Walking into the school on monday was a somewhat surreal experience. School has always been a very familiar place for me, especially any facet of school in which I’ve had any leadership, given that it usually takes some time to build up to such a position. I had never really been cognizant of this until now, however, and attempting to reconcile this brand new place with my position of 선생님, or teacher, was a little bit difficult at first, I have to admit. Even the architectural differences took a little while to get used to – every school I’ve been to has been relatively flat and sprawling, most less that three stories, and all at least wider than they were tall, where as Chiguchon School is six stories tall (only five are used for teaching space), and very narrow. Despite these initial minor difficulties, I fell into the swing of things fairly promptly as the week progressed. The first two days that we were at the school were only meant for observation, which I was incredibly thankful for (I also felt a surge of sympathy for the past groups, who’s struggles in the first few days prompted the instatement of this small grace period this year). It was wonderful to see the students in action, and also pretty daunting to see the challenges that the school and the students faced on a daily basis.
Wednesday, the first day we began teaching, many of our students were quite shy, and it was a little bit difficult to decipher what level each student was on until they opened up a bit more the second day. Thankfully for Ana and me, who teach the upper level english students, our class is relatively quiet, disciplined, and studious, especially compared to the younger/lower level classes (although this was not achieved without the magic of a seating chart, however). On the second day, our program director observed our class and informed us that even when the kids were speaking to each other in Korean while we were teaching, it was almost always about a question they had with the material, and they worked with each other very well.
I also discovered how gratifying it can be to see a student stay after the bell and ask you to work through problems with them, especially when they make good progress with the 1 on 1 attention.
Music class has been a bit more challenging. All english levels and ages are mixed into the extracurricular classes, and finding a lesson plan that keeps a first grader with very little english and a close to fluent sixth grader occupied and happy at the same time is quite challenging. Also, keeping young boys engaged in learning songs in the first place is quite a challenge. Thankfully, a storage key that had been missing was found, and it turns out that the school has an abundance of plastic instruments available for use, which I think will come in handy this coming week.
I will be interested to see how our plans for the week pan out, and how other classes will handle fair with 3 out of 8 members of the team being sick, and most likely unable to teach on tuesday (today is memorial day in Korea, one week after the US).