Today was a mixed bag. My male co-teacher has some extremely important thing that is "emergency" that has prevented him from sitting in on my first grade classes this week. Which would be fine if this wasn't the first week the little monsters have been combined back into their normal 40+ classes from their small level-divided classes. Even the classes with Kim Teacher, who strikes fear into the very heart of even the cuntiest of students merely by glancing in their direction, have been a bit rough. It literally feels like being crammed into a cattle car with nigh on fifty drunk and disorderly midgets. I've started every class with centering breathing exercises and explained that I know they're excited, but we're going to have to work together if we don't want Liz Teacher to go crazy and start throwing students out the window. Mostly, it's worked. But god.
We've finished the book and next week is finals, so I revamped my original lesson plan on Monday morning, after finding out about the re-combining thing, to be almost entirely student-centered with close to zero "listening" time. We're playing the "Who is it?" game, but slightly redesigned to prevent total chaos, which is definitely what would have ensued had I handed them a sheet with celebrity names on them and told them to describe them to each other without any scaffolding. Instead, they first work together in groups to name four celebrities and write five clues for each one. Then, they change tables and play the game. They've been surprisingly into it, but the trouble comes in that the different leveled students have become more comfortable with each other over the last few months, so basically the tables are divided into A, B and C level. Which means there are no strong students in the mix to pull some groups along. Which means all of my attention ends up focused in one area of the classroom, leaving the others to quickly disintegrate into chaos without me making the rounds at regular intervals.
My low level second graders, however, are basically eating out of my hand at this point. It's amazing. I have no idea how we've come this far in this short amount of time, but they're calling out the listen-and-repeat drills like a well-trained army unit, and can even focus long enough for me to explain simple grammar points in a way that they can understand. We've had a few chats about how, if they will just trust me and focus, they can understand what I'm saying. I'm your teacher -- it's my job to help you understand. Trust me to do my job. And over the last couple of weeks, table by table, I've finally managed to prove this to them. And now they have the confidence to focus as a class, instead of just assuming they won't be able to understand anything that comes out of my mouth. They're all about getting a teacher high-five these days, and have even started trying to form simple questions in English.
After all this time, I still have these moments, though. When I first became a teacher, I had a hard time not cracking certain jokes. I know that sounds really immature, but I came straight out of a New York City art school culture, where even with your professors, just about anything was fair game. With my nearest and dearest, dirty jokes and inappropriate comments are like a native language. And there are so many opportunities that present themselves in second-language learning...
Well. I'm mostly past that, these days, seeing as the more Korean I've learned, the more I've clued in to how the boys have me totally trumped in this arena already. I can hardly compete. But today I had a moment (nearly almost completely accidentally....) that took me back.
A second grader was trying to explain something slowly in Korean so I could help him translate it into English. I wasn't able to get any part of it, other than the word "고추". Before I could even think to stop myself, I found a cheeky smile creeping across my face, as I looked up at the student and said, "고추 what?" The student's brow furrowed and he stared at his fidgeting hands, setting in to start explaining again in Korean, when suddenly all the other boys at the table looked up to assess the situation. The flustered student took note of this and suddenly it sunk in what I had just repeated back to him, and as the entire table took stock of my face, so help me god I couldn't make the smile disappear. The entire table then collapsed into giggles, while the flustered student's face turned bright red.
Oh, the things the 원어민 has managed to pick up. Bad teacher.