friday, again

Last week was one of the busiest weeks of my life.

Something about sitting down with 60-100 kids per day for five days in a row is just exhausting. Particularly when the weather is stiflingly hot and humid.

I had 45 minutes to test each class of 18-25 kids, and the bigger classes always ran straight through the 10-minute break time and into the next class period. On Thursday, because I have three classes in a row after lunch, I literally conducted tests for 3 hours nonstop, one class running into the next, no time to collect my thoughts. Towards the end all my expressive facial muscles were dead, my brain was dead, and I felt nauseated by the thought of asking “What do you think about English?” one more time.

Then I spent the next 3 hours after that reviewing the recordings and checking every score, entering it into a spreadsheet and checking each class’s mean, median, mode, and number of perfect 100s against the other classes. Overkill? Maybe, but I want to be fair and I’m also paranoid about my co-teachers being skeptical of my grading decisions. (For some reason some of them think it’s sketchy if one class has a significantly higher average or receives many more perfect scores than other classes. As if it’s impossible that one class could have a collection of smarter/higher achieving/hardworking/well-prepared kids.)

I went home at 6 or 7 p.m. every day, exhausted and brain-dead. almost.

So you can imagine I was in no mood for writing blog posts.

And you can also imagine that this post will be extra long due to my longish blogging hiatus.

This week was better. We were back to the normal routine, but the kids seemed refreshed by having had a “break” from normal class (if you can call it that).

Some of my CTs gave them the speaking test results in my class time, and of course some students were disappointed. It’s hard because on one hand, I was really happy with my scoring this year; for the first time, I felt that my grading was really consistent and fair. I was also stricter, and there were only 3-5 perfect 100s in each class. But on the other hand, I hate to see some of the mid-level ones get discouraged. The lowest levels expect a low grade, but the mid-level kids reach higher and often can’t understand why their score is 80 or 85 instead of 95 or 100.

In other news this week:

– Discovered that Korean students are (surprise, surprise) on the whole really savvy with world geography type stuff. I’ve been teaching tag questions to the 2nd graders (you know what tag questions are, don’t you? we use them often, don’t we? but we don’t really think about it, do we?), and we’ve been playing world geography trivia (re: continents, countries, flags, money etc) to have them practice. (e.g., Q: “What country is this?” A: “That’s (country), isn’t it?”) It’s Jeopardy style, so they get to risk harder questions for a chance at more points and occasionally hit the daily double and bet their points (we don’t call it betting, since gambling is totally illegal in Korea). They love it.

And again, I was impressed by the ease with which they identified most countries, continents, and flags (I’m not so sure American middle schoolers could measure up). It was especially cute when one of the really low level boys was getting every answer right (even when it was another team’s question). A good reminder that even if English isn’t their strong suit, they may be really smart kids.

– I’ve been teaching the 3rd graders some slang words this week. Their textbook chapter is called “Online Communications” and teaches the use of “LOL,” “thx,” “OMG,” “IDK” and a few other texting abbreviations – including some strange ones that nobody uses like “B4N” (bye for now), “HAGD” (have a good day), and “L8R” (later). So I decided to teach them more useful terms, including “JK,” “dude,” “what’s up,” “I have a crush,” “sick” (as in awesome), and “chill (out).”

They’ve been pretty interested (perhaps mostly because we’ve played it in the form of a guessing game; the key expression is “Do you know what I mean?”). It’s fun for some of the low level boys who like rap, because English slang like “yo man” and “sick” have been adopted by Korean rappers, so those students can actually participate and get the right answers for their team.

– As far as 1st graders go, they surprised me with their love of 4 Corners this week (each corner represents a key expression, they have 10 seconds to run to a corner, everyone says their key expression, and one corner is randomly out – continue until there are just a couple people standing). I played it with 2nd grade earlier this semester, but they just kind of ran out of energy, usually. The 1st graders think it’s a blast and beg for Rounds 2, 3, and even 4. Is it because the winners get candy? Maybe. I’d like to think they’re still a little intrinsically motivated, though.

And now here we are at the end of another week. Friday is peaceful, always. I don’t have class at first period. It’s raining heavily outside, and besides the fact that I like rain, it also means the sun can’t bake us alive today.

In half an hour or so I’ll be teaching the 3rd graders, and 45 minutes after that the 1st graders – my worst/rowdiest class of all the 1st grade classes, so I’m sure my peaceful mood won’t last all day. But for now, everything is calm and I’m thinking we might just make it 3.5 more weeks to summer vacation.

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