Getting over the six-month bump

After six months of banging my head against the wall, trying to do my job properly in the face of intense resistance, things at my school have suddenly changed. Suddenly as in whiplash-Flash Gordon-endofyearbonusdisappearing suddenly. The relationship with my co-teachers has totally changed, and their attitude towards me is very different (in a good way). I’m really happy at this unexpected change, and if it keeps up the rest of the year will be really good.

There have also been some more mundane changes. The new semester started last week, and with it came a new teaching schedule. Now, instead of teaching all three grades at my middle school, I now only teach first- and second-grade students. This has made things a lot nicer, since I now see these students once a week (instead of once every two weeks in the case of the second-grade students), and the teachers have all swopped classes as well. So a teacher that formerly taught higher-level second-grade students now teaches lower-level students, and vice-versa.

What does this mean? This means I’m the only teacher that has been teaching the same students throughout the year. The other teachers all have to get to know their new students. Score! I have been able to wangle a lot more freedom with my lesson themes, and my co-teachers seem a lot more willing to let me do my thing without interference. Absolute bliss!

I don’t know how much of this is post-holiday largesse or a genuine change in attitude, but for now it is fantastic. It has coincided with a change in direction for my teaching style. My experiences on the summer camps showed me that the students are lacking some fundamentals, notably English grammar terminology. So they know what nouns and verbs are, but not what you call them in English. This makes it really hard to explain a new language point, or to explain where they are making mistakes without asking the Korean co-teacher to translate. I feel that they need to understand the English terms for parts of speech and grammar, or else they will look like fools if they ever got to an English-speaking country to learn the language.

So to get the ball rolling, I’ve started off with simple vocab building lessons, and I’ll gradually give them more difficult work as the year goes on. They understand the concepts, so it’s just showing them the English terms without making my lessons obviously grammar based.

It’s so funny to see how far my lessons and ideas have come over the past six months. I started out WAY too high, and then went WAY too low, and I’m hoping that now I’ve found a good balance. But I’ve heard from a lot of people that it takes at least six monthe before you settle into teaching. I’m glad to see that it’s true. I almost, almost feel like a real teacher. Maybe in another six months I will be a REAL teacher.

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2 responses to “Getting over the six-month bump

  1. and the English SVO-sentence structure – just about all the phrases they have to learn – yes parrot style – can be broken down in SVO, with allowance for the swop around of questions of course – if they can understand this then they know there must be a verb which they tend to sometimes omit – and then – making their OWN sentences – i find it very frustrating that they have not yet learnt this ‘little game’ of making sentences – notebooks and writing is not very big at my school and i’m wondering about this lost chance – but then – the teachers don’t have much time to look at these books at the end of the day – a lot of goverment paperwork … but then again – language is all about meaning-MAKING … no recipe for teaching language in the end … …

  2. I have a huge problem with the fact that the kids don’t seem to have workbooks for English. At least, not at my school. The only way to demonstrate your understanding of a language is to make use of the productive skills (writing and speaking), and these kids do neither.

    I give my students every opportunity I can to write. It’s a slow process, since they always leave out verbs and articles, but at least they are doing something productive.

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