the 9AM class was particularly frustrating. It was composed of three girls, and it became embarrassingly obvious to everyone that they hadn't done a damn thing in terms of prep. I had told all the students, the week before, that they needed to talk among themselves about teaching strategy; they needed to formulate a plan. I had also told them to contact me should they not know how to proceed. Nada: these goofy girls had done nothing to prepare, and they simply sat there, for seven of their allotted ten minutes in the first round of the round robin, perfectly still and looking ashamed. One girl, in fact, looked ready to cry when I sat down and asked her group why no one was teaching anything while the other teams interacted actively. I was pissed off that my advice—my orders, really—had been ignored. I knew that part of the problem was cultural, but it struck me as pancultural that, when the teacher tells you to do something, you fucking DO it. Ignoring the teacher is rude as hell.

I held my temper, despite my disappointment, mainly because I knew that losing my temper would be seen as a loss of face on my part. Visibly restrained anger is much more effective if you're trying to get a particular point across. I used that to my advantage when I told the students that, next time, they'd better have their act together.

Later that same day, I had my 5:15 Korean class. It was a good session, all in all, although I again worried that a little too much time was being spent on digressions. But even when the class digressed, it was always on task and talking about some aspect of Korean language or culture, so I didn't begrudge my students their distractions. I will, however, mention the need for better focus in my next class: some students seem to be very focused and motivated, while others seem a bit plodding and distracted.

In Korean, we practiced reading, pronouncing, and writing more complex syllabic clusters of letters: 2-letter syllables, 3-letter syllables, and 4-letter syllables. I've asked my charges to be able to (1) recite the Korean alphabet at our next meeting, (2) read aloud syllables displayed on flash cards, and (3) memorize a slew of vocabulary words, on which I will very likely quiz them. I've also prepared a huge slide presentation for next time; I have a feeling that, given our current rate of speed, we might not get through the whole thing in 90 minutes. Not a problem: I'm not trying to force the pace, so we'll go as fast or as slowly as we need to.

Thursday's 3PM conversation class, which is intermediate level, was pretty good. A few kids kept speaking Korean throughout the hour; I put those fires out as best I could. All in all, though, the intermediates grasped the round-robin format with little difficulty; they were a welcome contrast, in terms of their performance, to the disastrous beginner-level kids I'd taught on Wednesday. Since the Thursday 3PM group was my final class for the week, I was glad things ended on a positive note. I expect great improvement in all my classes in the coming weeks. Next week, though, will be short: Chuseok, the big, family-oriented national holiday, is already upon us, and we've got Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday off next week. That means I teach a total of 4.5 hours on Monday and Tuesday. When I compare that workload with the workload in my previous job—six hours per weeknight with no break, and eight hours on Saturdays with a 30-minute lunch break—there's no comparison at all.

Friday will be spent planning lessons and doing laundry. Saturday and Sunday: rest.


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