Today I got to teach alone, which is always nice because the students feel free. In the beginning, that meant free to cause all manners of chaos and destroy any faith I had in myself as an authority figure. Now, it just means free to speak English and free to make jokes in English without feeling like it's "work". Some of the only genuine "conversation" classes I manage is when the Korean teachers aren't around, and the students forget that there are tests and grades involved.
Since my schedule was a big fuckwad of fucked this week, I ended up teaching a couple of classes twice. They ended up being A level third grade classes, which is grand, because their comprehension is such that you don't have to do loads of scaffolding or prep work to make sure each term will be properly understood. Instead, we just practiced giving each other advice. The "advice" lesson is one of my favorites, because it gives me a chance to introduce the boys to the idea that in English, as in Korean, there are different levels of politeness. IE, the difference between, "My advice is to..." and "I think you should..." and "You should...". They cotton on straight away, which is nice. I'm a big fan of good manners, myself. This all started because last year's third grade book was teaching them to give advice by saying, "I advise you to..." I saw that and thought, fucking hell. Imagine if one of them someday turns to a casual acquaintance in the midst of bar conversation and comes out with that line. No good. So. We deviate a bit.
Anyway, there are loads of jokes still flying around from the buzz left over from the middle school stand-off a few days ago. The students know that I'm well aware of the situation and don't approve, so a common theme in today's classes was making anyone from the JJang Crew fill out their worksheet as their problem being that they can't stop being gangsters.
Joo-bong was one of my original 'Special Students' back when he was a first grader. So, of course, he was the first student whose name I learned that year. So he always gets used as an example in class, and the students know he's a bit of a pet of mine. This year with third grade A ban, we're doing something called "The Lottery" -- at the end of the class, they have exactly one minute to look over whatever they've been working on (enough time to glance at key words and phrases, not enough time to end up sounding like robots) and then I call a random class number and that student and his group have to stand up and either answer my questions or speak with each other. I've explained that The Lottery is not a punishment and it's not a test -- it's not meant to humiliate them. It's just so that they stay focused and can practice listening to each other's English, instead of just hearing mine all the time. I hold on to their paper while they're speaking and will prompt them if they get into trouble. It's not about being embarrassed, it's okay to deviate from the script, and it's more than okay to make mistakes. Confidence is the key. And they're to make eye contact while they're speaking. Not look up and to the right.
Well. Of course I managed to call Joo-bong's number, and of course Joo-bong's group made him be the one whose problem was on display. And Joo-bong's problem is that he can't stop smoking, reading adult novels and stealing money.
The first few times we do these exercises, the situation is quite delicate. The students can't get over the idea that I've betrayed them at first by embarrassing them this way, and it takes a while for them to get used to it and just relax. To realize that it really is okay. So, Joo-bong went a bit funny when he tried to say that his problem was that he reads too many novels, and the whole class groaned, and I prompted him to say what his problem really was. I may have pushed a little too hard, for the first time. Joo-bong's not a shy or introverted student in the least, and I didn't expect him to get upset. But he really seemed to. I stopped class for a minute and stepped close to him and asked him if he was really angry. He just looked down with the most horrible expression on his face for a good twenty seconds and I really wanted to die. Then, suddenly, he cut his eyes up and gave out a huge ear-to-ear grin.
He got me. Again.
Anyway, the point is, I don't know if "I read too many adult novels" is going to go over too well with the new co-teacher whose goal for the year is to read the Bible twice in its entirety. But I hope she's not too uptight, because letting the students feel like they've gotten away with something naughty often ends up in us having our best and most fluent classes together. And that's what it's all about, in the end.