Let’s begin week 2 (aka: first official week of work):
I started my week by saying farewell to Emily. I moved into her room, Monday morning before class. The absence of cigarette smoke is a vast improvement. Also, she left behind plenty of things that I can use in her absence.
Every day, my hours are from 2pm-9pm but I teach on a block schedule. The Monday, Wednesday and Friday schedule is as follows:
3-3:40 Basic class: These kids are all in 3rd grade and are working on phonics. There are currently 7 kids in the class (6 boys and 1 girl).
4-4:30 B4: These are 4th graders. The “B” indicates their level. The higher level kids get an “A” while lower level kids get Bs and Cs. The very top-level kids are “S” grade. I don’t teach any classes below a C level but I know it can get lower. One of my co-workers was just telling me stories about his E level class. 12 kids.
4:30-5 A5a and A5b: These kids are in 5th grade. Don’t get confused by the lower case letters. Originally, when the school had two English teachers, the larger groups could be split into two classes. They are still separated in all their other lessons but I get them as one group for English class. 17 kids.
5-5:30 B5: Again , 5th grade and a lower level than the A5 kids. 8 students.
5:50-6 A4: 4th grade, higher level than B5, 9 kids.
I get a 2 hour break from 6-8. I usually eat dinner in the school kitchen downstairs and spend the rest of my time in “my” classroom writing or talking to any kids who wander in for free study.
8-8:30 S2A: These are 2nd year middle schoolers (8th grade). They all speak really well even if some of them need more prodding to do so. This class is supposed to give them more time to practice speaking so I try to stick to the role of facilitator rather than instructor. 6 kids.
8:30-9 S2B: Lower level 8th graders. 5 kids, all girls.
Tuesday/Thursday is as follows:
3:10-4 Basic: 3rd graders at a slightly higher level of phonics than the MWF class. 7 kids
4-4:20 S6: Highest level 6th graders. Originally they were going to be combined with the A6a class because they used to happen at the same time. The parents complained however and the schedule was changed so classes remained separate. I understand the parents’ worries. The goal of English lessons is to give the children more opportunity to practice speaking. That’s already hard to achieve when classes are only 20 minutes long, which makes it practically impossible when the class doubles in size. 11 kids.
4:20-4:40 A6b/B6b’: More 6th graders. Out of 15 kids, at least 11 of them are boys.
4:40-5 B6a/B6b: Yet more 6th graders. Last I counted, there were 24 of them in this class.
5-5:20 C6: Lowest level of the 6th graders that I teach, 7 kids.
5:20-5:40 A6a: This is the second half of the combined class that was never to be. More 6th graders. 11 kids
My break this time is a little over an hour. Dinner and then prepare for my other classes.
7-7:30 Teps1 A: I’m not sure how to explain the Teps classes, or rather why they have that name. They are in middle school but I can’t remember if they are first grade (7th graders) or third grade (9th graders) in middle school. 5 kids
7:30-8 Teps1 B: Like the earlier class but slightly lower level. 6 kids.
Add up the numbers people. This means that I have to learn the names for 150 students! Regardless of whether they are using an English name or if they stuck with their Korean name…that’s a lot of names! I haven’t even learned the teachers’ names yet but there’s been very little time fore me to interact with them yet.
Actually, I’ve done pretty well with the names so far. The MWF kids are almost all memorized and by the end of next week I may not even need the prompt anymore. T/TH classes are harder to learn. I only see them 2 days a week and most of them for only 20 minutes, plus they are in larger classes.
The school has decided to add an optional English class for the teachers. This means that on Mondays and Fridays I go to school earlier. Teachers’ class will be from 1-2 on MF. I understand my role to be that of Facilitator. Fridays will have an extra hour of class from 2-3. It’s reserved for watching English films and video clips that the teachers can then discuss. I’m not sure whether my presence is really necessary or not. Last time they watched bits from Toy Story 2 and talked about it, all in Korean. A couple of times, one of the teachers would turn to me and ask me about some confusing dialogue but I felt useless the rest of the time. It sounds like they want to implement the film into their own classes with the students.
Heoseok and I walked around town a little where some lovely cherry blossom trees showed their full splendor. Afterwards, we went to the zoo. Family Land is a fantastic place to go since it comprises of several different attractions: a water park, an amusement park and a zoo. You have to pay to get into each one but at least they are right next to each other.
The zoo was devoid of people. I think I saw one family of three the whole time we were there. Considering all the school that Korean kids attend, I should have been more surprised that Family Land existed in the first place but it still felt bizarre to be the only people there. As a former animal care technician, I had to put away the part of my brain that protests over the small cages and inadequate enrichment, to be able to enjoy the moment. Caged wild animals are generally a sad sight regardless of how well they are taken care of. But I managed to genuinely enjoy the zoo. I had my camera after all and new subject material.
Eco Lake Park (Gwangju Ecological Lake Park):
We walked around for a short time but it was quite scenic. I’d love to go back and explore other areas.