I feel like such an asshole.
I busted three students smoking today. As Coteacher put it, "Liz you are really teacher now!" Ugh. And a hypocrite, to boot.
To be fair though, they were smoking in the stairwell, which is pretty fucking stupid. Granted, few teachers come up that back way, but I happened to come to the bottom of the stairs (from below) just as one student was coming to the bottom of the stairs (from above), and was hit in the face with a wall of cigarette smoke. The student looked a little panicked and then did the only thing that made sense: he pointed upward and said, "Teacher! Student smoking!"
I went up on the landing to find three very recently extinguished butts. When I came back down, the student was gone. I didn't feel the need to hunt him down, as I had no intentions of ratting him out. I went back to the teachers' office and jokingly reported the incident to the other teachers. Can you identify the student? The head teacher asked, with some evident doubt. Foreigners think all Koreans look the same. My coworkers are shocked when I can tell the students apart and remember minute details about them, or can spot who is who's little/older brother among the different classes.
Well, I don't know his name or class number, but if I saw him, I'd know him. He's got braces and, no, he doesn't wear glasses.
Luck was not on this little fella's side today. He walked into the office at that exact moment, in the midst of this conversation. I felt somehow honor-bound. I indicated the guilty party, with some hesitation.
I had some doubts about whether it was him or not -- I had no solid evidence, and wasn't that bothered. However, once he began giving his story to the other teachers, I realized he was playing the The-Weoneomin-Is-Kind-Of-An-Idiot-Who-Doesn't-Speak-Korean-Or-Really-Understand-What's-Going-On card. I decided to let it slide, when he told the teachers that he had come up the stairs behind me, when in truth he had been coming down the stairs in the opposite direction. Let him off with a knowing look instead, and told the other teachers I couldn't remember and wasn't sure.
The other teachers didn't let it drop there, however. They told him to go and get his bag. When he came back, his homeroom teacher found a pack matching the brand found on the landing inside. As I was leaving, two other boys were being pulled in by their ears behind him.
Oops. Teacher is betray.
Saw a movie with the students today during the last half of work (at the theater), as it was a club-activities day. If the movie is in English, I guess it counts. After, I had dinner with Coteacher and she filled me in on some office gossip. It's nice to be in the inner-circle these days, with regards to what's going on in the school. Although Coteacher has a lot of faith in me, and my general handle on things, she's still surprised sometimes by my knowledge about what's going on and about the students in particular.
She told me one homeroom teacher is having some problems with the head teacher, who seems to be picking on her class, punishing them everyday while the homeroom teacher is out of the room. She told me the class number --308. I immediately jumped in -- "308?! They're a good class!"
"Right! I don't know that. I don't teach that class. But that's what I hear from other teachers..."
"309 and 310 have some trouble makers. If it was one of those classes, I would understand, but..."
"Liz! How do you remember that!?"
".... I taught them."
"I'm so surprised about your knowledge of the students! You are really observer."
It's not hard to know when you've got an asshole kid on your hands, to be fair. Or a few in the same class. Asshole behavior extends beyond the language barrier. Believe you me.
At any rate, we're nearing the one year mark and it seems I've finally been accepted into the fold. The other teachers no longer hesitate to speak to me in Korean in the lunchroom, and I do my best to understand and respond in Korean. I have my pet students, just like everybody else, and the teachers bring it to my attention when they misbehave, knowing that I'll be the teacher who's opinion has the strongest bearing on their behavior, and the one who can most easily put pressure on them to straighten up.
There's a new supply English teacher added to the mix, thanks to the new system. Her English is brilliant. She started out the week by introducing herself and telling me we should go out together sometime, because she told her (Korean-American) husband about me, and he suggested that I might be lonely and feeling out of place. I assumed that she had at least some experience in the classroom, and still tend to place myself below all the other Korean teachers in terms of know-how, but she revealed quite a bit to me today, before she sat in on my first class.
She was warning me that the C level (low level) students are quite difficult to engage. She said, even when I speak Korean, sometimes they're just not responsive. An alarm went off in my head -- yes, of course sometimes they're unresponsive. They're teenage boys who are stuck in classrooms all day. They're not always going to be excited to be there, or keen to listen to what it is you have to say. After my class, she came over and told me how shocked she was that I was able to teach the low level boys idioms using only English -- "They really understood! They learned them all, just in one lesson!" I comforted her by telling her that it's just their second week with the foreign teacher -- they're still eager to please and impress me. In two months' time, they won't be so keen. I'll be just another teacher trying to force them to learn something they've no interest whatsoever in.
Coteacher mentioned, at dinner, that she was worried about this new teacher, as she had no previous experience teaching at a public school. I told her the above, and how I was surprised by it, because I have no formal teaching training, and still consider myself quite green. She told me I shouldn't be so hard on myself, and that I should understand that a year in the classroom as a teacher is worth five in the classroom as a student.
The second graders have given my confidence as a teacher quite a beating in recent months, but the first graders are undoing that damage rather quickly. My old main co-teacher from last year has been in the classroom with me for the first time since November, and told me today that my teaching has progressed a ton and that she's really impressed.
I'm extremely lucky to have the co-teachers that I do, based on the stories I hear out of other foreign teachers. Co-teaching isn't easy -- not for us and not for them. But my co-teachers go out of their way to encourage me. And, since I really do look up to them quite a bit, that means a lot.
Anyway, all of this to say that tomorrow I have my observed lesson. I'm quite nervous, but trying not to psych myself out. Coteacher suggested that I should rehearse the lesson with the students ahead of time, as the students are used to this, and it's the norm for demo classes. I don't fancy the idea of boring the students with the same lesson twice, however. And I really want to show that what I do isn't completely worthless -- that teaching in the target language only can be done, and can make a difference. That the students really can learn from their foreign teachers.
I want my observers to see the students actually learning -- not regurgitating what they've already learned. I want to see them making mistakes, and see how I can correct those mistakes, even though I don't speak the students' native language. It's why I chose idioms, which are infamously difficult to teach in the target language, and made sure to go one lesson above the Korean teachers, so the students have absolutely no scaffolding in Korean already in place.
I hope my observers have tolerance for that, and don't expect the usual dog-and-pony show. Things may not go perfectly tomorrow, but I'm going to go in and do what I always do and trust that my students will make me proud.