Postscript which I am adding as a cautionary prologue: This is a heinously long post, and even though I told myself I would write fewer of these touchy-feely “aren’t my students so wonderful” posts and focus more on just quoting the funny things they say… alas, today I was feeling sentimental, and I’m afraid this post became far too verbose. Enter if you dare.
— As of this week, I’ve officially started to feel that bond with the kids at my smaller school that I felt with the 3rd graders at my main school long ago. I guess it makes sense that it would take longer to build trust and relationship with the students I only see once every 3 weeks.
It’s crazy how important trust is for effective teaching. Maybe you’re thinking, “Why do they need to ‘trust’ their ESL teacher? You’re just going into their classroom once a week / once every 3 weeks for 45 minutes, making them repeat some English expressions, playing a game with them, and leaving again. What part of that involves trust?”
True. It’s not quite the same as trust in the sense of “I’m trusting you with my money” or “I’m trusting you with my deep dark secret,” but it is a sort of trust nonetheless. I think I’ve written about it before, when it started happening at my main school. It’s moving from the vague “Oh there’s the foreign teacher” (on their part) and “Oh there are some B-level 3rd graders” (on my part) to a more personal bond and understanding.
If trust is “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something” (according to Google), I think the feeling I’m talking about can fit into that definition.
I know more about their individual personalities and class needs as a whole now, and so I can tailor my lessons around that. On the flip side, my students know that I have the best intentions for them, even if my activities sometimes flop or my lessons (or parts of them) aren’t always exciting. They give more effort because they trust that I’m going to give them my best, and in turn I produce better and better materials for them, and the cycle continues, building more trust and a more positive environment.
Last semester here, I felt more like an exhibit or a special event – “Every 3 weeks you can stare at the foreign teacher for 45 minutes instead of staring at your usual teachers.” Any progress I could make with them during that time, in terms of building a relationship, seemed completely lost 3 weeks later.
Now, finally, after an average of 7 or 8 classes with each grade/level here, I feel more like their teacher. ‘Bout time.
This definitely also has something to do with the fact that I now have 6 months of teaching experience versus being a complete noob in the 1st semester. Not saying 6 months is a lot, but it’s something. Developing a harmonious, familiar, friendly atmosphere with the co-teachers that I see just as infrequently as the students also helps.
On classroom fun
— On that note, I had my B-level 3rd graders today. Back at the start, I dreaded the week that I had class with them because my experience with them was that they were rowdy, did not listen, did not care, etc. Gradually they have become better and better, and now they are actually one of my favorite levels to teach (due to aforementioned trust/rapport).
Today we played a telepathy game. Their textbook lesson was on opinions and saying “In my opinion, blah blah blah.” So I gave them mini whiteboards and asked them opinion questions with 3 multiple choice options. (For example, “Which food is most delicious? A) Banana, B) Ice cream, C) Cheeseburger.”) They wrote A, B, or C on their whiteboards; I counted down “3, 2, 1, boards up!” They would hold up the board to reveal their answers. Then I’d say, “Ready, go!” and they would say the key expression together: “In my opinion [A, B, or C] is best.” Then I’d reveal the “lucky answer,” a.k.a. the one that matches my personal opinion, which was worth 1 point. (That’s where the telepathy part comes in – trying to read the teacher’s mind.)
They got really into this game, like way more than I expected. It’s simple enough for the lower level kids to play along and have fun, but engaging even for the higher levels. When they realized that in order to get the “lucky answer,” they had to try to guess which option I would choose, they got very excited and had intense debates with their partners.
Some of them have been paying attention when I constantly tell them that I love ice cream more than life itself (okay, I don’t tell them exactly that…), so they get that question right.
One question is “Which shirt is best?” with a red dressy blouse, a plain blue T-shirt, and a simple black long-sleeve. The answer is the black long-sleeve. Almost all of them have gotten this one right, because, as they proudly proclaim after the big reveal, “they know Teacher’s style.” (And honestly, my wardrobe does consist of mostly whites, grays, and blacks. It’s hard to find formal wear in flattering colors here.)
They become outraged when I reveal that in my opinion, 2NE1 is better than EXID and Big Bang is preferable to PSY.
When I ask, “Which game is best? A) Sudden Attack, B) Starcraft II, C) League of Legends,” the boys get very excited and choose C (I swear every Korean middle school boy plays LoL), then get very indignant and let down when I reveal the answer as A, and also that I haven’t actually played any of these games. Hehehe.
— My soul feels very ’90s grunge/alt rock today. Do you experience this? Days, or at least moments, when you just need to listen to one particular type of music, not necessarily by the same artist, but in the same genre and with the same general mood? So today has been a day for “Creep,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Black Hole Sun,” “Zombie,” “Wonderwall,” and “Where Is My Mind” (technically not ’90s, but close enough).
These types of songs are the ones that surrounded my childhood without actually entering it much, since during the first decade of my life I mostly listened to whatever my parents were listening to, particularly my dad – which was in itself an eclectically healthy blend of genres, eras, and styles, from Peter Gabriel, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, R.E.M., Cake, and The Go-Go’s to Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, B.B. King, and Duke Ellington to Van Morrison, The Beatles, and Steely Dan to Mozart, Handel, and Beethoven. (I’m sure my dad will read this and point out that I missed some quintessential artists in this list!)(Because he is one of maybe 6 or 7 people who read this blog consistently. Heh heh.)(Hi Dad.)
Those are the artists that can bring me directly back into my childhood, with warm fuzzy visions of cozy nights at home after dinner… of “music parties” that lasted long past bedtime* with my dad acting as DJ and pulling out his record collection to introduce my siblings and me to a new band or singer… of parties with my parents’ friends and their kids, when I would be waiting for everyone to just go home already (yes, I’ve always been an introvert).
*Who am I kidding, we didn’t have “bedtime” in my house! As a family of homeschooling night owls, it just made more sense to keep our days and nights running a few hours later than those of everyone else. And it was awesome, might I add.
The ’90s pop and alt rock, then, became the cushioning around my memories of childhood – always there at the edges in a general sense, but not attached to anything specific. Many of the most popular artists at the time – Britney Spears, Jewel, Christina Aguilera, No Doubt, Backstreet Boys, Third Eye Blind, Nirvana, Oasis, and the MANY one-hit wonders of the ’90s (I’m talking “Ice Ice Baby,” “U Can’t Touch This,” “What Is Love,” “Stay (I Missed You),” “Closing Time,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Save Tonight,” “MMMBop,” “Tubthumping”… seriously, the ’90s has to be the decade with the most one-hit wonders ever, right?!) – were not particularly popular in our household. I never owned a single Britney, NSYNC, or Backstreet Boys album (were my sister and I possibly the only ’90s kids who didn’t?).
But even so, those songs bring me back to my childhood in an equally nostalgic but different way. I think everyone has songs that fit into these two categories: the kind that gives you specific strong memories, and the kind that gives you general nostalgia feels.
I guess this post turned into a music post. But that’s okay. Music is so universal and yet so personal that the discussion of it is endless. I think many people can almost tell their life story through music, whether chronologically or emotionally or whatever, and the varying ways that different people are touched by different genres and artists is fascinating. So go listen to some music and brighten up your Monday!