Well, I guess I did enough whinging on the internet the last couple of days that my nearest and dearest decided to pipe up en masse today to let me know that they're around. I'm satisfied. And feeling a lot better.
Today I also got a gift from one of Coteacher's homeroom students -- the class I'm obviously closest with. Jell-o! Strawberry. His aunt sent it from America and he shyly gave it to Coteacher to pass on to me, after consulting with her to make sure that I wouldn't think it was strange. Coteacher assured him, "She's American! It will maybe remind her of her childhood. It is a very good gift." When I went down to find him this morning and thank him, he acted like a total goose, hiding behind his friend, turning red and refusing to talk to me. Boys.
The students were WAY too amped up today, thanks to the physical tests they'd endured for the better half of the morning. I did my best to speed through the sit-still-and-listen part of the lessons, so we could get on to the part where they can talk and run around and be active. They are so completely full of joy and energy. Of all the things I'm thankful for this past year, they are definitely at the top of the list.
Today, at lunch, Coteacher told me that some of the third graders had been talking comparisons between me and the former foreign teacher. Of course, being a closeted extremely jealous person, my ears pricked up. She said that all they remembered about her was that she always carried around a 1.5 L bottle of Coca-cola (which, oddly, I've heard from other teachers before...), never took a single bite of Korean food, and that she was constantly calling them stupid. Well, what they said was that she called them stupid, and then clarified with the fact that she often said, "Why do you do such stupid things?"
Coteacher explained that they were quite offended about this, and that she tried to explain to them that she maybe didn't mean that they were stupid, but just that they are always running around, wrestling, touching each other, screaming and giggling. To her, being accustomed to Western students of the same age, the behavior maybe came across as quite childish. Their answer to this was, "Yes, but Liz Teacher never thinks we are stupid. Liz Teacher likes us." Insert ridiculous Korean emoticon ^^ thing here. I am the winner. Thank you.
It just goes to show that no matter what our impressions are, our students are extremely sensitive to our opinions of and behavior toward them. Which is why it makes me upset when I hear about foreign teachers who treat their students like a job, and nothing more. It's been over a year since that foreign teacher was in the school, and she only taught those boys for a month, yet they are still talking about this with some evident sensitivity.
In that same vein, I've had my low level second graders again this week and we keep moving further and further ahead together. This week, I decided to push them a little bit, even though, with the lower level boys, this can have some disastrous results if they aren't able to eventually succeed. They are so dead set on believing that they can't.
This week has seen me on my knees -- literally. This has a strong effect, because it's the position the teachers put the students in when they have done something that they must be shamed and apologize for. But I've found it's extremely important to get as close, physically, as I can to these students, and put myself in a physical position where I'm looking up into their eyes, rather than standing over them. It's the only way to get them to focus and stop looking off any other place that they can to avoid having to speak in English. Then, just slowly pushing for an answer to a simple question -- a question that they can understand through watching my body language alone. I won't settle for not getting an answer: "What time do you go to bed? No. Look at me. What time (watch pointing) do you go to bed (miming sleep)? (Writing in their books) 10 o'clock? 11 o'clock? 12 o'clock?" They will eventually point to a number. "11 o'clock! You go to bed at 11 o'clock? Me, too! Good job! High five! See? You can do it. Teamwork. We can do it, together. 우리는 같이 수있어요. 맞아요?" A big shoulder rub and they're all grins.
It's okay, guys. It really is okay.
I also got into it with some of my B level first graders today, who were being all goosey and shy. We've been voting on the number one robot in each class, and to stop the nonsense that was going on with unpopular boys getting low scores, and the class kings getting high ones, and to also increase the class participation of the activity, and require them to speak somewhat spontaneously, I instituted a rule that if you gave 5 points, okay. If you gave 4 points, okay. If you gave 3 points, you had to give one reason why. If you gave 2 points, you had to give 2 reasons why, and if you gave only 1 point, you had to give 3 reasons why. Because some of the students were way in the back, I couldn't hear their reasons the first time, and once I said, "What?" it was back to the typical shut-down response.
"Guys guys guys guys. Listen. This is important. (Whispering)Can you hear me right now? Can you understand what I'm saying. (Back to teacher voice) Did you understand?"
"Why? Because I speak bad English?"
"Haha Teacher no!"
"No? Why not then?"
"Teacher voice very small!"
"Right! And when you speak English, sometimes you get shy. And your voice is very small, too. And then I can't hear you. It's not bad English -- your English is very good! But I can't hear you, sometimes. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
"Haha yes Teacher!"
"Okay. So. When I say, 'What?' don't get all shy and go (hiding my face in my jacket). Okay?"