Disclaimer: I prefer not to use the names of my schools, so I will call them my main school and the visiting schools.
This week, I went to my two visiting schools for the first time. I left my apartment rather early in fear of being tardy from a possible long bus ride or me getting lost, but the ride was successful. I quickly was out of the busy city and saw a gorgeous mountain backdrop paired with the green farms. I arrived at the school an hour earlier than necessary and nobody was there. I walked through the small school and heard the chickens and the garden.
My co-workers did not know much English, but they were very welcoming and sweet. One lady brought me tea to my classroom and another man gave me many options of coffee. At visiting school number one, the principal was incredibly kind, almost too kind. She held my hand for several minutes when we first met and even when we were drinking coffee and chatting with her limited English. She expressed that she was so glad that I was Korean, which made me feel better because usually, a white person as an English teacher is preferred. She was adamant that I spend time with her daughter’s family and take weekend trips. After school, she ran to my bus stop to give me two tickets to a piano recital. I am planning on going, but it will happen on typhoon day, so we will see.
I have 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grades at these sister schools. They all come to me in the library/English classroom. My class sizes range from eight students to sixteen, barely anything compared to my 25 at the main school. The students were wide-eyed and well behaved. They genuinely tried to speak English to me. They aren’t exposed to foreigners in their neck of the woods, so they paid extra special attention to me. My co-teachers usually end up translating my instructions into Korean. It can be helpful, but often it does harm for their motivation to listen carefully to my words. I found that every single co-teacher (five in all) have a different style and work with me differently. Most of the time, I am the lead teacher, with the exception of my 5th grade co-teacher. She has more of a lead but we work together quite well.
A particular tiny fifth grader with very good English came after school to have a chat. I want to create more materials for her because she is much more advanced than what we are doing in her class. Actually, her English is probably better than most high school students. She has been learning in private academies for six years, meaning she began at four years old.
I had a wonderful time at those schools. I think I’ll be able to learn the students’ names and get to know them. I can imagine that when it comes to planning lessons, it could be overwhelming because I have four different grades per day. Usually, the first one is a trial and I tweak things to make it better with each class. However, this time, it has to be perfect on the first try! It is a skill and I think it will get better with time once I have a better feeling for my students’ abilities.
I finished out the week at my main school, where I teach 5th and 6th graders as well as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th after school classes. For the 6th grade, I presented the material and drilled on the key expressions and vocabulary with dialogues and then we played a game. The competitive nature of Koreans was apparent as the students went wild for a game. I showed a scrambled up sentence and each group had to organize the words to make a proper sentence. The first two teams to show the sentence on their boards got a point. They were dead silent and on the edge of their seats when I said “1…2….3!” to reveal the scrambled sentence, but screamed English words at the top of their lungs. When they finished, they screamed some more to grab my attention. As you can see, it was difficult to quiet them down when I wanted them to repeat the correct sentence to drill in the proper grammar. I’m glad that they had a fun time though. My goals are to make the students believe that learning English is fun and to be confident to speak English. I definitely need to find a consistent way to get them to shut up though.
My 5th graders were the complete opposite of 6th grade. They are my favorite classes so far. It also helps that that particular co-teacher is a wonderful teacher. I am always learning from her. Today, we did a lesson on the proper language to use when talking on the phone. She later gave me a compliment that I seem like an experienced teacher and that she is lucky to have me! BLUSH!
I love my job. It isn’t even like working. Every day, every class, every co-teacher is so different. It keeps things interesting so there is no time for being bored. It’s not the kind of job that I make me think only about the weekends or when 4:30 comes around. I wake up not dreading the day one bit. I know it is still early in the job, but this is how I am feeling about it now! The winter weather will affect my motivation to get out of bed and walk/take a bus to work in the non-heated school, but I’ll get over it?