Monday, May 31, 2010

Open Class, Blank Mind

Well it really has been awhile since I have shared anything about what is going on here in Korea. In part it is because life is getting busier due to the increase in the number of friends I have and thereby the number of things I end up doing on weeknights and weekends. But in particular it is because last week I had my first seizure here in Korea (at least that I am sure of). It occurred on Tuesday and made Monday, Tuesday and even Wednesday a large, fuzzy blur, which I still cannot really sort through.

I saw that I wrote a journal entry on a book I have been reading by Bertrand Russell during that time but I honestly do not remember writing it or reading the book. I did not even notice it on my blog until Thursday. I really do not remember anything about the content of the book. Based upon my bookmark I was about 80% done and now must start over. I am sure some of it will come back to me as I re-read it but it is still a little discouraging. It has been a long time since I had a seizure this massive, erasing so much time and knowledge.

One of the extra classes I teach, the advanced 5th and 6th grade class, is held on Tuesday every week. But I have no clue what I taught or even said to those kids last Tuesday but something odd happened because later in the week one of the students approached me and asked if I was okay. I said sure, curious why he was asking. He then told me that I had gotten very angry during the class and had stood still for a long time. He also said my hands turned really red. I couldn't tell him anything except that I did not remember that and I was sorry if I had hurt his feelings. He assured me that I had not. He said I did not yell at anyone rather I just stared at the computer screen. Apparently I was trying to show them a video. My best guess is that there was some sort of issue downloading the video but again I have no real memory to confirm that.

My first real memories of last week begin on Thursday. On Thursday I had what they call an Open Class. That means while you teach one of your classes other people come in to observe you. There were about fifteen adults who came to watch my class. All of them were people from my school mostly other teachers but also the principle and vice principle. There are other types of open classes such as ones where other native English speakers from other schools come to observe you and even ones that are open to the students' parents. I cannot decide which of those would make me more nervous. Anyway I was fairly anxious all day waiting for that class to happen. It was the last class of the day. The administrators had adjusted the schedule of the entire school, shortening the breaks in between classes and reducing the number of free periods to make it easier for other teachers to be able to come.

The class that was being observed was one of my sixth grade classes and I will not lie I was horrified when I found which class had been chosen. This is a class were there were by far the fewest number of students who actively participate in class. Based on my experiences there were really only two advanced students in the class and even one of them did not particularly care about the class rather he seemed bored most of the time. The main reason I knew of his ability was his journal that he did every week. He always wore a Colorado Rockies cap and I found out that he actually lived in Colorado for three years. Before the open class I spoke to him and asked him to help me out for this class and participate more. He said okay and seemed very excited about that.

My co-teacher and I had scripted out the class and practiced it multiple times. The class was just one of the normal lessons that we had done with every sixth grade class but this time we were far more structured about who spoke when and how long each section would take. My co-teacher and I have actually developed a fairly good feel both for our classes and for each other enabling us to adapt to each of the classes needs on the fly.

I had made a Facebook comment about the open class early that morning and soon I got many responses (advice and stories) from my friends in Korea. One thing my friend Tony advised me was to look at the kids and never look to the back of the room at any of the adults. I remembered this as the class started and I saw all the various adults pull out paper and pens and being scribbling away. The rest of the hour I never once raised my eyes to the back of the room even as I moved around from table to table. Though I could not avoid hearing them as the jotted notes or whispered to one another. When I had to go to the back of the classroom I made sure my back was to my observers as I bent over to help each group. During the class the other thing that kept nagging at the back of my mind was simply what each of the adults was actually observing. I knew for a fact that many of the observers could not speak English including the principle. I wondered what they were thinking as I spoke and as my co-teacher avoided using any Korean. I still have no clue what they gained out of the experience. As the class progressed I quickly found out that a lot more of the students could speak English well then I ever knew. When I asked for volunteers for various activities 75% of the kids were raising their hands. I thought they would be scared by the adults in the room but rather it seemed like they saw it as an opportunity to show off, which did not bother me at all since it allowed me to show off as well. When the class was over most of the adults simply left or spoke to my co-teacher. Only a couple teachers came over to me but both of them were very nice and encouraged me telling me it was a good class.

So my first true exposure to my employers seems to have gone well despite the minor haziness with which I now remember the event. And while I miss not knowing what happened most of the week I will say forgetting almost three day's worth of personal experiences and thoughts really does make the week fly by.

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