Thursday, November 25, 2010

Reader Question...level of students

This one from Chris:

"I'd like to know a bit more about the standard of your students.  The reason I ask is that when I look at some of your games (although undoubtedly well designed) they appear extremely simplistic and almost aimed at children.  I'm sure most of my high school class would breeze through them!  How can than this be a class for a university or have I misunderstood something?  Is university teaching really about doing stuff like this?!"

Well Chris, the simple answer is yes, it really is like this sometimes.  Korean students (and parents), generally seem to want an entertainer vs an actual teacher when they have a foreigner in the classroom.  Those that are "real" teachers and conduct their classrooms as such generally have a pretty hard time teaching at a uni here.  I remember one of my old coworkers who was a principal back in the USA getting very low evaluations from the students because she actually had expectations for the students and was serious about teaching.  The handsome/funny/not too serious performer seems to be the one who thrives.

Of course, all situations are different.  If you work at a high-level uni, then yes, of course you'll probably forget the little games and stuff and it will be a lot more serious.  However, my uni is not high-level:

1. It's out in the sticks, away from Seoul.
2. It's a science/engineering school so the students are good at math and science, not exactly humanities stuff.
3.Anyone can get in.

So, some of my students can barely say hello and tell me their name.  If they have problems about homework or something, I have to resort to speaking my sketchy Korean because their English is non-existent  (of course some are freakishly good and almost fluent). So, I conduct class like they're in elementary school almost.  And, in some ways they are.  We're re-learning the grammar and vocab they should have learned then.  I give them such simple assignments that an 7 year old kid at a hagwon would be able to do it.  I give them the questions for the test a couple weeks before the test.  They are generally kind of jaded about English, so I try to make it fun and interesting and hope they'll leave my class and have a wee bit more confidence about actually using it in real life.  And actually Chris, the kindergarten kids you teach at your hagwon are probably much better than my students.

Anyway, at a uni you can generally do whatever you want in class.  Some of my coworkers are quite serious (we have thin walls!) and seem to be doing lots of paperwork and book activities.  Some are like me and play lots of games and have a happier class.  It's up to you.


Alex Taylor said...

I'm in the same situation at my uni here in Korea - 90% of my students have never had a foreign teacher before, and I'd estimate that about 50%+ of them don't know the days of the week, or months of the year. It's been a big change from last year, where I had high-level highschool girls writing short essays, to this year where I have 24 year old boys learning the correct response to "What are your hobbies?"

That said, I find teaching lower level undergrads incredibly fulfilling because they've grown past the insecure stage, so they're willing to speak up even if they're not sure about their answer. I love the feeling that I get (and I'm sure THEY get) when I ask a question and they understand for the first time, and give me the appropriate response.

Anyway, just wanted to say that I understand where you're coming from - a lot of us are on the same page!

Jackie Bolen said...

Thanks for the encouraging comment!