Monthly Archives: November 2014

Into the light of the dark black night

For “Journal Writing” class yesterday, I gave my little guys an assignment to reinforce making the “Writing Hamburger” (main idea as the “bun” and the details as the “toppings”) as well as starting to create metaphors and analogies in their writing… without going into details quite yet about metaphor and analogy. They are seven.

The topic was “My Favorite Colour”. These three little weirdos all picked black. They were given the opening sentence (“My favourite colour is…”) and closing sentence (“I love the colour…”) to help them with the hamburger. Then they had to answer the following questions about their colour:

How does it look?
How does it taste?
How does it smell?
How does it feel?
How does it sound?

Haha. You should have seen the looks on their faces when they realised they were going to have to tell me how the colour black smells. But I gave them a load of example using my favourite colour (red, if you’d like to know) and they were off.

Lilly proofreading her work like a boss.

Lilly proofreading her work like a boss.

They did a great job! Some of the ideas were pretty basic (and they all seemed to think that black smelled and tasted like chocolate), but there were some real gems in their paragraphs that I would like to share with you. These are taken from all three children. Jessica, Lilly and Albert, 7 years old.

 

Black is scary, dark, and looks like a thief. It sounds like a ghost’s howls. Black is like a cat that rests in the library. It is the sound of lightning in the night. It feels like a ghost is holding my arm beside me.

 

I freaking love these children!

Did you have midterm exams at school? How did you feel?

There is going to be a handful of these “Speech of the Week” posts, I’m behind. Bad Teacher.

I am far too old to remember my high school midterms. At the hogwon (private academy in Korea) I teach at we have Big Assessment Tests (I call them BATs in my diary… as though I work at Hogwarts instead of a hogwon) every other month for our elementary students. It’s the closest thing I have in my life to a “midterm exam” these days.

BATs are stupid. They have the word “assessment” in them, but as far as I have seen, fuck all happens if a kid aces or fails the test. No one is held back, no one “levels up”. We just keep on trucking. Worse, the Korean stuff here just nerfs the scores so the parents don’t think they are wasting their money if their kid isn’t doing well.

It frustrates the fuck out of me. I wouldn’t mind the time it takes to make and grade the tests if there was any purpose to it at all. But there isn’t. I understand that we are running a business, but I think the way we do testing is costing our children, instead of just their parents.

Williamsaurus

William is Korean aged 10. He is a very smart and sensitive third grader with the cutest dimples when he smiles… so I’m always trying to make him smile.  He’s almost always got food on his shirt and he’s a funny kid although his sense of humour is sometimes strange. He is full of saliva and always smacks his lips when he reads. And he reads like a mini Korean Shatner.

So the other day in class there was some weird sort of brown spooge in his workbook. He had been eating chocolate when I came in the classroom so I said, “Ew. Is that chocolate?”

Without batting an eye, William scratches off the brown smear and sniffs at it. For a moment, I seriously thought he was going to eat. I would have let him. I’m a bad teacher sometimes.

Tell a Story

Today in my Tuesday/Thursday TOEFL class, they were asked to write an essay answer to the question “What would it be like to lose a friend, even for a good reason?”

These girls are 10 and in fourth grade. It’s a pretty heavy topic. And a page long essay? In their second language? These kiddos usually write 5-7 sentences. Not a pageful. And certainly not in the 25 minutes I have them.

For the first bit of class, we discussed the question. First and foremost: How could you ‘lose’ a friend? We first talked about how they could move away or change class so you don’t see them any more. We talked about how they could die and you would lose them forever (the Korean ferry incident was fresh in their minds, so they could actually really relate to that, even at 10 years old). Finally, we talked about how you could get into a fight so bad with a friend that you stop being friends, and lose them that way.

We always have these discussions before we start writing. It ensures the kids understand the question and how to answer it fully. Well, after discussing how one could ‘lose’ a friend, we moved on to how they would feel if the lost a friend. Their collective verbal answer? “Sad”.

Even if I got them to say that in a full sentence, they’d still only have one sentence and a page full of empty lines.

So I suggested to them that instead of directly answering the question, that they try writing a story about losing a friend. We talked about how the beginning could be about how good the friendship was; the middle about how the friend was lost; and the end about how bad it felt after they were gone.

I told them that the story didn’t have to be true for a test like the TOEFL, it just had to be well written and interesting. And that a story is sometimes easier to write instead of a direct answer. Especially if you needed to fill a page full of lines.

The good news is that Cindy followed my advice and her story turned out really good. I just hope that she remembers what I told them for future classes and future questions. I think that if she does, she’ll do well.

Throwing Ethan Under the (School) Bus

So this isn’t a complaint about my school specifically, it is more about the “education as a business” model in Korea in general. Most of the time I can make peace about the practice, even if I don’t always love how it is implemented. It is, after all, how I make my money. But sometimes things happen that just absolutely enrage me.

We are currently doing “Open House” at our school. This means that the parents come into the school and watch their little darlings have a “class”. Of course, it is a total farce. For one of my classes I was told show my Reading and Comprehension class (usually 35 minutes), my Language Arts class (usually 35 minutes) and do our Speech Contest song. All in 15 minutes. Yah. It’s nothing but a show, and it’s annoying, but I get it. Show ’em the good bits. No warts.

That’s not what pissed me off. What pissed me off is how I was told to handle one of my little guys during the Open House. This little bundle of awesome is named Ethan, and although he’s not the brightest crayon in the box, he sure tries hard and he has been improving.

The issue is that Ethan took just about a month off to vacation in Guam. Lucky little turd. But in light of that, I was told to make sure that Ethan didn’t do as well as the other kids, so that parents could see how much children improve in a month.

What? You want me to intentionally embarrass this kid by making him look stupid in front of his friends and everyone’s mommy and daddy to try and show how awesome the school is? ARE YOU MENTAL? HE IS FIVE FUCKING YEARS OLD.

The thing is, little Ethan already was never going to do as well as the others; he’s behind in his reading. He *isn’t* as good as the others, he wasn’t even before the vacation. But he tries so hard and he deserved to be given the chance to do his best for his mommy.

So I gave him that chance. Because being a good teacher is trying to always do right by your little guys. And that little dude may have fucked up his reading a wee bit (as per usual), but he was good at answering questions and he rocked the hell out of the song. I was super proud of him.

The administration at my school, however, can do one at the moment.

Random Children Chatterings

Although I do have complaints about my school, I have absolutely nothing but love for the kids I teach. They. are. amazing. They make me laugh almost every single day and all the hugs and smiles are great. Here are a few recent bits that happened that made me laugh.

Albert Speaks 1

Albert. Again.

This kid. Seriously. THIS KID.

Me: What is the opposite of “female”?
Albert: Jew.
Me: WHAT?! “JEW”??
Albert: No! Jew. JEW. (makes a ‘z’ gesture)
Me: Do you mean “zoo”?
Albert: Yah. Zoo.

I don’t have any idea what he was thinking. Neither did he, he wouldn’t even try to explain once Jessica said the right answer.

 Albert Speaks 2

The workbook had the word “near-sighted” in it, and the kids didn’t know that particular word. I broke it down into the two parts, and was trying to get them to give me another word for “sight”. They had no clue. Thanks, level-appropriate book.

So I pointed to my eyes, trying to get them to say “look” or “see”. What does Albert come up with when I pointed at my eyes?

Excitedly he exclaimed, “Dark circles!”

Clearly I need more sleep.

Nice Try, Robinsaurus

Me: (teaching analogies) What is to “hand” as “ankle” is to “foot”?
Robin: Hankle.

Bleurghy Blogness

How about I put up a quick blog post about how I never blog? Just wanted to warn about an influx of posts. I’ve got a bunch of drafts sitting here and I think it’s about high time I got them out. Before they go from stale to absolutely rot-o-rama.

Wish I could say that I’ve been too busy to blog, kids. But I haven’t. Just lazy. I get home, make some dinners, then waste my life lurking on Reddit while watching old episodes of The Simpsons.

As always: Sorry for the silence. Hopefully I’ll continue to make some noise for awhile here.