Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Feeling like a real teacher again

As I've mentioned ad nauseum, teaching in my current environment has a tendency to make me feel like a bit of a fraud. You know, I'm there, but my actual class and its suggested outcomes seem to be of little consequence - at least in terms of measurable goals for my students. I'll get back into that once I've been able to consider it from another angle. For now though, I'm pretty happy to be back marking essays on a Tuesday night.

That probably wouldn't surprise anyone who reads this. I love reading what my kids think, so thankfully I was asked to run an essay workshop for some of 정경아's Saturday English club. Almost all of the students in it are a high level and are able to approach writing English essays - some of them for the first time.

I was there in the class for just over two hours while they worked to write a short 5 paragraph essay according to the format we suggested. It was very cool for me to notice, in some cases for the first time, that some of my students are actually able to process English at an effective enough level to write decent essays - ones that might compare favourably to some of the essays I received from my higher level hagwon students last year. Clearly, some of my students go to hagwons.

This has really buoyed me. It's such a relief to know that somewhere in my admittedly necessarily repetitive day, there are some students who are wanting and are able to explore the language at a deeper level. I really hope, like all nerdish teachers do, that I get more chances to read their writing, help them express themselves, and get to know them better through this format. Essay writing can be a great human expression once the basic academics of it are second nature and kids are free to start telling their own stories. I really hope this continues. I have a lot of ideas that I don't mind giving the extra work to see through.

In the meantime, students were asked for this first workshop to share their ideas about what 3 aspects of life are most important when thinking of the "ideal family." Of course many of the students stalled enough with the essay format as to lose sight of their original intent. Still, there was one that came through and deserved mention here.

After reading "Ramona and her Father" for summer reading, students were asked to consider what makes the best family. Here's what one student wrote:

From the introduction:

"Many people want to have a husband or wife and they think they must marry, but I didn't think it's right. Marriage isn't important to me, and I want to be a "Choe sik nam" - this means a man that has a professional job and isn't concerned with females."

From the 2nd body paragraph:

An ideal family would have to do the best. This means that a father works hard, a mother does the housework well, and the children study hard."

From the 3rd body paragraph:

"Straightforwardly, I don't like babies. When a baby smiles at me, I smile at him too, but he sobs incessantly. I feel a nervous temperament when this happens."

From the conclusion:

"If I meet a partner who has some of the same ideas as me, I would probably get married with that person. However, finding that partner is very difficult."

This dude will not be getting dates next year in high school, me thinks.

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