I just finished the first day of my second week of teaching (yes, on a Wednesday thanks to Chusok ), so that means there was a first week of teaching that happened, well, last week. Convoluted syntax aside, it was definitely an eventful week — especially since I have 23 different classes a week. Twenty-three classes each with roughly 30 students — most of whom have only Korean names — means that I will never know their names. It’s kind of sad really.
I have five third-grade classes, six fourth-grade classes, five fifth grade classes and six sixth grade classes. While it sounds like a handful (and in some aspects it is), I only have to make one lesson plan for each grade per week, and on three of the five days of the week, I have three hours after classes to lesson plan. It’s not easy being me, though.
I’m kind of a rock star around this place. The first day I was here, the principal introduced me over the announcements — the same announcements they do on closed-circuit television. From what I’ve heard this is a very common occurrence, and that means all the kids know who I am before I’ve ever met them. They’re always excited to see the new teacher to whom they can say “Hello!” and practice their English. Well, most of them do. The girls often just say “Hi!” and giggle incessantly.
The first set of third- and fourth-grade classes went pretty smoothly. Those classes are really easy because the students don’t understand most of what I’m saying (think back to your first couple of years of foreign language class), so the Korean co-teacher directs most of the class and works mostly from the book and accompanying CD, which results in annoying songs being stuck in my head. Then Wednesday arrived along with my first fifth-grade class. My fifth-grade co-teacher and I don’t share an office, so we didn’t quite plan a lesson before the class started. I figured she would ease me into it with the CD and book like the other teachers.
After I finished my Powerpoint presentation about myself, I looked at her…only to see her looking back at me. Fuck. After an awkward second, she finally whispered to me that she was expecting me to lead the class and she would translate instructions or ideas the students didn’t understand. I had to improvise the activities for the rest of class. It’s not something I would recommend to any teacher, but I was much better with the rest of my classes since I already knew what to do from the first class.
Sixth graders, however, are the bane of my existence. The Korean school year starts in the spring and ends in the winter, so this is their last semester of elementary school. They simply no longer care. They’re loud, obnoxious, and don’t like English. It’s frustrating.
The entire staff, not just my co-teachers, have made the transition rather easy. On Tuesday, I went with them on an annual staff outing to a grape farm then to a beach 1.5 to two hours west of Seoul. We all had a good time, and all the teachers who spoke any English were very welcoming. The ride home included the treat of noraebang (don’t say “karaoke” because it’s Japanese, and Koreans hate the Japanese) by my, um, rather inebriated principals and co-workers. I might or might not have sung Britney Spears’ “Toxic” on the bus, and I’ll leave it at that.
All in all, the school has been great, and I’m sure it’ll get better once I get into my after-school classes, which are smaller and have students who are smarter and a little more eager to learn. Goodness knows that I’ll be learning just as much right along with them.