Thursday, July 30, 2009

Summer Vacation? Who needs it?!

The first school semester ended on July 15th - a Wednesday - which, were a student in the US, would be cause for celebration. And it was to my Korean students as well - a much deserved vacation! Four long days all to themselves!

Like I've mentioned before, high schoolers in Korea don't really take a break. Ever. Classes resumed the Monday after the end of the semester, albeit on a slightly different schedule. In the morning students attend regular classes with their Korean teachers. In the afternoon, until 6pm, they have "free study" periods, during which they sit silently at their desks and do whatever they can from dying of ennui.

Some students can sign up for "extra classes" in the afternoon, which are offered in the core subjects - English, Korean, Math, Science. First and second graders can go home at 6pm. Third graders (seniors) still stay at school until 10pm.

There was a lot of confusion when it came to my summer teaching schedule. Yoon Soon Young, my main co-teacher, met with all of the English teachers and the Vice Principal over lunch one day to discuss my summer fate. Nothing was decided, and my schedule remained up in the air until the first day of summer classes.

Seventeen students signed up for an extra class with me, to be taught every other day between 2 and 4pm. Expecting them to be advanced students (it was billed as a "conversation class"), I excitedly prepared a 6-session debate course, envisioning lively discussions and heated retorts with spirited students. Alas, it was not meant to be. All seventeen (now 24) students who signed up for my class did so because they thought the study periods were boring. Actually, there was one girl - one - who, when I asked why she signed up for the class, replied "to improve in speaking English." My heart, instantly warmed, fell cold again when I turned around to find that the six boys that joined my class are some of the WORST English students in the school. One kid can barely even say "hello." Seriously.

So I scrapped the debate idea and planned a series of classes on social networking. I've been wanting for some time now to create an excuse to use the store of laptop computers that the English lab possesses. So I signed all of my students up on Facebook, and created my own "teacher" account (Jonny Flimflam) to monitor their behavior. We spent some time friending people, taking pictures and tagging people, editing personal info, and posting links and videos. In 3 days I only had to confiscate two computers! I considered it a success.

Now we're working on a travel agent course, in which they do internet research on a country of their choosing, and develop a travel brochure to present to class. It's not going as well, mainly because many of them DON'T KNOW ENGLISH. Seriously. I gave them a worksheet to find information (population, bordering countries, bodies of water, etc.) and only ONE pair finished it in the hour-and-fifty-minute class (thanks to the girl who actually wanted to learn English). The boys spent time trying to hide from me the fact that they were watching videos or looking up porn or whatever it was they were doing.

Between 4 and 6pm I teach an entire class of first-graders (36 students) for an hour and fifty minutes, without a co-teacher or any guidance or direction at all. We've been doing a movie course :).

All in all it's not a bad gig. Although my teaching hours are the same as during the regular school year (about 20/week), I don't have to come to school until 2. I've been spending the mornings somewhat productively, reading or working out or sleeping. It's pretty grand.

Twelve days to the Philippines!

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