I have failed at meeting my goal of updating at least once a month… Oops!
In Seoul, students have winter vacation for almost a month. Do teachers also get that long vacation? No… as a guest English teacher, one of my duties is to teach the Winter English Camp for three weeks. I usually teach my English classes with a Korean co-teacher, but during the English winter camp I was able to teach a group of 6-20 children by myself. From those three weeks, I learned about my teaching style, the behavior differences between grade levels, how important it is to have a good balance of energetic and quiet students, and how great it is to know each student’s name and personality.
During the school year, I teach with two co-teachers who have different teaching styles, and it is great for me because I am able to compare and learn from them. One is organized and strict, but have less flexibility for fun. The other is not as good at planning, and the class could get out of control, but there is room for experiment and excitement.
By becoming free from co-teaching, which required me to just go with the flow of another’s teaching style, I realized that I am not much of a perfectionist, and I am happy as long as the students get something done. And although I enjoyed the freedom, I was really thankful for my co-teachers when one of the games were too complicated to explain to the students with only English. It was also a good reminder to myself that simple games are the best.
This English Camp was also my first time meeting the third and fourth graders, and I was scared that they would not understand anything that I’d say and get out of control… but they were much better than I had expected! Some of the higher level students had that “aha! I kinda know what the teacher is saying” expression on their face, and it was great to see that. They helped me get the classroom under control. Compared to the fifth and sixth graders, the students seemed to be more interested in learning, and respected the teacher’s instructions. They did get too excited for games, but I loved their smiles and energy. When I made a fool of myself by singing and dancing, they laughed and happily did them with me. They were also very affectionate, and even though we were only together for five days, it seemed like they loved me! Even after the winter camp, they try very hard to use their English and run up to me for a hug… so adorable!
Fifth and sixth grade is when students start to think that singing and dancing in front of others is embarrassing. On the third week, I had a small group of sixth graders– three girls and three boys… and they were freakishly quiet… I was overwhelmed with the younger students’ energy and loudness, but the quietness was equally overwhelming… or even worse. I was hoping that I’d be able to have some free discussion since they knew more English, but on the first day they were incredibly shy, soft-spoken, and never volunteered to answer a question. After that first class, I made major adjustments to my lesson plan, and starting on the second day, I focused on having them play games that would force them to speak in English to win. The games seemed to be the right solution. The students loved to test their knowledge and compete by teams of boys vs girls. By the end of camp, it felt like they were much more comfortable speaking up.
Starting in March, I will be teaching 4th, 5th, and 6th grade. So unfortunately, I would only be able to see each student once a week. That’ll make it difficult for me to get to know each student, but I don’t want to give up on trying to learn their names and character. Hope I can continue to become a better teacher!