Thursday, August 30, 2007

Teacher! This is not typical!

The last few days at work, I've been taking over Jane's classes. (Speaking of Jane, she took some really cute pictures of her former/my current students, which you should go look at here). I'm not used to teaching EFL and Jane has a lot of experience with that, so mostly I've been doing my best to follow her style and her plans for the classes until I get more familiar with the materials and more comfortable with the school. Today will be the first day that she's not coming to school to help me out or to give the monthly tests or whatever, but I have been taking on classes on my own throughout the week, a few at a time.

It's a particular challenge for me with the younger students. For one, their English is not as developed as the older classes'. Also, I'm just not used to working with young elementary school kids--like even if they were fluent in English, I'd probably have some trouble communicating. However, I've been doing this teaching thing for awhile and have developed a classroom style that I find most effective for me. While I am trying to ease the students through the transition by sticking with Jane-teacher's class structure for now, one of the second grade students, Billy, said of my review lesson:

"Teacher! This is not typical!"

This cracked me up. I found out later Gwen had taught them "typical" in intensives last month, so that's how he learned the phrase, but for a kid whose English is still in the beginner stages, that's pretty impressive. And adorable.

I tried to reassure him. "That's ok, Billy. I am the new teacher. I am not the same as Jane-teacher."

This seemed to worry him more, but as the lesson went on, he figured out what I wanted him to do (and did it very well), and the whole class was smiles as they left. Maybe that was because I assigned no homework, though... hm...

I am figuring out the materials. The Mega books (more advanced), which were designed in the US, are very similar to the kinds of textbooks (when I bothered with textbooks) I used at Roosevelt (except the focus is on grammar instead of literature). The lessons are designed around principles of teaching that I am familiar with (Bloom's taxonomy; even some more progressive theories like constructivist teaching and a focus on real-world applications), so I've been able to pick up these materials pretty easily. However, the Hop-Skip-Jump series that was designed in Korea is a hybrid of Confucian and Western principles with an organizational structure that at this time, still eludes me a little. I'll admit I feel a bit overly dependent on the teacher manual for this series right now.

I'm confident that within a few months everything will be just fine. The next few weeks will be rough on both students and teacher. But, not to disagree with little Billy or anything, this is quite typical of times of transition in educational institutions.

And now, since it is topical with my post, I bring you another rant about education in the US:

I had a conversation with a teacher back home today about the new online grading application for Roosevelt that I was adamantly opposed to implementing. Basically with the new software, parents are able to check their students' grades as soon as they are posted by the teachers. Theoretically, it will also have real time updating for absences, tardies, and other administrative issues for each class

In many ways, this could be a great tool for parents to check up on their kids' progress. Trouble is that the parents who should be using it the most (because their kids are out back getting high or having sex in their cars instead of attending classes) are the ones who will never check it. Meanwhile the ones who already give their students, themselves, and the teachers who are "lucky" enough to get them in class ulcers with their anal attentiveness to the Harvard-readiness of their precious ("you gave him a B on this paper his second week of high school English! Because of you, he will not get into Harvard!"), will use it as yet another tool for inflicting abuse and neuroticism on whoever they can find who will listen. And so far, it seems, as I suspected, it's become a tool for parents with too much time on their hands to harass teachers about why little Johnny got a 91 on this essay when his friend Suzy got a 92.

I've oft maligned the poorly applied analogy of business for education that fuels NCLB legislation, but apparently teaching is now part of the service industry, didn't you know? Education in the US is no different than business. Just ask our president. He knows how to run things... like businesses and countries. As a teacher, you are here to serve your customers. Whether in the analogy the "customer" is the student, the parent, or the administration at the time really makes no difference. It's all about expediency for the person currently complaining.

And you see now WHY I needed a break from US teaching...

TGIiK (Thank God I'm in Korea).

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