Monday, December 28, 2009

The first day of class

I kind of loathe the first day of class stuff. Like the awkward nervous silence when you try to make light conversation but everyone just kind of stares and doesn't quite know how to react. Little icebreaker games and stuff are okay but so far, I haven't really found any that I actually like. For example, today I wrote up a few answers on the board, and got the students to guess the questions. They kind of liked it, I guess but still not great. Then, I got the student to do the same and the class went around and guessed stuff. No one was really inspired to actually say anything interesting, which was kind of annoying.

Anyway, what's your secret plan for fun, interesting first day introductions? Help me! Please. I still haven't figured it out after 5 years :(

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Anti-English Spectrum in Korea

An interesting Podcast from CBC's "The Current" about xenophobia against English teachers in Korea. It's pretty well done. They seem to have done their research and talked to people who are in the know.

My thoughts: I'm happy that this is getting to the outside world. I hope South Koreans are embarrassed and put pressure on the government/Naver to shut this group down.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Buying and Selling Lesson Plans

An interesting Podcast from CBC Radio's "The Current" entitled "Teachers Selling Lessons."

The controversy is that some public school teachers (the regular kind...not ESL) are putting their lessons online and selling them. The teachers that sell stuff defend themselves by saying that they're underpaid and put a lot of their own money into stuff for the classroom. And that they'd share, for free with the other teachers in their school or friends or whatever. And that they put a lot of work into it, so why should they give it away for free. Those that buy defend themselves by saying that it takes a LOT of work to make up good lessons plans and that they obviously don't just copy wholesale but still put a lot of their own ideas and thought into the lessons they take from the internet.

The critics say that this will hurt education. Hamper creativity on the part of teachers and in essence seem to just think the teachers are lazy and don't care about the kids.

My view: have the critics ever been inside a classroom, on the teaching end of it? Do they not realize how much work it actually is to prepare a lesson, especially for kids? And...if I put all this work into creating an amazing lesson, isn't my time worth something, or should I just give it away to total strangers? And, why wouldn't I use someone's worksheet for the exact same lesson that I'm doing. They make it, or I do. It doesn't really matter. And just because I use another person's stuff, I obviously put my own thought into adapting it for my audience.

What do you think? Buying and selling materials is all good? Or, veering into the realm of sketchy?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Speaking Evaluation

I used to finish the speaking test portion of exams exhausted. I have around 200 students, so me personally, having a conversation with every one of them was too much for this introvert. The good students were fine and kind of fun but the bad ones used to wear me down. Like the one who didn't open their book until 2 minutes before the test and didn't know a single thing of what we'd studied that semester. But, then I felt like I had to try to help them and make them understand, or make it easier for them so they weren't embarrassed.

Now, I've revised my system (thanks to Jinks for his genius!) to make it more difficult for the students and easier for me. I give them a list of possible test questions (probably 12-20). They need to study all of them. Then, I take them to my office in random groups of 6 and from there I'll pick 2 random people and they have to ask each 4 questions each, but they can't ask the same question that was asked of them. They get 1 point for each correct question they formulate. Then, the answers I grade on a scale of 0-4 for a total of 20 points on the test. This would work well with 3 questions too, for a total of 15 points.

It's better for the students because they get practice asking questions, which they rarely have to do in conversational English classes. Plus, the 4 points I give them for it are just like freebies for the people who study.

It's better for me because I just observe. I keep things moving along and jump in if someone doesn't state a correct question but besides that I don't do much. It's also easier to grade fairly if I don't have to interact but can just focus on observing. The students who don't study are forced to say, "I don't know" and then we move on from there and that's that. There's no stress on my end to try and help them, exhausting me in the process.

And...I can do a class of 20 in under an hour.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Do you like shooting Yourself in the foot Korea?

So there is a well-known group in Korea, called the anti-English spectrum which does such honorable things as making up complete lies in the form of crazy stats about how many foreigners in Korea have aids and are take drugs, stalking random foreigners, and sending death threats to the president of ATEK. More on the whole thing from Brian. Quite a nice friendly group of people, it seems. Despite numerous complaints from human rights organizations and the like, to both the government and Naver, who hosts the site, no action is being taken against this outright racist ( almost to the level of Klu-Klux-Klan-ish) and xenophobic group.

Anyway, their activities seem to have made news back in my motherland, Canada, in the well-respected National Post.

Now, all I have to say about this whole fiasco is well done Korea. Do you want to have a worse reputation overseas than you already do? Yes, it seems you do. Do you want the foreigners who get screwed over at hagwons to tell their friends back home all the shit they had to put up with in Korea and now the people they tell back home will have a newspaper article to put to the stories they hear? Yes, it seems you want that to. Do you want to prevent any quality teachers coming from overseas to teach a language, that despite all the money you throw at it, seems to be beyond your grasp. Yes, it seems that you do want the bottom of the barrel since a just qualified Masters in TESOL/TEFL/English grad, when reading that article is probably going to look elsewhere. Anti-English spectrum:you want quality teachers...except your blatantly racist hate campaign may actually prevent them from coming here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Native Speakers of English in Korea

There seems to be a lot of animosity from certain groups of Koreans towards the foreign English teachers. Sometimes, it has some merit. Like there really are a lot of dumb-asses who perhaps drink too much or (very RARELY) touch a child inappropriately. I would argue that these things happen a lot more frequently among the Korean population though. This is the only country that I've ever been to (and I've been to about 20) that you see businessman passed out on the street corner on a weeknight. AND it's socially acceptable. And the only place that I've ever heard of, where a teacher gets caught for molestation and they get a "strong verbal warning" and go back to class.

Anyway, the latest news in the native speaker world in Korea. Some talk of mandatory cultural indoctrination to hopefully combat this dumb-assery I guess. See Brian's article for the latest. My $0.02 is that it will be useless. Dumb-asses are dumb-asses and a week long training session about kimchi and hanbok is not going to help them. As Brian points out, the solution would seem to be not hiring them in the first place. I thought the stricter visa regulations and hassles from a couple years ago would weed them out but apparently not. A pulse still seems to be the requirement. Anyway, for the sake of Korea I sincerely hope that the ESL industry will grow up and get a bit of professionalism. It'd be good for everyone...Koreans and foreigners who are serious about teaching.