Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Day 1 of the Absolute Beginners Korean class

I've been gifted with another good group of Korean learners: the Absolute Beginners proved to be a pleasure to teach this evening. They came in a variety of personalities, from quirky and comical to reserved and pensive. As with the Veteran Beginners, these adult learners were good sports, stressing very little over their own errors (which was fortunate, as adults can often be much more up-tight and self-conscious than younger learners) and tackling each exercise that I threw at them. We moved along at a decent pace, too; I think I've planned out the syllabus for this class pretty well. The rhythm doesn't feel rushed. One student expressed relief that I didn't dump too much information on him on the first day: "I dropped out of a Korean class because [the teacher] gave us ten times as much to do as you did!"*

This brings up an interesting point: many teachers, whether because of departmental obligations or out of some weirdly mathematical sense of duty, feel that they have to cover X amount of material in a semester. This isn't really the healthiest approach, in my opinion: mastery of each level is more important than speedy coverage, a fact that the Khan Academy (about which I admittedly have misgivings) emphasizes with its self-paced coursework. Quality should always trump quantity, so it's frustrating when a department tells you that you have to jump a certain number of hoops by the end of the semester. A teacher who relentlessly pushes his students forward can feel as if he's short-changing them, depriving them of the chance to learn and master material in a low-stress environment. Instead, the teacher becomes a pharaoh, forcing his slaves to meet the pyramid-building quota. At least with my Korean classes, I'm under no departmental obligations to teach a given number of chapters by the end of the course. That's a plus.

Anyway—good group tonight. Very good, in fact, with a wonderful collective sense of humor. I'm looking forward to seeing how all of this turns out.

*I recently heard this same complaint about a different Korean class: the teacher of that class, who was Korean, seemed intent on inundating the students with tons of information without allowing the learners time to process and master all that new data. That's a good recipe for making your charges fall behinder and behinder, and to be frank, it's something of a rookie mistake. More education happens during the review/reinforcement period than it does in the initial dissemination of information.



  1. "I've been gifted with another good group of Korean learners..."

    Which confirms that you are indeed a gifted teacher.

  2. Thanks, John. We'll see whether I can be worthy of that.



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