A few months back I mentioned something that sounded like I may be teaching classes minus a co-teacher come the new semester. At the time, this suggestion did not please me, as I was knee-deep in the nightmare after school classes, where things were not going well. My co-teacher also seemed a bit nervous about this suggestion at the time, given the after school class situation. However, once that after school class got turned around, and after camps have gone absolutely brilliantly (first graders, twelve students, no co-teacher, three and half hours a day... not one single problem with communication, behavior or the students being at all unhappy with the curriculum) both I and my co-teachers have a new-found confidence in my ability to handle classes on my own.
It turns out that the suggestion is even more serious than it sounded before. What the co-teachers seem to be ironing out, at the moment, is the idea that I would move down to teaching only first grade, and would, in fact, have my own classes. In the sense that the classes would be split into three, and would rotate through all of the English teachers (including me) equally. This means that, instead of seeing the little buggers for forty-five minutes once a week or every two weeks, I would get just as much classroom time with the students as the Korean teachers. Class sizes would be around 15 each, which is, in my experience, completely manageable, no matter what little turds you may end up with in the mix.
It also means I can forgo second semester with the second graders, half of which seem to have performed a coup in their English classes and taken over entirely (tormenting the Korean English teacher to the extent that my classes have become impossible to teach with her in the room, as the students spend the entire time shouting out abuse at her, and won't settle down and participate in the lesson until she leaves -- I'm not kidding). Which is fine by me. I'll see them again in the winter when they've become pressurized third graders under the ever-watchful eyes of the love-stick-wielding PE teachers, who will be "loving" them enough to guide them onto the correct path to becoming proper, socially responsible Korean "men".
It all sounds a little scary, and I did manage to slip into the conversation that, technically, I'm not supposed to be teaching without a Korean teacher, in case I need to fall back on that argument later. But I'm willing to give this new system a try. It could be better, over all, for all of us. And if this model somehow works, who knows? It could be a great way of better integrating the foreign teachers into the system eventually. Not that I'm not aware that we are not meant to be integrated, overall -- we're supposed to be temporary. But at the moment, they'll never be rid of us, if they don't find a way to use us more effectively.
I've never heard of a foreign teacher being used in this way. I know my co-teacher, who is infinitely more experienced both in language learning and language education than I am, is not a fan of level teaching. She finds that it leaves the lower students behind in the dust. I can't say I've had a chance to form my own opinions yet. I can say that working with levels makes your job as an English-only speaking instructor infinitely easier.
At the moment, I'm occupied trying to teach myself phonics instruction, as I've been handed five kiddos from the third grade who can't yet read English to help along during the summer vacation. So far, I've managed to keep them happy enough by simply doing listening/repeating and then placing cut outs of all the words on the table, having them race to grab the one I say out loud. But they're sixteen years old. They're going to get bored of that fast. If anyone (ahem -- elementary teachers?) has any suggestions for good phonics activities, please feel more than free to leave them here.