Monday, February 7, 2011

Limbo Classes

I suppose that, in the face of the usual countless options, this year, I kept my New Year's resolutions down to one - "I won't get angry in class this year." It's a seemingly modest goal, but in practice...

Anyway, this week is easy. I'm only teaching a couple of classes each day, and being that these are shortened classes, and the students' hearts and minds will not be won over until March 2nd (when regular school resumes), we instead find ways to "endure" our time together.

Remember, the curriculum is finished and exams are all done. These are filler classes. Other English teachers "fill" their classes with videos and crossword style worksheets. For these three days, I've decided to not fight against the students' complete lack of desire to be awake. It's enough that we've forced them out of hibernation for a week, there's no way we could actually be expected to make them learn.

So, I considered a "project". I thought it might be worthwhile for me to redecorate the giantish display that hangs in the hallway outside of my classroom. I asked the grade 3 students who join me in my classroom this week to write welcome notes to the new grade 1 recruits who will be joining us in about 3 weeks. I asked them to remember how they felt on their first day here in middle school: how it felt to wear a uniform for the first time, how it felt to be the smallest students in the school again, etc. Those who took interest treated the request with respect, those who didn't, either slept or simply stared blankly at the big screen which was showing popular English pop-songs to keep everyone entertained as they wrote and illustrated their notes in table groups. As a side note, there are few things cuter than the genuine excitement that comes from middle school girls swooning at Justin Bieber's "Baby" video, and mouthing the words as they colour their cards. You see what happens when you let the cynic's robes slip off your shoulders for a day in an attempt to not get angry at disenchanted students?

I would say that so far about 25% of my grade 3 middle school students took the exercise seriously. I had some really nice notes with beautiful and creative illustrations and sweet messages such as:

"Welcome to Middle School! You will love Choi Yong Teacher. He is very kind and he is the best soccer player. We love him!"
(accomapanied by a drawing of a short teacher and a soccer ball)

"Welcome, new students! We love our library. There are many books and it is warm!"
(accompanied by a drawing of sunshine and books)

For those who didn't take it as seriously, this example represents the group accurately:

"Welcome! You will have to eat this... GOOD LUCK!"
(accompanied by a drawing of some brown glop on a plate, surrounded by purple skull signs and flies buzzing through the steam)

I'd post pictures, but I think you get the idea.


Kid Atomic said...

Whoever wrote that last note is my favourite person.

Douglas said...

Great idea for a filler class. Not getting angry in class though...summiting K2 would be easier than that!

However, it's good that you're trying to restrain from letting certain frustrating moments get the best of you. Since anger in your course won't help you at all. Though if you were Korean, then getting angry could work, since the students can understand your anger better. However, getting angry and being so in a foreign language, of which many won't really comprehend, simply makes them all the more intimidated.