The students have become the teachers.

Over in the other blog (I know.... I'm sorry, Blogspot readers... I've defected a bit) I've been complaining a lot lately about my Korean and about how the new books I bought last week have proven to me that I need to start changing some things in my habits if I ever expect to reach a conversational level. Namely, actually speaking. Today I went through an entire fourteen page lesson, including a page of listening, two short readings and a writing assignment, in the span of forty minutes. I looked up about four vocabulary words in the dictionary. Yet, when I go to speak the sentences out loud, I still have to give it about three shots before it comes out right. These are the results of self-study. The one advantage I have is that my listening also has improved along side my reading and writing, because I am surrounded by the language every day. But it's done absolutely zilch for my communication.

The problem is, when you're studying in a coffee shop (as I do, as there are too many things to distract me at home), you can't speak the dialogues out loud. Because you're already freaking Koreans out enough by hanging out in a coffee shop by yourself for hours every day. You really don't need to start talking to yourself out loud as well.

Of course, Busan is around to pick up the slack, and he enjoys it, because even though he has to stick to certain grammar patterns, it's one of the rare times he can have a higher level of conversation with me in Korean. But it's tiring, and we don't have much time together as things are, already. I don't have a boyfriend to learn the language, and it's not his job to teach me -- I don't want to spend much of the time we are together 'studying'.

Now, I don't study at work. Because that's not what I'm there to do, and also because it's a very distracting environment. Our office is a small one on the top floor, where only three teachers reside, so the students feel free to wheel in and out between classes and during lunch time to make small talk, tell me jokes, ask me questions, just hang out, etc. What I do do at work, in between classes or in downtime, is pull out my book and enter any vocabulary words I didn't recognize in my lesson from the day before into the flashcard app on my phone. So today, when I came back from lunch, the usual crowd was gathered around my desk staring intently at my Korean book.

They were over the moon when I lifted it off the desk, opened it and placed it in their hands. They saw my conjugation practice, my written paragraphs, and my answers to the questions. My wonky handwriting. My grammar and spelling mistakes. But more than that, they experienced me in their native language. Oddly enough, the vast majority of the students who hang around my office after lunch are B ban students who don't speak or understand much English. They speak to me in Korean, with a peppering of English words here or there, and then patiently puzzle out my answers in English amongst themselves until I nod confirmation that they've hit upon the correct translation.

As a general rule, I do not speak Korean to the students at school. A few choice words here or there never hurt, especially with the first graders who I am still training to realize I'm a proper teacher. A well timed "앞에 봐!" can make a shiver run through the classroom. But, for the most part, it is part of my job to require the students to speak and understand English. Especially during class time. However, when they come by of their own volition during lunchtime, I make some exceptions.

So. They got their hands on the book and decided it was time to test me. They started with the questions that were already there. Then, they started to shift off subject a bit, and use the same grammar patterns in the book to ask me questions they really wanted to know the answers to. It's safe to say they were mimicking my own techniques with them a bit. They were doing a great job. And thrilled to bits that they were communicating freely with me for the first time. At one point, I answered in English and got scolded.

One by one, they dashed out into the hallway to pull other friends inside. By the time the bell was ringing to signal the end of the lunch period, there were about thirty students gathered around my desk, shouting out variations of the grammar pattern. Public Speaking in Korean 101.

Head Teacher came into the office around that time and stopped dead in her tracks: "What is going on? What are all of you doing in here?"

I motioned toward the Korean text book the ring leader was clutching in his hands. "I'm giving a speech...."

The bell rang for class and she began shooing the students out into the hall. The four original students smiled as they dodged her swats at the door: "We'll come back again tomorrow to study, Teacher! Chapter three! Be ready!"

Well, I guess that's that problem solved, then.


cdk_me said...
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Anonymous said...

adorable! I'm loving how the roles have reversed. Take advantage of your student's excitement at sharing their language with you. :3 It will make them more confident as well. I look forward to hearing updates on your progress...though I'm jealous. I've run into the same problem as you...my listening skills are doing great, and I can read a lot of my Korean-language comic cooks with ease...but having a real conversation makes me seem like I know nothing at all.

(also I should mention that I follow your blog almost religiously but have not commented yet....hi! <3)