So, I remarked briefly last week about the sudden appearance of three new PE teachers, which seemed quite odd to me as we already have five, and we're well into the school year already. Turns out, they're student teachers. And we've got an English one as well. I'm afraid of her, already.
Mike told me at the beginning of the school year about some 23 year old English teacher who suddenly appeared at his school, all gungho and rarin' to go, giving him 'helpful' advice about how to run his classes. It's odd to feel like an old-hand at this already, but even where properly trained Korean teachers are concerned, we sort of are. Nothing but nothing can prepare you, really, for the reality of classroom teaching -- especially in a middle school, especially with 40-45 students per class. Mike proceeded to report the both abrupt and incremental end to her education honeymoon over the course of the next few weeks. She learned soon enough.
I saw her for the first time today. She was peeking through the window from the hall outside the classroom, while I taught, with a big, enthusiastic grin on her face. When I passed her in the hall, I bowed (as I do to all of the teachers), but she shouted out a loud "HIYEE!" and waved in response instead.
Another strange thing has been happening this week, where, as a result of a few different incidents where co-teachers needed to be called out of my classes, some of the other subject teachers have gotten a peak in at what I do in the classroom. It seems to be a source of infinite fascination. I have to admit, I'd be dead curious what the hell I did for forty-five minutes only in English as well. I still sort of am. I absolutely despise the idea of giving a demo class (which is a distinct possibility, if I stay with my school next year) where all the other native teachers and their co-teachers sit in on your class. But, I quite like the idea of giving an open class for MY fellow teachers at MY school.
They gape in awe when they pass by in the hallways and the students are having conversations with me. They can't, for the life of them, figure out what on earth I'm doing in the boys' classrooms after lunch, sitting around and making small-talk. I'd like for them to see how confident the boys have become, and how capable they are of communicating in English, even if it's just one word at at time -- how we're able to make jokes the whole class can understand and have fairly complicated debates about various issues. And that, even though they, the teachers, doubt their abilities in English too much to speak to me without a co-teacher nearby for translation, the boys are perfectly comfortable doing so at this point.
Even my main co-teacher, who doesn't have any of the sort of typically aghast notions about a foreigner being non-idiotic, was shocked by something last week. We were having lunch, and I was rattling on about how two boys were neighborhood Romeos -- girls were always chasing them down after school, but they would completely ignore them if they saw that I was anywhere nearby. I went on to tell her that the two students also hang out with some high school kids, and had been getting into a little trouble lately. They'd been in a fight with some boys from a neighboring middle school recently, but they had at least won the fight.
She interrupted me -- "Sorry! But... Liz.... can I ask? How do you know all of this?"
I looked up at her in surprise. "The boys told me."
"Oh! ... What? They told you all of that?"
"Third graders?" Our third graders are notorious for having worse English than first and second.
"Wha.... I.... how? High level students?"
I gave her a look that said she should know better. Talking to girls, getting into fights.... no. Not high at all.
Yeah. Hmm. Those third graders are smart boys. Much smarter than some of their teachers give them credit for, sometimes. The second graders may technically know more English, and do better on exams. But the third graders try harder, pay more attention and -- most important of all, in this respect -- view me as an actual human being worth communicating with on a level other than just practicing English. To the second graders, I am the ever-novel native speaking teacher -- a chance to try out their English, and listen to a native speaker respond. For the most part, they don't have the desire the third graders do to communicate actual ideas, and have actual conversations. The third graders may not care about English, but they care about telling me how stressed out they are about exams, or how they have a problem because they like two girls at the same time, or how they had a fight with their mom and don't know what to do. It makes a world of difference. And they are definitely learning more from me because of it.