I have now taught two classes at Geumseong High School, and while they have not been epic failures, they definitely both came with twists.
My first lesson plan revolved around two things: the students asking me questions, and me teaching them about naming conventions as a segue into choosing English names. I had a little handout and a painstakingly compiled list of names for this activity, in which they were to explain the meaning of their Korean name and then choose an English name based on the meaning that best suited them.
As I had to introduce myself, I had the first class ask questions first. No one wanted to volunteer. Fortunately I’d foreseen this and brought some paper squares, which I passed out. “Ask me anything,” I said.
Now, this is a high school containing 80% boys with gender-segregated classes. I knew what was coming, and had left myself open to it on purpose because I had to show them that it wouldn’t get a rise out of me.
The only reason this may have failed was because one boy asked something so utterly ridiculous that I had to laugh — probably leaving every dirty-minded boy in the class to think I was laughing at their “What is your ____ size?” instead the more innocent question that it was.
I liked my second class during this activity, though; I didn’t receive a single inappropriate question. The trade-off? They weren’t really paying attention to my answers. Oh well.
Other very popular questions: “How tall are you?” “Which Korean singers do you like?” and “Do you have a boyfriend?”
Again, this activity went a bit more smoothly in my second class, but by then I’d already had to change the premise a lot. Most of the boys had no idea that their names mean something (Korean names are chosen for meaning and are often meant to be auspicious), effectively ruining that “getting to know you” part of my lesson…
Class one: “Teacher, my name, no mean anything.”
Me: “I think it does. Do you know the Chinese characters?”
Class one: “No, teacher! No Chinese. No mean.”
Me: “Alright, well, just choose an English name.”
Some fifteen minutes passed while they worked in “groups” but actually don’t move from their seats. I walked around, helping out where I could, waking up students who looked like they haven’t slept in three days. When I noticed we were out of time, I told them to pass their papers up.
Other answers filled in, no English name.
So much for giving them name tags next week.
Take 2: Instead of even trying to compare English and Korean names, I went straight to the point: You’re choosing a name with a meaning that suits you. Fill out the paper, turn it in when you’re done.
This time I made my non-workers squirm. “You can’t find a name you like?”
“You don’t like English names?”
“Yeah…” (Meaning no, he doesn’t.)
“Should I pick a name for you?”
“No! Is okay!”
This worked on all but one, who somehow slipped away in the commotion of the period ending.
Oh my god. Each class really does have different dynamics. Where my Monday class was sleep-deprived (likely because it’s an afternoon class) and somewhat perverse, my first Wednesday class had a ton of energy and was never quiet — literally, not for ten full seconds. Thanks to yesterday’s typhoon, I haven’t taught my four Tuesday classes yet, but one of them is supposed to be a fair amount of trouble, while another is full of jokesters on jet fuel.
So, I did feel sorry for my Tuesday classes, since we’ll be meeting about 3/4 as much as any other classes this semester due to holidays… but I got over that soon. 😄 While I know I’m going to love my students, I am, unfortunately, still mildly introverted. So I think that in order to show these kids my best side, it might actually be beneficial not to meet too often, especially with four classes in one day sapping my energy. I’d rather make the most of the little time that we will have together than begrudge it every week.
That being said, discipline is my weakest point as a teacher, as evidenced both today and on Monday. Writing class rules is one thing, but there’s always going to be a situation I can’t prepare for, or that I just don’t know the proper way to handle. Sometimes I just want to laugh with my students instead of punish someone for trying to be funny. It’s a tough balance find, and the line between “fun teacher” and “mean teacher” tends to slide around in the minds of students.
Well, maybe with my next class I’ll get a better feel for it; they’re supposed to be very high-energy.
Update: I feel the need to reiterate this — BOY does each class have its own dynamic! My last class today was great. Lots of energy, but all I had to do was count down from five and I had their full attention for whatever I wanted to say. They are supposed to be a low-level class in comparison to the rest of the school, but they were absolutely wonderful at following directions. Only two or three look like they might require some more strict discipline. But their main thing will be having to overcome their shyness of speaking.