April 7

Have you ever tried to teach a reading portion of a chapter to a group of students who don’t know how to read?

That was my Wednesday.

I broke down the reading into smaller chunks knowing many students at my travel school struggle: I introduced the topic with a real video to stimulate background knowledge; students circled new vocabulary in the text and then wrote definitions by each circled word; students did think pair share with questions about the topic for prereading; students listened to the text, listened and repeated the text, then read aloud as a group; students answered the post reading questions.

I did my best but it was not enough. Many students simply can’t read English and so all these efforts were for naught.

Yana and I discussed at length what to do. She said the school will soon get funding for remedial classes and she’s considering assigning homework to bring kids up to speed.

But it is incredibly tough to teach kids who have already had two to three years of English education but don’t recognize letters.

At the very least the sixth graders did well with think pair share and helped each other fill in answers during post reading. Ultimately, effort is more important than ability. As G once said, “I don’t care if you’re good at English. I care that you’re a good person.”

Yana said she’s been complimenting the classes more and praising their hard work which she thinks helped change their attitude a little. For sixth grade at least.

Fifth grade was a nightmare— rude students, apathetic students, group work that descended into immaturity, and a general sense of craziness that tired Yana and me out.

Yana told me she wakes up early for alone time where she exercises, studies English, and reviews real class demos for ideas.

She said she wants to be an English teacher for a long time but with the rotating school system and yearly reapplication she’s not sure if she will be again. I love that she’s constantly expanding her knowledge which pushes me to keep up with best teaching practices.

At the same time, I think this type of school is meant for a Korean teacher. The Korean government sponsors me to teach conversational English, but if students can’t recognize the alphabet let alone make a sentence, then resources should first be funneled to solve this. I want all students to have access to a native teacher but I don’t have the face to face time or language skills or position of authority or frankly the training to really improve these classes. These problems are beyond my scope as a guest English teacher.

While I love my main school, I’m starting to feel the drag of 22 separate and non-repeating classes each week. With close to 500 students and COVID limitations I feel the gap between us: it’s difficult to form a relationship with kids I see once a week for 35 minutes. All of it makes me think more carefully about the future and what kind of teaching position is best for me.

I definitely want to be wanted— by the school and by the students. I want my skillset to be maximized. I would love to leave when teaching is done. I would enjoy smaller class sizes or higher frequency of the same group. I would like to work with mature students who are capable of high level discussion and projects (compare the sixth grade of my main school to my travel school for example).

For now, I’ll take a leaf out of Yana’s book and keep trying my best.

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