05 September 2008

First Real Week of Teaching

So my first real week of teaching was, in a word, bizarre.

I already related how I spent my first day essentially doing nothing. I hammered out my schedule and planned a little, but I had no classes. From nine to five, I sat there and diddled around with my computer or chatted with my co-workers. Not the most strenous experience.

Tuesday was my first day at 븍, however, and I didn't know what to expect. The school is larger than 상암, but not anywhere near as big as 상벙. What would this mean to me, as their only 원아민산상님 ("native-speaker-teacher")?

As it turns out, the school had different plans than I ever could have imagined. As soon as I got to the place, I was herded stright onto a big rumbling bus already packed full of kids, and handed a nametag. I soon discovered that the school paid for some new students (and in my case, new teachers) to go on a tour of the city to see some of the landmarks. Two other 원아민산상님 were there as well as some Korean teachers and forty kids. I was partly a teacher - helping out with crowd control, scolding them, helping with translations - and partly a new student, looking at where we were going.

We went to some places I had already been, such as 어덩다 ("Odongdo," a large seaside park and parade ground), but also several places that were new to me. I had been wanting to see 진남갼 ("Jinnamgwan") for weeks, since it was one of the most famous places here. For centuries, it was the seat of Korea's naval authority, and housed the ever-famous Yi Soon Shin (whom they worship in Yeosu). As it turns out, the original building was destroyed and rebuilt a couple of times, and right now it's just a roof on some supporting poles. Kind of a letdown. But very historical, so I felt educated when I went to the mini-museum with its tiny animatronic representations of battles between the virtuous Korea and scandalous Japan.

Another place we visited was Ocean Park (I didn't catch the Korean name for it), which memorialized Hendrick Hamel, a Dutch sailor. Hamel and his crew had been sailing to Nagasaki when their ship was caught in a storm. They were shipwrecked in Korea, and held prisoner for fourteen years thereafter. The last four of those years were in Yeosu, and it was from here that he and his crew eventually escaped by stealing a boat. Back in the Netherlands, he wrote and published his diary of his imprisonment - the first time Europe had ever learned of Korea. Modern-day Yeosu has thanked him by putting a small representation (50% of actual height) statue at the spot where he escaped, and hails it as a tourist attraction.

I'm not sure how many people grasped the irony that they were memorializing and lauding their people's unjust imprisonment of this man. C'est la vie.

Wednesday, Thursday, and today I have spent actually finally teaching some classes. I have adopted essentially the same approach with every class, with the only difference being changes in some of the levels of complexity. I introduce myself, draw a map of America and indicate Florida, tell how tall I am ("Whooooooaaaah!" from all students), and tell my age. Then I field some questions. Without exception, I am asked if I have a girlfriend, what sports I like, and what food I like. I throw out whatever Korean I happen to know about given things, which impresses them and makes them hesitant to talk about me while I am right there. Gotta keep them in line. Luckily, I know many food words and pronounce them very well. And finally, I have them all introduce themselves with a few English phrases ("My name is _____. It is nice to meet you.")

After that, it's your standard "What I Did Over Summer Vacation" thing. I take their answers and have them speak in sentences, etc, etc. Throughout the whole of the class, they giggle and point at me.

At 상벙, my home school, I teach first through fourth grades. But at the other two schools, I teach all grades. In fact, I teach every student. I have found that first and second grades are impossibly rambunctious unless you get them on the right track by making them seek approval. Whenever a student in those classes answers a question in correct English, I pull a goofy face, raise their arm up, and declare in a funny but impressed voice, "The winner!" Halfway through class, they had stopped horsing around and were paying intense attention, hoping to be the next one declared the winner. I felt some pride at figuring this out until I recalled that they were in the first grade, and perhaps that wasn't setting the wit bar very high.

Next week I will have to begin on the curriculum. I have outlines of vague concepts I am supposed to follow, but otherwise it's up to me. It will be a relief to have a course to follow, since flying by the seat of my pants is getting old.

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