April 14, Teaching Methods

Yana told me every week the teachers meet with other teachers in their collective sphere to discuss best practices.

Apparently the science teacher, who is also head teacher in charge of the school’s curriculum, wrote the book on teaching. Quite literally, he wrote a book. If my Korean were above a first grader’s I would read it.

My travel school may be socioeconomically similar to my former Seoul school, but the staff of each are different. In Seoul it seemed like a lot of teachers were biding their time until they could rotate out to a better school after their five year contracts ended.

Here the teachers are well aware of the situation– below level national test scores, various types of economic and social challenges, family hardships– and make strides to better themselves for the sake of their students.

At least, that’s what Yana and I have seen in sixth grade, especially 6-2, who is lead by the “youngest person at school”. One of the boys from the orphanage who had a hard time took it upon himself to write vocabulary and translations in his notebook during class. Of his own volition! And his handwriting is really good on top of that!

His friend is still out in the weeds but does seem a little more motivated. Yana sees them three times a week and can better diagnose their improvements but I can agree that 6-2 has especially brought their A-game to class, even if their background knowledge isn’t all there.

“I want to ask the 6-2 teacher what his secret is.” She wondered aloud on our after-lunch walk.

The classes went surprisingly well today given how tough it was to plan. We bemoaned the book’s wild expectations and decided to make next week’s class a review on the twelve months only.

Yana picked me up in the morning and also dropped me off in the evening. She missed my exit as she told me what the subject teachers had discussed in their meeting.

“And he showed us three clips. The first teacher taught well but didn’t understand her students. The second was kind but boring. The third had no rapport with her kids.” The science teacher/author had asked the teachers to think about what type of teacher they were and how they can improve. It was reminiscent of a lot I learned from my teaching license coursework. And G. We need to build a relationship with our students and engage from both sides.

“I’ve memorized almost all of fifth and sixth grade,” she noted proudly, “but I don’t know third and fourth grade well. There are too many students.”

I know maybe three of my students. There are so many that I gave up memorizing until after COVID. I know this is lazy.

Maybe I can memorize the 80 students at my travel school and get a few names from my more outgoing kids at the main school.

At this point I spend too much time planning but haven’t got the hang of it all yet. Yana asked if I work on planning at home like she does. I don’t and the honest reason is because I’m not the main teacher and I don’t have a main teacher’s salary. Working on lesson planning for more than the 3-4 hours of office hours would say more about my poor time management than dedication.

But a message came through on the group chat– one high school needs a foreign teacher to give English instruction to a small class of ten once a week. For two hours the pay is one hundred dollars.

I jumped at the chance for extra gas money and also the chance to work with high schoolers in such an ideal environment. Unfortunately, I was five minutes late to the chat and became the second understudy.

There should be another opportunity to coach high school English debate teams, but with COVID that has been pushed to an undetermined date. Like nearly all things with COVID.

I’ve enjoyed the scant opportunities I’ve had to teach teenagers in the past, and I hope I can get more opportunities to broaden my teaching experience in the near future.

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