So I've been startling adjumas in a different dong these last couple of days, as I've been doing "teacher training" at another school. It is actually called "teacher training", by the way, but no one (neither the student teachers, nor the teacher teachers) seems to know what we're actually meant to be doing. It was nice to meet a few other native teachers who showed up with the same what-the-fuck mindset as myself -- commiseration is important, so long as it doesn't begin to border on misery loving company.
Anyway. Ah. You know me. I kick and scream nine miles to hell before having to admit, once again, that I really like what I do -- under almost any circumstances. I started each class by once again undermining the popular education mindset that it's a terrible mistake to lay all your cards on the table. I explained that I wasn't entirely sure what I was supposed to be doing, but I had some of the things I did in class with the boys with me, and had also prepared a conversation class, and which would they like to do? The answer in all classes so far has been, "Both!" Then I explained that I have only been teaching in Korea for three months, that this was my first time teaching teachers, and I was a little bit nervous.
In between classes, I heard a lot of bitching from the native teachers about how cold and uncooperative the other teachers were in their classes, and that really scared the hell out of me. I'm by far the least experienced native teacher doing this ridiculous workshop -- if the others were having trouble, what was I in for?
But it hasn't been so in any of my classes so far, and I supposedly had the worst one this morning. There were a lot of cold hard stares for the first half hour, but after we got going, they warmed up quite a bit and conversation was rather forthcoming.
In my first class, I walked in to be greeted by "Wah!"s and a little huddle of Korean whispering. Uh... whatever. I'm going to go get a cup of coffee. When I came back in, one younger male teacher stood up and said, "We think you look like rock star!"
Haha. Well, I try.
Actually, it was fourteen fuck-off degrees when I left my apartment this morning, so I bypassed any allegiance to professionalism and went with a thermal shirt/hoody/bomber jacket/scarf combo. Fuck it. I'm not spending the morning freezing my ass off in a button-down while the other native teachers are sporting university sweatshirts.
The same teacher approached me during the break and said that he was really impressed. Let me back up a minute and explain that the most common thing I hear about the material I use in classes (child and adult, alike) is that it is too difficult. When I handed out the articles I brought in for discussion, sounds of panic began to ring out around the room. But I'm not going to let anyone flounder. The point of teaching a class, as I see it, is not to repeat things the students already know, but to make sure that, whatever material you are working with, they are able to handle it by the end of the class.
These teachers just do not have enough faith in themselves, or their English abilities. At all. And this is one area I know my way around extremely well -- I have worked through Nietzsche with university students whose English was lower level than some of these teachers. If you can teach Nietzsche in a foreign language, you should be able to teach anything. News articles are nothing to panic over.
After we read the article through once, the teachers pulled out their electronic dictionaries and started to translate. They protested at first when I insisted on going on with my explanation instead, but aren't we all being pushed to teach in English only, and to drop translation out of the equation as much as possible? I don't always see how this is possible with my boys yet, but with teachers, it's no problem at all.
Anyway, the teacher said that he was very surprised to find he could understand everything I explained. "When you talk about a word, it's like I see... a picture. What did you study at university?"
"Oh! I think you have a gift with words. You are able to say the right words to explain. I think you have natural talent for teaching language."
Oh man. Can I keep you in my pocket? What an enormous (and much needed) ego boost.
He went on to say that this was his first year teaching, and he finds it quite difficult and has a lot of doubts about his ability. He said he thinks the best thing for him to have more confidence would be to have more conversation with native speakers. I asked if they had a native speaker at his school, and he said yes, but he was very old and conservative and not much fun to socialize with.
I held my tongue. I'm being more careful these days about seeing little things like this as opportunities to form a social network -- it hasn't been working very well so far. After class, he approached me again and said that he hoped he would see me and talk to me more. I said, simply, that I hoped so too, and left without offering my number. If he wants it, he can ask for it.
I know, I know. But just ask Mike -- I did the right thing.
Anyway, I've had a great time in these classes so far. I get a sick thrill out of watching the teachers go from being mortified at the length and difficulty of the articles to having full-fledged lengthy discussions and debate on the subjects. There is nothing I love more in life than meeting and overcoming a challenge.
The truth is, I should probably be teaching adults. But I'm not willing to give up on the kids yet. I have a lot to learn -- that much is certain. But I had just as much to learn when I started teaching adults nearly three years ago. I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning, and I'm sure if you asked some of my first adult students, they would tell you I was the worst teacher in the world. But over time, I learned how to do it. I'm just as determined to make this work with the kids. Which is why much of my vacation in Paris will consist of sitting at cafes and reading up on TEFL theory and methodology (as well as studying Korean).
Which reminds me -- there is much still left to do with the day. I suppose I had better get going.