Moments from today

This morning I walked into what I thought was my class (at least, it was my class at that time last week!)… then one of the kids said, “Teacher! Social studies.” “Really? Now?” “Yes.” “Oohhh… um, bye!” Whoops. Guess my schedule changed again. At least the kids shooed me out quickly, before the social studies teacher got there and I further embarrassed myself.

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I was given a delightful Korean surprise today regarding my first after-school class. I had been under the impression that it would be only 3rd years, but was informed 1-1/2 hours before class that it was actually 1st, 2nd, and 3rd years with mixed levels – meaning 12-year-olds to almost-15-year-olds, some of whom may speak very little English and some of whom may be nearly fluent. And after-school classes don’t have Korean co-teachers, so it’d be just the kids and me.

Cue frantic tearing apart and rebuilding of lesson plan.

Cue panic.

Cue despair.

10 minutes before my class, a student came up to me in the office (this never happens) and said, “Teacher… you have class?” “Yes.” “Unlock the door?” Cue further panic as I tried to figure out which of my non-English-speaking coworkers had a key to the English Room. Thankfully one of my co-teachers came along and found one, and I got into the classroom on time at least.

The lesson definitely wasn’t as good as it should’ve been, but I managed to keep things running for 45 minutes. The kid who came to get me about unlocking the door turned out to be my only 3rd year today (of the 14 students on the class list, only 9 of them showed up today, mostly 1st years) – hence, he was the oldest in the class and suddenly appeared extraordinarily mature and big compared to the 1st and 2nd years. Since he’s a 3rd year, he’s also been in my regular class a couple times already.

He not only helped me out during the class by translating a bit for the younger ones, helping me read their Hangul names, and volunteering to go first for activities, but afterwards he told me, “Teacher, you had good class. Fun class,” and we actually had a bit of a conversation for a couple minutes. He’s a really sweet kid, but not the kind that stands out during one of the big classes amid the whir of noise and activity that 36 fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds can make. In that environment, the loudest, boldest, and most boisterous kids win out. With this smaller class, I’m really looking forward to being able to talk with the kids more and see their personalities come through.

One other thing I like about the after-school class is there’s a sense of teamwork going on (at least for now) in that it’s just them and me. No translator, no mediator. We have to figure out what the other person is saying together; we have to create our own classroom culture together. It’s challenging, but in a good way.

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Okay, this actually happened a few days ago, but I’ll include it here anyway: as I was leaving school, a group of boys waved, “Hi Teacher!” I waved back; then one approached me and said, “Teacher, I am… handsome guy.” I agreed, repeating “Okay, you are a handsome guy,” which sent him whooping for joy down the sidewalk.

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