Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Korea - The first open class

Hello everyone!

Another week done in the ROK. I've been breaking the news of my impending departure to the other teachers this week. Some have taken it well - others have not. Many were genuinely surprised, saying that I seemed really happy in Korea. I am, but that doesn't guarantee me staying anywhere.

My classes this week were about using the telephone. To get to this topic, I used the rather tedious link of the Lady Gaga song 'Telephone'. I made an amateurish error here, however. I had never seen this video, and forgot to watch it to validate before showing it to my students. Lady Gaga as well, what was I thinking. Needless to say it caused a bit of shock in the classroom. I managed to find a live version done on the BBC, which thankfully doesn't include scenes of Gaga writhing around in tape.

There were two days when I wasn't teaching this lesson. I will explain Friday later on, but on Wednesday we had an important day. My open class. I explained this in an earlier blog, but the basic premise is that you teach your lesson and are watched by the bigwigs in your school and other foreign teachers. It's a big show where everyone tells you how good you are, as long as its not a complete disaster (or you have a horrible foreigner present, as Ellen did). Each teacher has to do one in a school year, and this was my time to shine.

In the second week of this semester I did a lesson on bucket lists, so I decided to use this. There were a few changes, however. For example, my opening was a Michael Jackson video, to then introduce the idea that he kicked the bucket. However, it was decided that the video for 'You Are Not Alone' was too racy, so we eventually plumped for 'Black or White'. One other, more fundamental change - my co-teacher for the lesson was to actually teach. This was new to me. Normally I insist on them not getting involved. This time they had to.

Miss Yoon was teaching the lesson with me. I chose class 1-7, an all-boys class I have a really good rapport with, months ago. That's how seriously they take these things. Priorities sometimes move the focus away from fine-tuning these shows, however. One of the students from Miss Yoon's homeroom class went AWOL in the week before. This may not be a massive thing at home, but in Korea this is huge. They said this happens in my school once a year. Maximum. Worse still, she had run away from home. The police found out she had logged onto a Busan. Not good. Understandably this was on Miss Yoon's mind, so practice time was limited.

Though the practice we tried was almost always disrupted by technological failures. We got one good practice lesson in - on the day. The open class was period 3 - I was teaching period 1 and 2. I came back from teaching second period, went to check on everything in the main room...and the computer crashed. Again. TEN minutes before the lesson. Wiping my Youtube videos in the process. I wasn't nervous about this lesson until that point. Then I began to lose my nerve.

Luckily this class is amazing, and they pulled us through it. They understood that it wasn't a normal lesson - so no saying that their dream was to marry a Saudi prince (1-11), blow up the school (1-2) or kill the President (almost every other class). No screaming to show them a picture of a 'glamorous' woman (1-4). And all getting involved. The lesson went without a hitch. Marvellous.

Lessons were cancelled on Friday afternoon. In addition to an open class, once a year each school will have a 'festival day'. It was explained to me as the one day where the students can express themselves and have fun. Wow, one whole day of the year, lucky buggers. Anyway, Sorae High School's festival day was on the Friday. I had no lessons, but was still involved. I spent over an hour-and-a-half playing Rummikub - similar to rummy, with pieces instead of cards - and Jenga. I ruined the students at Jenga - less so at Rummikub. They live up to some stereotypes, and they are ALL good at maths in my school. This is what it looks like - there are photos of me playing, but the teacher keeps forgetting to give them to me.

I left school for a bit and returned at 8pm (yeah, on a Friday night) to watch their big talent show. Lots of 17-year-old girls doing provocative K-pop dance routines, often in revealing clothing. My mind never slipped away - I am their teacher, and even when doing the popping dance move they were still my adorable students. The boys loved it though. I stayed until 10.30pm, of my own choice. It was very entertaining.

They are a talented bunch in this school. It has a reputation around here for that. 'Iconic', is what a Korean teacher from another school described Sorae High School as in the aftermath of my open class. I'm glad that my class seemed to live up to that tag, and I am very glad to be in this school.

Love you all


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