This morning when I went up to my classroom to turn the heater on and start setting up for my first class, I found nothing but a dusty pit full of construction workers smoking cigarettes and wielding sledgehammers, smashed windows, walls in the process of being torn down.
Luckily, Mr. Lee was in the office today and, although he was being inexplicably mousy about his English again, I managed to explain what the situation was so he could explain the situation to the VP, who doesn't speak English.
I learned about two weeks in not to ask unnecessary questions at work. Or anywhere, really. It just causes more confusion and rarely results in an actual answer. So. I don't know what's going on or why no one thought I needed to know about it. I just followed Mr. Lee to an office on the fourth floor, where only about half of the boys eventually showed up. An office, I would like to add, with no computer, no projector and -- worst of all -- no board.
So. Let's assess this situation, shall we? Me. The students. No coteacher. No computer for powerpoint presentations. No board to even write anything down.
I did my best "aigoo" and explained to the boys that, given the circumstances, we were really going to have to work together and they were going to have to listen very very carefully. They nodded, their little eyes brimming with sympathy. Poor Sunsengnim.
It doesn't help that Sunsengnim has not had very much sleep this week.
Somehow, working together, we pulled it off. It was nice, actually, to have the boys in a smaller setting. It worked wonders for getting the first class talking more quickly. The second class went back to ice cube mode today for some reason. We got through the first worksheet okay, and moved on to the second, which required actual personal answers, rather than just filling in the blank. These worksheets are actually a ruse, if you want to know.
Let me explain. Today, at lunch, Mr. Lee asked to see my materials -- what I was working on with the boys. I showed him the first worksheet which was based around articles -- when to use "the" and when to use no article, specifically (no "a/an" -- it's too much for these guys at the moment). He gasped and said, "But is very hard! They cannot know this! I cannot do this!"
I know it's hard, I told him. But it's really very simple to start with. You simply think in terms of "all" or "some". Which is easy enough to explain to the boys without translation. If you can put "all" in the blank, you leave it blank. If you can put "some" or "one" in the blank, you use "the". Simple as that. And the boys had no trouble at all, once I had walked them through the first three using the "some/all" analogy.
To wit: "____ milk is on the table. Is ALL of the milk in the ENTIRE WORLD on the table?"
"Is SOME milk on the table?"
"So what do you write?"
"______ milk is good for your bones. Is ALL of the milk in the ENTIRE WORLD good for your bones?"
"So what do you write?"
After that you just explain that other "the"s in the sentence are a big clue that you should use "the", although this isn't always true, and that "always" and "never" are words that usually mean no article.
When I showed him the second worksheet, he all but fell over. It consisted of several phrases that mean "It makes me angry when..." and then a bunch of places for them to write in what makes them angry with various kinds of people/in various situations.
"No no no! No way they can do!"
That's when I explained that a lot of the worksheets I give are actually a cover for conversation practice. These lower level students are absolutely in no way capable of filling in entire blanks with full sentences. So, what happens? They start asking questions. And they have to do it in English. They ask about the words they don't understand, and ask for examples of what they should write -- and they have to listen carefully to my answers (in English). Eventually, the entire class is having a conversation (in English) about what makes them angry. And they don't even realize it. If I were to stand in front of the class without handing out a worksheet and say, "Okay, now we will have conversation about what makes us angry," there would be nothing but the sound of crickets. And it would get us absolutely nowhere. But when they think they are getting away with not doing their worksheets on their own, it's a different matter, altogether.
The second class wasn't having it today, though. They just stared at me with big apologetic smiles and didn't move a muscle. "Oh my God, guys. What is wrong today? Okay, we will take a break. Break, now. After, we will come back to this."
We played One Card during the break, and I had the opportunity to bust out several of my little Korean expressions. When we first started playing together, everyone went out of their way not to hit Sunsengnim with the aces or the jokers. But after Sunsengnim started sighing and muttering in Korean, it became a task to see how often they could hit me with, "Sixteen card now. Teacher take."
Very funny, guys. "Aigoo, chincha! Six worksheets tomorrow!"
In response, they started throwing out various English slang. "Hey man! Oh my God!"
After the game, which conveniently took only fifteen minutes (two boys out of cards, the others holding two or three, and Sunsengnim with most of the rest of the deck), I said, "Okay! Now!" I slammed my fists on the table. "Come on guys! What makes you angry?"
It worked. They chattered on for the next thirty minutes. It bothers them when the teachers hit them, it annoys them when their best friends take their food, and it bugs them when their neighbors play Go Stop (they can hear it through the walls).
Next was a game that involved putting nouns with verbs to form sentences. One particularly adorable kid was teamed up with the afternoon smartass. The adorable kid is the lowest level kid I have, and if I had to guess, I would say he's also probably a touch ADHD. He's bright -- really bright -- but he's not altogether mentally present a lot of the time. I was sitting back eavesdropping to make sure there was no, "Jane. Make." going on instead of what they were supposed to be doing, which was forming sentences, like "Jane makes hats." For some reason, the adorable kid got stuck on "Ken" and was repeating "Ken" with every verb, over and over. The smartass kid eventually had an outburst in Korean in the form of a question which contained both "Ken" and "what" (in Korean), which caused me to completely lose my composure.
After that, the last ten minutes of class consisted of using the game to try to make the teacher laugh, including an entire round of "Sara likes kill," "Sara makes kill," "Sara plays kill".
Sara likes to kill.
Sara makes people dead.
Sara plays... at killing?
But suddenly, again, they were far more interested in actually using English.
So, although I now have no lesson plans, no coteacher, no computer, no classroom and no blackboard.... well. I guess it's still possible.