Thursday, June 9, 2011

Korean Travel Fail

Man - every intention to post more every day, but I'm simply running out of time and energy these past few days. I'm going to go ahead and admit that a big part of my woe is the fact that my Travel Korea lesson that I posted about a while back has come to a less than satisfying end for the majority of my grade 3 classes. It's sucked the life out of me.

As one might expect, the first time I actually asked my students to complete homework which would then be utilized in presentation the following class, approximately 50% of them actually finished the homework. This made for some mighty trying presentations.

So, the past two weeks with my grade 3s have been about me stubbornly trying to teach them a lesson by having those students with no completed paper go through the motions of coming to the front of the class with the rest of their responsible team mates and... well, nothing. You might figure that even a student who hasn't completed his homework would have something to say about one of the more famous Korean destinations (The DMZ, Lotte World, Busan, etc.), but you'd be wrong.

Turns out the bottom of the barrel can be just as stubborn as I - those group members who are able to relay their portion of the team's itinerary have their points canceled out by those who have all but given-up on English language learning in their middle school career and have done nothing with the lesson - even though I've given most of them personal assistance in and outside of class, and even though this activity will make-up most of the contents of their last speaking test before the summer break.

I feel stuck here - do I scrap the lesson (as it's clearly failed for most classes) and move on to something else? Or, do I follow-though with the intended presentation/quiz element and reward those who did the actual work? I suppose I choose the latter because I'm not ready to admit defeat - even though it's slapping me right in the face. I simply can't bear to have the laziest among my students dictate the flow of my lessons, or to take the rug out from under those students who actually did what was asked of them. So, we soldier on, the slackers are called-out and embarrassed, I get frustrated, and those who did the work get a reward. It's a sad thing, but reality reveals that the lowest common denominators in my classes are far more effective at pulling others down than they are at allowing themselves to be pulled up.

Sadly, of the 11 grade 3 classes I did this lesson with, only one class came through with flying colours. EVERY student in class 3-2 completed his or her homework and the presentation days for this class have been like episodes of a Michael Palin travelogue of the Korean peninsula. This is the level of comparative hyperbole I am happy to heap upon class 3-2 for just doing what was asked of them. But this is really all I wanted - teams using teamwork, students completing basic question/answer homework, and then presenting their findings with enthusiasm. This is a rare thing in my school.

I do this lesson 5 more times tomorrow and then I call it a week and emerge on the other side of the weekend with the expectation bar lowered one more rung.

Gotta get down on Friday.


Tuttle said...

"Turns out the bottom of the barrel can be just as stubborn as I"--Wow, that could almost be my motto!!

"A man's reach should exceed his grasp, else what's a heaven for?"--Robert Browning

You provided all the necessary tools for this activity to your students, but you gotta admit it remains a complicated assignment. You're calling it a fail but it seems it's at least a qualified pass, and for 3-2 it was a huge success! That's something to be happy about. (Let's not even begin on what happened in my "best" class this week!)

I think you might as well carry on (perhaps there's another 3-2 waiting for you tomorrow), then send me all your materials when you're done!

If you really can't complete exactly the lesson you were intending, salvage what you can, just make them speak some English, right?

Oh, you mention some lack of posting on your part? I was minutes away from asking you the secret of how you've become so prolific of late, when I saw this post that needed commenting.

George Bailey Sees The World! said...

Hey, man - thanks for the shout-out.

Yes, it's been tough. But, it should have been expected. Understand that I am told by my co-teachers to "not worry about it" when a third of my students come to class without textbooks or pencils, and armed with only a spine-curving slouch and the ability to flip the bird to each other.

It's a difficult atmosphere to breed excellence in - especially when my students spend 3 days a week with another teacher for whom it's okay to simply not participate in class, aside from dragging one's carcass into a seat. At my school - this is deemed a success.

You're right - the assignment is complicated - but only for those who have no initiative to learn English. There's the rub.

And so, to work...

PS - I'd be happy to mail you my materials after today. Perhaps you can share them in the future if I ever get switched to a high school gig ;) Just tell me the name of your high school and I'll throw it all in an envelope.