Getting Creative

Last month was my first with a new batch of students and classes. I am now teaching all the elementary grades we have at our hogwon. I teach a different subject to each of my classes and it is only a little frustrating.

I teach two classes for each grade. First and second grade each have about 20 students across two classes and come once a day. I see each student for forty minutes a day which works out to about 280 minutes each week. We’re supposed to evaluate our students on their behavior and academic performance, but that is incredibly hard to do given this time constraint. Its hard to find something that works for their teaching style or to control their behavior when they leave as soon as I figure something out. There are many days I when I think I have a home run lesson plan and it totally backfires because, a little over a month and a half into this semester, I still barely know anything about these kids and how they learn.

This week headquarters handed down our writing lesson plan. For fifth grade I was supposed to answer some reading comprehension questions related to a short article about the Vietnam Memorial’s designer, teach them the continuous past tense (the one where you talk about things that happened while you were doing something else), and brainstorm and prewrite for a personal narrative exercise. Each of those parts alone could have made for a perfectly good 40 minute lesson plan for ELL fifth graders but because my fifth graders only have writing once each week, I had to condense it down.

This kind of thing happens with a lot of my classes. It seems like I always have either far too much to cover, or not nearly enough for a day, and these parts are where I have to get creative and find quick ways of teaching very complicated things, or find ways to stretch out otherwise easy things for a longer time. I’m not sure what my co-workers are up to because many of them seem dumbfounded by the amount of prep work I do for my classes, and often remark on the effort I put in to each lesson. I’m just not sure how else to do it. Our school has a surprising lack of resources for us: we have no crayons, markers, poster paper, or other art supplies at our disposal; if we want to do something where our students have to color, we have provide these for ourselves.

It isn’t because our school cannot afford these things, we teach some of Korea’s most upwardly mobile families who all pay a hefty premium for their kids to learn here, rather it is because it’s simply not in the business model to provide these things for the teachers. According to HQ there are plenty of resources at our disposal to teach what needs to be taught. Anything else is an unnecessary luxury.

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