Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Eat. Play. Teach. Blog entry #12: Means to an end by Georgina Selander

Means to an end by Georgina Selander

“Please face the front.” I breathe out violently, trying my damndest not to lose my cool.

“I don’t want to,” she replies venomously in Korean.

The remark is made doubly rude by the fact that she’s omitted the yo' at the end of the word (an honorific signalling respect). What’s more, I’ve foregone the textbook in lieu of a game – one that everyone else seems to be enjoying – so what’s with the attitude?

She turns around again.

I wonder why my co-teacher hasn’t come to my defence.

It’s a fundamental lie that teachers “don’t have favourites”. It goes without saying that any student who is eager to learn and who participates enthusiastically in class is a pleasure to teach. This has nothing to do with grades or proficiency. Yes, a good mark gives us the pleasure of knowing we’ve done our part adequately. But a committed low-level student certainly outweighs a competent, yet insolent, one.

Summer camp - Advertisement design workshop
An amazing university lecturer once told me, “never let them see you sweat”. It’s an invaluable lesson, and one I constantly need to remind myself of. While it might be necessary to call a student out on bad behaviour, the ‘how’ is everything. Flying into a rage or screaming at the top of your lungs will only expose your vulnerabilities to your students – one they can use to their advantage.

And so I quietly return to front of the class – making a concerted effort not to let the histrionics of one student spoil the class for the rest.

Six months into my Korean adventure, my patience continues to be tested. But at the same time, it’s been an incredible study in not taking things personally.
Moody teenagers come hand-in-hand with teaching middle school-ers – and often times they’re just trying to ‘act cool’ in front of their friends.

But let me not get too negative here. There are moments – as rare as they might be – that make up for any hardships you might face.

Summer camp
A few weeks ago I held a Summer Camp. Every year, during their vacation, students sign up for various extra-curricular classes.

For my English camp, I’d planned what I’d hoped would be an exciting two-week itinerary – full of learning games, competitions and even cooking activities.

On the fifth day of the camp, students were given the chance to make ‘mug cakes’ – a simple microwave recipe that any hopeless baker could perfect (or so I thought).

As an instinctual – rather than methodical – baker, I improvised on the recipe where I saw fit – encouraging students to add a little extra flour or milk where the consistency seemed wrong.

What came out of the microwave ten minutes later was, frankly, poef. The cakes were rubbery and dense. Mine even had a green tint.

Summer camp - making ice cream in a bag! Yum!
As they dipped their spoons into the soggy mess, I felt disappointed at the result. They had been looking forward to this all week and the result was everything short of spectacular.

But at the end of the lesson, as the students shuffled out the classroom, one girl lingered behind. As she packed up her stationery, I approached and asked, “did you enjoy your cake?”

“Umm not so good,” she smiled and shrugged. “But fun!”

This was all I needed to hear. The proof was in the pudding after all; the means outdid the end.

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