Sunday, 3 May 2009

Those That Stand Out

My 3rd and final post for the day! (...You were warned. I delivered.)

With a few weeks of teaching now behind me, I have begun to notice certain classes for different reasons. Because each grade has 8 divisions, and I will see each class only once a week (in the case of 4th grade, every other week. 4-1 to 4-4 one week, 4-5 to 4-8 the next), it's impossible for me to learn everyone individually. However, many classes lend themselves quite easily to a place in my memory. Those I'm not mentioning aren't bad or boring in any way, in fact most of my classes have an amazing collective of students, but I'm just mentioning the most prominent in my mind.

4-5. My Groupies.

When class ended, the whole class erupted into a flood of waving books and papers and students shouting "signature!" Just when I was beginning to worry that the rock star image was fading- I was amazed. It's the only time I've been asked to sign anything (other than my contract), and all 34 students wanted it.

4-3. Gift-givers.

I will always remember them as the class who presented me with a gift on my first visit. I've seen them now a second time, and I've found that they are a little more behind in their understanding, but they are really eager to participate. Great to see.

4-8. They Will Be My End.

Every single one of my classes is well behaved- and then I met 4-8. It makes sense that they were my last class to meet. Before we went in Mrs. Im looked at me and said "4-8 see." Immediately it became apparent that this class was a backward look at gender separation. All of the girls were very quiet and good listeners, while the boys were loud and unruly. When we played my game (the imaginary walk through the woods), this was the only class where I didn't have full participation. Every boy walked off and started banging on things (half of them were put in a corner by Mrs. Im, the others elected to be there), and it was no use shouting with a 50% divide (classes are arranged so half are girls and half boys, seated next to each other in pairs).

There was one small boy who was my only hope. One, of the whole lot. He listened when I spoke, and followed my lead. After I had just paraded around like an enthusiastic fool to keep the attention of the students, this boy walks up to me, taps my shoulder, and says in perfect English "You are very shy in front of children." When I asked why, he frowned and said "your face gets too red" and runs off to laugh and join the rest of the boys. Traitor.

5-3. Pennsylvania and Florida.

This is the class with the two students who spent time abroad in America. I am aware that students of this kind are scattered throughout many of my classes, but these are the only two who have made it specifically known to me (I made a mistake of trying to ask a student in another 5th grade class, but he hadn't so I think I may have confused and embarrassed him). Florida is a small boy, probably on the young end of the 5th grade, and does all the work very cheerfully. He's a little shy, so I try and get him to speak up more often. Pennsylvania is older than him, and seems to be quite a headstrong and confident girl. I don't want a favorite student, but I really see her as a welcome challenge. This week, the class was learning more letters "P, Q, R, S, T" so like last time, I had her write out words instead of just practicing the letters. I looked down after 5 minutes and she already had "queen" "quick" "quite" and "quip" written down under Q, and she apologized to me saying "I'm sorry, I can't think of too many words that start with Q." Incredible.

5-8. Troupe 5-8.

This is the closest I've ever seen to a perfect classroom. It's almost an anomaly- I can't honestly single out one student who appears to be behind. This also happens to be the class of the woman who drives me to school (I learned her name! Mrs. Min), so it really helps that I can tell her how perfect her class is. When I did the game where they put items in the house, this was the class that decided to get creative and put things like the trash on the bed and announce it with pride. There is no shortage of volunteers when I ask a question.

This week, 5th grade was assigned a role-play in which they were to act like little people discovering a large man (Gulliver) using the key words in the lesson ("What a ___ ____!"). All of these groups had the same script (I'll write it here for the full effect):

1: What a nice day!
2: What a beautiful flower!
3: Yes, it's so beautiful.
4: Let's go over there!
*all run into something*
1: What's that?
2,3: It's a rock!
4: No, no, no. It's a big elephant.
1: Wait! What a big shoe!
2,3,4: It's a man! He's very tall

In the previous class, students were mostly reluctant to present it, and not all groups did. However, in 5-8 they were all super pumped. They moved the desks to clear a spot in the center of the room for all to see. Also, just about every group went off-script (which of course made me feel overjoyed). Sometimes, the would argue longer: "It's a big elephant!" "No! A Rock!" "No!" and one group even had a fake boxing match until it was broken up by the announcement that it was in fact a shoe! Some groups cast someone as Gulliver, who woke up at the end. Once, he said "I'm hungry," another time "What little people!" and my personal favorite "Ahh!" where they all scream and pass out when Gulliver wakes up. He is, after all, a giant man.

6-2. "Monkey".

In many classes there are one or two students who are special needs. I know there is a special ed room, but I'm still unclear as to who goes there, or when. Sometimes it's more extreme than others- Mrs. Im and I had to start a class late once because the homeroom teacher was busy chasing a girl around the room who was wailing and could only be calmed by pipe cleaners and a special desk in the corner. All students have a number, so occasionally I will call numbers if nobody answers questions. Taebun has shook his head at me if I call a "wrong number," meaning, a special needs kid. Mostly, I'm told to ignore them because they won't participate- which at first I thought was a terrible notion. However, in 6-2 I learned exactly why he's so insistent.

There is a kid that sits at the front of the class that the students call "monkey." I've seen that he hangs out with friends during lunch, so I'm thinking he's a part of the joke or at least is not affected negatively yet. However, they like to try and volunteer him to answer questions, and everyone laughs. "Pick monkey! Pick monkey!" even he will laugh, then stand up, scratch his head, and sit down. It's terrible. Since this class, I've taken a bit more sensitive notice to these kids- who are mostly in the front or very back of the class. If I try and get them to talk, kids make fun of them and I hear about it later. I'm at a loss. At least when they do book work I make them copy the sentences, but I'm a little afraid for now of showing them too much special attention. Especially when I can't understand other kids' comments in Korean. If my co-teachers' only guidance is to ignore them, this might be a little harder to work through.

6-3. The Comedian Reigns Supreme.

There are three boys in this class that really approach my class as a stage for their act. On my first day meeting them, every time I finished a sentence they would stand up and prompt the class to cheer.

"My name is Sara"
--"OH! SARA!" *clap. cheer*
"I am from Michigan"
--"Michigan!!" *cheer*
"This is my family..."
--"Family!!" *cheer cheer*
"My Mom..."
--"OH! MOM!!!" *clap cheer*
"My Dad..."
--"Papa!! Oh!" *cheer*

Taebun had to stop it at some point, or my 5 minute PowerPoint introduction would take the whole 40 minutes. I've seen them again, and the pattern surfaces each time. At first, it was very funny. Well, it's still sometimes funny, but my encouragement has to be muted to a degree. The three ringleaders will stand up when I ask a question, or very loudly repeat what I say. The problem is, I've learned, that just because they are enthusiastic to participate, they do not have all the answers. Mostly, they like to be the center of attention, whether or not they know what they are talking about. These three will always speak, which takes away the incentive for the others to volunteer a little bit. And I found that a lot of the quieter students have a lot to say.

I mean, believe me, nobody thought "My mother is July!!" was funnier than me when I asked the class to tell me what month their mother was born in, but it's not the sort of spotlight I can encourage every day.


  1. You said,

    "In the previous class, students were mostly reluctant to present it, and not all groups did. However, in 5-8 they were all super pumped."

    I wonder if you can cash in on their competitiveness and say something like, "my 5-8 class did so well with this next exercise - I don't know if you can do as well as they did, or maybe you can do even better!?" Of course, you know them better than me, and wouldn't want to discourage them... just a thought to try to get them to "up their game."

    Also, I might take those three boys aside and tell them that you see they have natural leadership abilities... and maybe ask them if they would use those abilities to encourage others to try to participate more. You could tell them that to do so would help them be more successful in their careers.

    Or maybe hand each person two little colored cards and each time they stand up, they turn in their cards to you. When they are out, then they have to wait until the next class when they get two more. Although that could backfire and those with cards don't stand up - so nobody participates... hmmm... just ideas :-)

    <3 Mom

  2. "When I asked why, he frowned and said "your face gets too red" and runs off to laugh and join the rest of the boys. Traitor."

    Oh man- that made me laugh heartily. Good one. Love that kid.

  3. My mother is March.

    I have a squirrel too! I couldn't think of a nickname for him until you told me about yours, but now we both have squirrels. :)

  4. Ok...I have three favorites!

    Your red face. I love you for it cause I have the same problem! :)

    Guliver...freaking LOVED THAT!! Sometimes I feel kids have it made. Being able to play and pretend out loud and not get stared at like you're crazy. Doesn't stop me...but it'd be fun to have other people see what I see.

    Pipe Cleaners. I'm sorry Sara, I laughed when I read that. I feel bad for the girl but seriously, I feel like I've had one of those days. I can see myself just freaking out on someone and saying, "JUST GIVE ME THE F**** PIPE CLEANERS (in this case) AND LEAVE ME ALONE!" *sigh* A nice quiet corner too...*sigh*

    Loved the updates, sweets :) Glad you're feeling better and that you're doing well.
    Miss you