July 7, 2014

I love Korea. They have great barbecue, they invented kimchi (though they do go overboard sometimes), they have lovely beaches, the people are super friendly, and they’re paying me to work a job that I really love. But there are some things in Korea that don’t make sense. Like their school schedule. Now, I’ll admit right now that it probably makes sense for the school year to follow the actual year. However, what I’m talking about is the finals. In America, we take finals the last week of the semester. Then we’re done. Yay! Finished! Hooray! We take the test, collapse in relief and we don’t have to think anymore.
Not so in Korea.
In Korea, the students finish their tests, receive their grades, and then must continue to attend school for 2-3 more weeks.
A kid doesn’t have to be a genius to realize that teachers have basically no power to punish them during these few weeks, because they aren’t being graded. And thus the students take control, the teachers give in and the kids get to watch movies for two weeks. What an utter waste.
I don’t want to show my students movies all the time, particularly if all they’ve done all day in their other classes is watch movies. So begins the battle. And it’s a huge battle, especially since the 1st and 2nd graders were eager to learn and enjoyed the lesson about Independence Day, but when the 3rd graders turn came… They were bored, they couldn’t understand, it was too hard, they were too tired, it’s too hot out… Blegh. I tried to shame them by showing them that 1st graders managed the lesson, so if it was too hard than the 1st graders must be smarter, but to no avail. After ten minutes or so of shouting to be heard, my co-teacher informed me that the students said they were bored and wanted to do the activity. I hate this because it’s totally giving in to bad behavior, and it messes up the whole class plan because the activity isn’t supposed to take more than 15 minutes.
However, I can’t do much without the co-teacher’s support, so I wrapped up the lesson (I wasn’t going to give in immediately) and started the activity. Which half of the kids refused to do anyway. I do remember in my TESOL course, learning all kinds of reasons for why students act up in class, but no one ever prepared me to teach students who have no interest in anything. At all. I ask “What’s your favorite subject?” and all they’ll say is that they don’t like school. I ask “What are you good at?” and they give a non-committal shrug. I ask what they do in their free time and they say “I don’t know” in Korean.
My TESOL classes prepared me for a lot. They didn’t prepare me for students who are absolutely determined not to learn. They didn’t even acknowledge that students who don’t want to learn anything exist. But they do, and probably most of them are middleschoolers. I certainly hope that is the case and it’s just a phase, because I can’t imagine going through life refusing to enjoy anything. How miserable!
All that to say, things get pretty crazy after finals, so I have to wrack my brains for fun things to do and then just try not to be disappointed when the ungrateful little punks take one look at my carefully planned activity and whine, “TEACHER, very difficult…. So Boring…. I’m tired!”
Not giving up.

A side-by-side comparison. Jecky-love’s stern teacher look and Awkward duck’s stern teacher look.

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