Friday, June 25, 2010

Open Class with Parents in a Korean Public School

Having an open class can be extremely stressful. A lot of it is out of your control: you can plan the perfect lesson but what if your kids get performance anxiety? What if your class starts late or early and throws off your carefully planned schedule? What if, what if, what if--all of those what ifs can drive you nuts. For the Korean public school teachers it can be even more stressful--the evaluations from parents and administrators will play a significant part in determining their pay scale. My co-teacher this year is new to teaching (and a fabulous natural) so I told her the essential thing about nailing an English open class:

It doesn't matter what actually happens. It just has to look good.

You'd think that having a 4th grade level English class would mean that everyone understands since most people were required to take over 10 years of English classes but this isn't the case.

In any case, it went down flawlessly.  We basically took a standard lesson and made it glossier. Instead of black and white disposable game boards we printed color versions and had them laminated. The students we called on for the warm-up questions were students who we knew had loud voices and loved  participating rather than the mix of levels we do in a standard class. Other than that, it was a completely normal lesson. And the parents loved it. Universally, they commented (my co-teacher translated everything for me afterward) that our energy was infectious--the kids loved learning with us.  The parents loved how our acting everything we said made the class easy to understand and fun to watch.  One mom said she was surprised by how fast the time flew by, 40 minutes seemed like nothing. And yes, I didn't see a single dad in a school full of mothers visiting.

I love teaching the 4th grade.  They aren't jaded by learning yet or stressed out by overwork and exams.  If you make it seem fun they will have fun learning.  It makes my day when I get to chat with them in the halls or in the streets on the weekend.  They are just so damned happy to be alive. 

The only less than perfect thing that happened for the open class: my co-teacher and I accidentally wore the same color top again.  Two open classes in a row we were very coordinated. I think that for the next one in December we might have to coordinate. Then again, Koreans are all about matching so maybe it was a good thing?

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