Tuesday, May 15, 2012

41. My students

I guess I haven't talked too much about my students on here, or about my teaching experience in general. And so, this deserves a spot on my list. I will also be posting things my students say to me 'cuz either they are hilarious or the sweetest things ever.

First of all, I am beyond grateful to have been given the opportunity to be teaching here in Korea. If I had stayed back home, it would've been extremely hard to find a job; I don't have much experience teaching and I don't know too many people in the field.

I have known for a while that teaching English is what I wanted to do. I was inspired not just by my own experience, but by all the people who helped me and pushed me to become fluent. Yes, it wasn't easy, but I had a lot of support.

6th grade teacher: Mrs. Solarzano
6th grade reading teacher: I don't remember her name :S
7th grade ELD teacher: Mrs. Castaneda  <I had her for two periods my first semester, by the end, I moved up a level
7th grade world cultures teacher: Mrs. Loya
8th grade Eng. teacher: Mrs. Stewart

Anyways, let me talk a little bit about my experience in Korea. To be honest, I was a bit scared as I flew to Korea; I kept thinking "what if I'm not a good teacher?...what if it doesn't work?...what if my MA goes down the drain?" I had not idea what to expect...

At orientation, they gave us some tips on how to teach and some ideas for activities. I immediately noticed that they used A LOT of games and I got nervous. I'm not the kind of person who is all bubbly and animated, especially when it comes to teaching children.

As I started teaching 3rd and 4th grade, though not clueless, I did not feel confident at all. I had no idea of the level of English the students had, nor what kind of teaching they had been exposed to before.

I was pretty much thrown to the wolves (it felt literal the first few days). I was given a textbook but I quickly noticed it was waaaaay to easy (and boring) for the students.

One tiny problem at the beginning was trying to figure out how to teach children. Obviously what they learn are very simple phrases and vocabulary, but many of my projects for grad school were for adults. Of course I paid attention to whenever stuff for children came up, but not as much.

I tried coming up with my own activities anyways and it started working a bit better. I also discovered a website where many expats (aka foreigners in Korea) upload their materials for the same book and others...waygook, you are my savior! Things got much better from there on.

During my first few weeks, it was like I was a rock star at school. All the children said "hello" or "hi", they bowed, wanted to ask me questions, hold my hand, or simple said "teachaa I love you!"...and actually they still do! hahaha. This is definitely my favorite part so far.

Albeit, sometimes I just want to scream and storm out of the classroom, at the end of the day the little monsters never fail to make my day brighter.

I do feel more comfortable teaching the little ones. I even find myself enjoying the silly games and songs that I prepare for them.

One constant problem is the different levels of English my kids have. In one classroom they range from advanced to beginning level. It's a bit hard to find activities that won't be too hard or too easy...and this is for EVERY class; I have 9 classes.

Another problem is having HUGE classes...now I understand my teachers when they complained about class size. It can get chaotic and a bit overwhelming when you have 30 3rd or 4th graders staring at you or ganging up against you (lol).

I applaud the Korean government for trying hard to get the students to learn English, especially at such a young age; and thanks to this, I have a good job. But teaching a foreign language to 30 little kids will not accomplish much. I have to give my honest professional opinion, kids need 1 on 1 attention because practicing the target key phrases with their partner is as far as they will get. If this is what the Korean government wants, then yes it works, but that's it. Yes, it's a foreign language, not a second language, BUT (and this is a big BUT), from everything I have noticed here in Korea in the education system and society, it feels like Koreans want English to be treated as a second language, but they aren't learning it as such. I don't know if that makes sense, not quite sure how to explain it better...

I am glad now though that I get to teach super basic beginner level English (for children) because it has given me a better foundation for when I start teaching adults. I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go. And I can't wait to one day run into a former student and have them tell me that in some way, even if it's in a tiny tiny way, I helped them.

Lacey: Teachaa....hair, selp?
Me: yes, I do my hair by myself.
Lacey and Sally: Woooooow!
Me: Who does your hair?
Lacey and Sally: Mommy!

...aaaaaaaaaaaawww cutest little girls! These two have now gotten into the habit of following me around. They walk me to my office and hang out with me asking all kinds of funny questions lol.

The last problem I have is that the students do not understand much of what I say. Their English is very limited which makes it harder to explain activities or to discipline them. When I was hired, I was told I was going to have a Korean co-teacher who would help me with this part. But they forgot to tell me that MY school would not be providing one. At first I thought, "Yes! I don't have to share the floor with anybody" (I don't like sharing haha), but I quickly realized that a Korean teacher would've helped a lot because easy commands like "copy, write, read" are hard to get across.

the kiddos coloring ^^

The English I teach is very simple so there is no problem with the students understanding it. The problem is when I want to play games or do activities and I have to explain the instructions. Thus I have to stick to simple (VERY simple) games, and simple activities. And the problem with that is that the students can get a little bored. I have tried harder games/activities, but I end up with blank stares and with half the class not participating or doing what they were supposed to. By the time I explain and model it, they barely have time to do the activity since each class is only 40 mins long.

I'm sure there's more I'm forgetting, but my brain is fried tonight!

PS. Happy Korean Teacher's Day. 
We were presented with boutonnieres and a little flower basket, and the kids sang to us, so cute! Some students gave some gifts and letters which totally made my day!

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