Stand By Me
Well, recently I’ve had a big surge in my motivation to learn Korean. No particular reason that I can think of. Just a couple nights ago I got really in the mood. Feeling really pro-active about finishing some of the books I have that I never finished. It comes at a cost, though. I have zero motivation to go to the gym. I actually tried to go yesterday, but I didn’t have my card (lost in my wallet), and the manager wasn’t there, so I couldn’t get a new one. Used the time productively anyway and ran some errands, then came home and studied some more.
I’m currently working my way through a kid’s comic book called The Unstoppable Dinosaur Explorers. It’s pretty funny. Most of it is fairly easy. No tough grammar, since it’s for kids. Just don’t know some words, so I use my dictionary for 2-3 words a page. Though, between every couple chapters are fact about dinosaurs… One page forced me to look up 29 words. They’re written on a much higher level. Makes me feel a bit like a tool. On the subway today, I brought the book with me. I didn’t feel like looking up words, since the subway was really crowded, so I just sat and read it. I read about 60 pages and understood it for the most part. Some words here and there eluded me, but a lot of words are used over and over, so if I had looked them up before I knew them, and a lot of them I could generally guess at by context within the sentence and the picture. On the way back, I went back and looked up words I didn’t know. I had followed the story pretty well, without knowing every single word.
It made me feel pretty good. I mean, this is essentially how kids learn lots of new words. They just read and don’t necessarily understand every word, but they either figure it out through context, or perhaps ask an adult, but I certainly never used a dictionary when I read a book. I don’t really remember ever asking adults what a word meant much either. Finally getting to a pretty good level with my overall understanding. Still, I’d like my speaking to get a bit better. I really almost never ever practice.
Anyway, this week hasn’t been my favorite at work. I don’t know why, but I’ve been a bit grumpy. Maybe because the construction crew that started building something right next to my window on Monday morning at 7:30 AM wakes me up and disturbs my sleep every day now. Fucking blows. Anyway, the kids have been getting on my nerves a lot recently. Really testing my patience.
Wednesdays are also usually my least fun days. I give lots of tests on Wednesdays to take up time. I don’t like my Wednesday schedule in general, so the less time I spend actually teaching, the better. My kindergartners did just okay on their tests. Two really good scores, but a couple others were just okay, and two not so great. I recently started implementing a policy on these tests. If a student scores below a 50% on a spelling test, they have to take it home and have mom sign it, then bring it back. This has had a pretty big effect. The first time one student had to take a test home he had a big crying fit and a near tantrum. Probably didn’t want mom knowing about how badly he’d been doing.
For a long time, a lot of students would never, ever do their homework. I tried in class rewards and punishments, but many students simply didn’t care about gaining/losing check, writing assignments, or time out. In my last student reports, I made a point of mentioning that students weren’t doing homework, and I noticed a pretty immediate improval. One of my kindergartener’s moms actually sent me a fairly lengthy note apologizing for her son and telling me he’d do his homework from now on. It’s true that English hagwons can be glorified day care for some kids, and the parents don’t necessarily care how well they do, some parents really do.
For example, we had a spelling test in my first grade class today. There’s one student that is not extremely far ahead of the others (the class in general is pretty bright), but he’s obviously the highest level. It’s a bit surprising. Usually girls are the best at English. In 18 months here, only two boys have been the best in the class for my classes. Anyway, he told me before we took the spelling test that his dad promised if he got 100% that he’d take him out for fried chicken for dinner. That’s really what a lot of these kids need. For their parents to get interested.
Students to some extent want to impress the teacher, and for most students, in-class rewards are nice, but not terribly important. I’ve noticed that my best students all have parents that are actively involved in their kid’s education, and it’s certainly not a coincidence. I really wish more of my student’s parents cared. Especially for the amount of school that Korean kids have to go through.
Anyway, my arm is still feeling weird from China. It’s mostly normal, but extended periods of typing make it sore and tired. I guess it’s time to wrap this up. My weekend is fairly undefined at this point. I’ve got lots of options, but I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to tie them together.