Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Good Day

You know how every once in a while you have a really good day at work? The kind of day where you just know you’re doing well, you feel successful at your job and realize that you’re actually pretty good at what it is you do, despite having had only 3 days of “training” before diving headfirst into instructing the next generation of Koreans on not only the entire English language, but also on what it’s like to interact with Americans on a daily basis, etc… Add on to that the fact that the girl I replaced here was an absolute natural in the classroom and was so wonderful and relatable and all her kids just loved her, it really is a lot of pressure if you stop to think about it…

Regardless, every once in a while you have a really good day at work. And for me, that day was last Friday.

I went into work nervous for the day, actually. For whatever reason, my books designed for Elementary aged children still grappling with, you know, subject/verb agreement and correct usage of articles, decided that Victimless Crime would be an interesting topic to spend a unit on. Awesome. I of course knew zilch about victimless crime, which the frustratingly dense language in their books did nothing to assuage. It talked about different types of victimless crimes, why some crimes were considered victimless as opposed to others, and contained an entire paragraph on assisted suicide. Even better, not only is my topic dull, poorly matched to my students’ interests, and written for a much higher reading level than they currently possess, it also forces me to talk about controversial issues like suicide and euthanasia to a group of 12 year olds in a country with one of the highest adolescent suicide rates in the world. Oh, and did I mention it was written from the perspective of American law, (aka, who knows what the laws are in Korea… certainly not me, considering all the legal documents I could find online were written in, you guessed it, Korean). I hope you catch my drift. I love my kids and my school, and for the most part I’m pretty adaptable to the curriculum I’ve been given… but WOW this one was a toughie!

After spending my entire morning looking up everything I could find on victimless crime and asking all my coworkers how I should even go about teaching this ridiculous topic of mine, the bell rang and off to class I went……….. and I actually got my kids pretty excited about it? We started by brainstorming about crimes, another word I had to teach them first, but once they realized it was all about killing people and beating them up, they really got into it. After all, my kids are generally fairly violent I suppose…

Example 1.
Me: “David, what is your favorite food?”
David: “Teacher’s brain!”
(**Followed by my futile explanation of why cannibalism is bad)

Example 2.
(**Taking attendance)
Me: “Where’s Jack today?”
Students: “I killed him!”
Me: “Oh no you killed him! Why? How?”
Five minute explanation of all the ways they could have killed Jack… poor Jack!

My guess is that they probably got into my lesson on victimless crime because it gave them the opportunity to devise ways of killing and beating each other up without there technically being a victim. Regardless, do you know how amazing it feels to have an entire class so engaged in a lesson you were so skeptical and nervous about teaching even 30 seconds before you started teaching it? Pretty amazing!

Additionally, I got my kids excited about a homework assignment? For Halloween, we’re allowed to spend some class time talking about the holiday, its traditions, all that. Even though they took writing out of our curriculum this semester, I think writing is pretty useful and consider myself fairly good at working the English language into my own writing, so I saw this as a perfect opportunity to mix my inkling towards writing with my favorite holiday, Halloween. For their assignment, I gave them a list of possible first lines (It was a dark and stormy night, etc…) and asked them to write me a scary story. I don’t know if it was the way I presented the assignment in class or the fact that scary movies are just a big thing here, but they got really excited about it! 12 year olds excited about homework… such a thing might never happen again, but I’m glad I made it happen at least this one time :)

Further, I have another class that I’m just falling more and more in love with every day! This class and I started off on really shaky terms because they’re at a pretty low English level and were really reluctant to speak English to me at the beginning of the semester, but they’ve become one of my favorite classes to teach! Every single kid has so much personality, which makes the class tough to keep moving at times, but they’re so adorable and I can see their English improving drastically from where they were at the beginning of the semester! Plus, not only do I like the kids, but they seem to like me too! One student’s mom called in to his Korean teacher for the class to tell her how wonderful his foreign teacher is and how excited he is to be in class. Another student has been meeting me at the door to my teacher’s office before class so she can carry my basket of materials to class for me. They’re just so sweet! And adorable! And make me just wrinkle up my entire face, tilt my head to the right, and say “Awwwwwwwww!”

Moral of the story, for one single work day, Friday was filled with all sorts of things that made me feel successful at my job, like I really do have what it takes to be a good teacher. And it felt amazing. Big yay!

- Christine -

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