May 19, 2008
|Tuesday, May 20th:
First off I need to discuss my utter amazement as to how quickly the month of May is going. I did have 2 holidays which I am sure helps but I just can't believe that we are already more than half way through the month.
This is my 13th week in South Korea so I figured it was time for me to tell you a little bit about the kids that I work with. The pictures don't show all of my classes but it is a large chunk of them. Also, beginning this month there are a few new classes that I inherited but don't have pictures of.
Some basic information surrounding the classes are that they range in age from preschool to middle school. Age ranges are between 4 and 13 years old so there are different ways to approach each class. I have to admit that this is still pretty difficult for me to balance getting all of the information required into the class while at the same time ensuring that up to 12 different students are understanding the best they can. Some of the battle for me in the beginning was getting them used to me as a 6'1" American male teacher. A new male teacher just started but he is Korean so he is able to relate to the kids a little easier and the other teacher is preschool so he has a few elementary classes. Patience is not something that comes easy for me so I know this is something that God is helping me work through. Patience with my co-workers, students and parents (which I don't have any contact) is something that once I can get it makes my life easier and I believe in the end makes me a better teacher for the kids. I can't say it is easy but it is a requirement. Now that I have had some of the classes for 3 months and I have also worked to try and talk slower they seem to be coming around. So much that I had a couple of kids in tears when they found out I was not going to be their teacher any longer. I can't say that every class would have the same reaction but that did make me feel good.
Many have questioned how I will teach students in another language English. I would say that 90-95% of the kids have some level of English understanding from past training they have received. Also, it is part of the Korean school program so it is not completely foreign to them. Now saying that there are very wide ranges of English understanding and comprehension. Some kids understand the first time you say something and could actually have a conversation with you about it but others may be better at one skill (listening, speaking, etc.) that the others so you have to try and identify and develop those skills along the way. Unfortunately there is not much time for individual instruction so you do the best you can during class and work closely with your partner teachers to watch specific kids and maybe lend them more attention.
My classes range from preschool science to higher level TOEFL (Teaching of English as Foreign Language). The TOEFL courses are recognized worldwide and are requirements for many educational institutions prior to a non-native speakers admission into their programs. I am not sure how many schools require it but there are quite a few out there. Classes like this really show me that the rules of English that I learned 20 year ago (boy that really make me feel old) have been purged but seem to be coming back. Other classes include discussions of story books and grammar exercises to listening classes where students fill in blanks from conversations I read or they hear on tapes.
In addition to their normal Korean schools, and these SLP classes, there are other classes that some of the students are involved in. One student told me that on specific days they begin school at 7:30-8:00am and don't get hoome until around 10:00pm. Some go to multiple English classes but others also attend Taekwondo classes, piano or other instrumental course, and others are learning other languages like Chinese or Japanese. There are a lot of pressures put on these kids by their parents and just the culture in general. They believe that constant schooling lends them the best chance for opportunities after school is done. I don't necessarily disagree that the more education you get the better but there is a balance that needs to happen. You can see many of the kids going through burnout by not participating in class, falling asleep in class or not doing their homework. It has become such a chore for them that they are just showing up in some cases. There are others that handle the pressure and the work very well but in many cases it is not just the student that has to be fully invested it takes a tremendous effort from the parents and it is not always there.
Even with all of the pressure that is put upon these students most all of them keep a very positive attitude in class which definitely helps. I have a few discipline problems but usually with a message from me to stop (loud voice and not a yell as that does not work) it gets the class back on track. Also, you find out what the kids do not like to do and use that as punishment. Example: Many of the kids do not like writing so as a way to control the class I tell them if they don't stay quiet, or stop speaking Korean, they will have to write vocabulary words. It has worked for many but not all.
For those of you in the Greensburg area I hope you will take the opportunity to go to the Michael English concert on the 25th at the First Baptist Church. He has a great testimony to share and a blessed voice. You will definitely not be dissapointed. For all others, I hope you respective lives are treating you well and that you are enjoying the start of the Summer season.