The Real First Day of School
So Monday officially marked my first day standing in front of classes and talking. I made a PowerPoint about myself and a jeopardy game asking questions to see how much they understood and actually remembered. For the most part, it went as expected. Something I wasn’t expecting though, was how low the student’s speaking level actually is. It’s loooooowww. Many of the students can barely string together more than 1 or 2 words at a time.
If we are judging by my PPT intro and the jeopardy game at the end, I can assume that about half of them understand more than they can speak/express. The other half are all just completely lost in the sauce. And when I asked one of my classes how they feel about learning English, almost all the students admitted to not even liking English, so that’s great. So for all the classes after that, I changed the question. I told them all to tell me at least one thing they want to learn in English class. The results were much more encouraging.
It’s so easy for me to expect so much from the kids but I guess that’s just because I am new at teaching. I imagine all of this student participation and enjoyment when really, almost everyone is terrified to even open their mouths to speak. Then when they do, I have absolutely no idea what they are trying to communicate to me because their pronunciation is so terrible…
And when I ask them to repeat themselves they get painfully embarrassed and become silent. Even one of the teachers I share an office with, she has a very basic command of English. One day she started talking to me, but I wasn’t prepared, and she spoke so quietly that I didn’t actually hear what she said to me. I asked her to repeat it and instead of repeating it she waves her hands and shakes her head while turning red in the face and says, “Sorry. Not good at Engrish.”
Meeting my other two co-teachers has been a pretty good experience. I have three of them. One is a male, one is a female that looks to be around my age, and one is an older woman who told me that she will only be with me for a week before she leaves for some type of teacher training for the rest of the school year. I can understand attending teacher training but…what type of teacher training takes 4 months and why isn’t anyone else going?? But anyway, I will be getting a new co-teacher. I hope she is just as nice as my current teachers.
This will be a very interesting year, to say the least. It’s only been three days since the kids have seen me for the first time. I hate extra attention so I am kind of just waiting for the novelty of having a new foreign teacher to wear off. But when I walk around, the kids literally just stop everything they are doing and stare. Sometimes when I pass a crowd of them I’ll hear a kid shout “HELLOOOO TEACHEEERRRRR!” In that case, I will turn and find the random hand waving like it’s about to fall off. My main co-teacher told me it will take about a week or two for the fascination to wear off.
My 1st year classes are quite small, ranging from 8 to 10 kids and my 2nd year classes are large, containing 20 to 26 kids. I will admit I have some worries about teaching here simply because the kids just don’t understand me when I speak. Even when I think I’m speaking in simple language, they don’t understand. When there is no other way to describe something (“I am from Delaware”), they still don’t understand. 10 kids at a time that don’t understand is burdensome enough. But 25?? Yikes…
So far my 1st year kids are the absolute best! Half are really chill (but still talk when needed) while the other half are active and fun and it’s great. As for my 2nd years…I don’t know. I’ve only had two classes. One class was definitely better than the other but the difference between the two grades is startling. Grade 1 kids speak whenever they see me and are willing to participate in class even when they are embarrassed because they know it’s all for learning and fun. All the grade 2 kids want to do is sleep or stare in a mirror while combing their hair. Getting them to even answer a single question is like pulling teeth. I’m hoping the last three classes I have with them prove to be a bit better or else it’s gonna be a looonnnnggg year.
But to sum it all up, I think I’m fairly pleased with my main school placement. The kids are generally good. The staff is also nice and quite a few of the English speakers are pretty inclusive even when they can only talk to me in short bursts of English.
Today I have a teacher’s dinner that I have to attend. I have a vague memory of my main co-teacher mentioning it but I honestly don’t remember. This should be very interesting lol. I don’t speak a word of Korean other than my memorized self-introduction of “My name is Celina. I’m from the US. Nice to meet you”. I’m praying they don’t make me say it in front of the entire table.