Curriculum Challenges

Month 2 and I still find I just don’t have the time or resources to teach my students all that they should know. Planning for my travel school has become an exercise in frustration.

Here’s an example—

At my travel school, I teach one of the three classes fifth and sixth graders have per week. This week sixth grade starts chapter 3. Chapter 3 has vocabulary like “Earth Day, field day, concert”.

Oh, and the kids are also supposed to already know all twelve months and the ordinal numbers first to thirty first. Was there any chapter that taught that? No. Did they learn months and ordinal numbers in fifth or fourth or third grade? Also no.

This book assumes the students already know the months or assumes that I can teach the chapter vocabulary along with the twelve months and the days of the week across one chapter. More likely the former is true and this book series assumes all the students attend private English classes and thus doesn’t bother to go over the basics. I had the same problem in Seoul. I remember when the vice principal told C and me that “the kids are not good at English”. Of course that really meant, “the kids don’t attend private classes to they aren’t on level with the national curriculum”. Isn’t that rather a reflection of us as teachers? I thought at the time. Teachers at other schools have echoed the sentiment and as someone from a country where all learning takes place at school, I find it sad that students are expected to take additional classes just to be at level.

That any curriculum would assume prior, private learning outside the national public curriculum is a disservice to all students.

At my travel school, I have one 40-minute period with these students for chapter 3, and a majority of them can’t read. What in the world am I to do?

The curriculum is so frustrating.

A similar situation plays out in my main school, but nearly all the students have attended private English classes since they were young. At private academies they learn grammar rules and vocabulary which is something neither school book series does. The school books are written on sentence pattern memorization. I’m surprised my sixth graders knew how to even make a sentence with a pronoun outside of “I’ since the books gloss over verb conjugation for he/she/it/they/we/you.

I joked with my friend Rachel that the textbooks are written like: day 1, ABC. Day 2, Go straight then take a left at the grocery store.

I struggled with this in Seoul and I struggle with this here. With one 35 to 40 minute class per week with my students, I’m at a loss of how to improve this situation when really the national curriculum needs to be changed.

Since I am not the government, I’ll do my best to expose students to native English and make classes that leave them with happy memories of English– they’ll need that for the future when the college entrance exam prep sucks all joy from learning a language.

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