I present to you a play by play, some parts more entertaining than others.
2nd period: Class 1-4 is my unofficial favorite first year class for a variety of reasons. For starters, my co-teacher is the beloved homeroom teacher of this class, so there’s great chemistry there. In addition, a handful of my old middle schoolers (who I taught during my first two semesters in Korea) are sprinkled throughout the class, so it’s always fun to see how different they are from their middle school selves. It’s also not 1st period, when everyone is dead, and it’s definitely not 3rd period, when everyone is hungry. These boys know how to joke around, but they also know how to listen and do what I ask them to do.
In my first year classes, we’ve been working through conducting “research” surveys (which will ultimately culminate in a strange rendition of Family Feud in the next few weeks). I give the students topics, they generate survey questions, and then they survey their classmates for answers. These questions tend to be pretty generic, but then this class very randomly asked me to help translate the word “부활” (reincarnation). I later discovered that “bird” is the most popular answer for the kind of animal that the average first year high school student at my school wants to be reborn as after he dies.
3rd period: Class 1-8, who I also appreciate, wouldn’t stop talking about my Adam’s apple. They then promptly decided I was no longer a “girl”. (“You’re a boy, Teacher.”)
5th period: This is where things got rough. Class 1-1 is an eclectic group of boys with a really vast knowledge of pop culture. There’s no class quite like them. But today, a few select groups of students spent more time fooling around than doing the aforementioned survey assignment. By the end of the period, I was still missing several completed survey papers, which meant that I would not leave the classroom until everyone was finished (thus cutting in to their break time). Upon hearing from the peanut gallery in the front row that the students who had not finished were academically the highest ranked students in class, I am sorry to say that something inside of me snapped. I’ve never heard my own voice waver in school (or really, in general), and I’m not sure how many of my own students agreed with me when I angrily told them that “grades aren’t everything”. But I left the classroom to a chorus of “we’re sorry”s. Will it be different next week? Let us hope.
That pretty much killed my energy supply until my next class.
7th period: On Thursdays, 7th period is CA (club, or creative, activity) — a period set aside for extracurricular activities. I teach English discussion and debate for first years during 7th period, which, somewhat apparently yet still sadly, is not the most thrilling CA offering at my school. As a result, my class isn’t filled with advanced English speakers, which makes it difficult to hold detailed debates or discussions. What with it being so close to midterm exams, we decided to play Apples to Apples. It was a pretty mediocre game of Apples to Apples, but my least interested student played some really great cards with grammatically incorrect but funny reasons. So I felt pretty satisfied.
8th period: Although CA is only during 7th period, my CA time extends to 8th period, when I teach English discussion and debate for second years. Although the semester started in March, we’ve never had a full second year English discussion and debate class until today (due to various school functions held at this time). A minor problem? There were more students present than names on my official roster, but I suppose that’s okay for now.
6:10pm: When 8th period ends, dinner begins. However, I had two students waiting to talk to me after class. I was particularly surprised to see the first student, a tall and lanky boy who had studied abroad in New Zealand as an elementary school student and still has the strangest combination of accents ever. After explaining to me how our discussion class was not what he expected, he then suggested that some students set up a separate English debate-only class — and if they set it up, could I teach it?
To be honest, I don’t know if I have enough time to take on an additional night class this semester. (Chances are high that if the students succeed in setting up the class, it will take place after dinner.) But I was seriously floored by the fact that a student approached me, on his own will, to teach a supplementary class.
I honestly don’t know if this class will happen. But it was so bizarre.
6:30pm: By now, I’ve realized that the teacher line in the cafeteria has closed up. But there’s another student waiting for me. What to do? Skip dinner, I guess! (There’s always bread and cookies in the teacher’s office, anyways.) It turned out that this student was frustrated because, as of late, his math teachers keep blowing him off whenever he has questions. (Yes, that’s unfortunate, but midterm exam time means that the teachers are even busier than ever. And I think students often forget this fact.) We had a long conversation about understanding other people’s situations and finding alternative solutions to problems. He left smiling and assuring me that he understood the situation better now.
7:05pm: After he left, I realized that I hadn’t finished preparing for my next “class”, which was the first preparation session for my students who are participating in the Youth Diplomacy and Activism Conference (YDAC) this semester. Wing it, wing it!
7:10pm: Just a few weeks ago, I finalized my selections for a four-student team for YDAC. It was a difficult decision, and I ended up selecting lower level students than I had initially expected, with the rationale that team chemistry and work ethic will trump all else at the end of the day. I’ve been worried, especially after hearing that several ETAs had selected students with vast study abroad experiences, but today’s preparation session reminded me of the reasons why I selected the team that I did. My boys have great balance and great chemistry, and I’ve never been so excited for a school-related event.
YDAC was, and is, a big deal to me this semester. My school is a science-focused high school, which means that there is a lot of allotted funding for science-related programs and that most students opt to follow the natural science-track (as opposed to the social science/humanities-track) starting their second year of high school. Because of this, I wanted to provide some of my best social science/humanities-track students an opportunity to do something unconventional. So I applied for funding from the U.S. Embassy, and with the help of eight other ETAs, have been able to establish this Youth Diplomacy and Activism Conference.
7:30pm: Can too much good chemistry be a bad thing? I doubt it, but I realized the boys were having way too much fun talking about YDAC and losing focus. But their genuine excitement for the conference was so so so gratifying to me.
8:40pm: My boys were unable to solidify and tighten their debate resolution topic by the end of the class period. But they had run through a wide variety of possibilities and shared some great ideas. It seems like they’ve settled on regulating electronic monitoring systems for criminals (particularly sex offenders) on parole, which is totally something that I did not expect from them. But they’ve made plans to discuss this issue with their ethics teacher, and they’ve divided the group work, and it’s just been really exciting to see them making all of these self-driven plans.
As the class period wrapped up, they kept saying things to each other about how they “love stuff like this” and how they “wished they could have classes like this all the time”. (They’re going to love college, I can tell.) We pulled up a calendar to discuss the scheduling of our next preparation session, and they immediately settled on the day after their midterm exam. And the next day. And the day ater that. “Wait, can we actually just meet every day after dinner?”
Obviously, this is logistically impossible. But I am so excited by their enthusiasm for YDAC. This is going to be a great next month and a half.
8:50pm: My co-teacher for my first period class calls me into her office before I can leave school. She says she has a request for our class tomorrow, and my heart sinks because I can tell she’s going to ask that I teach the class on my own. (Once again, it’s midterm exam time and the teachers are exceptionally busy these days.) Normally I don’t mind these requests, but my 1st period class on Fridays is a very large handful.
Instead, she tells me that she’s behind in the textbook, and requests that she take my class and use it as a grammar catch-up session. I can have 1st period off.
Whoa, this happens?!
9:30pm: I arrive at home and am greeted with the smell of burnt plastic. My homestay mother tells me the apartment almost burned down because she left some plastic containers on the stove. Thankfully, everyone is safe and sound.
But it still smells like burnt plastic.