It occurs to me that I may not have told the whole story about my students. I’ve complained about them from time to time, or told stories about them fighting. While the stories are all true, I’m also very proud of many of these students. I have a lot of respect for them.
It can’t be easy to listen to me speaking in all English for a class once a week. In the best of cases, I have a dedicated co-teacher who can help translate and explain things. When co-teaching happens the way it was intended to, it’s a beautiful thing, like a perfectly choreographed dance routine.
However, I’ve had nine co-teachers this year. There have been times when a co-teacher doesn’t come to class, and it’s just me and the kids. For some first- and second-grade classes, the changing cast of teachers has meant that they are on their fourth (fourth!) English teacher of the school year. That’s a lot of teachers to get comfortable with, to build a rapport with and to try to tell exactly what you have and haven’t studied. And these kids — most of these kids — try their best. They’ve learned to say “teacher, one more time” when they need to hear a listening activity again. They help one another while doing group and partner activities. When I can see that the quicker students have understood my instructions but there are too many blank faces from others, I ask someone to volunteer to re-explain in Korean. And someone does.
There are the students who always greet me with a smile in the hallway and yell “hello teacher!” There is the student who used to answer my “how are you” greeting with “my name is …” who can now say a few things to me, and at least understand what I am asking. There is the student who is not the best at English, but who always stops to talk to me, and who has even given me candy before class. There’s the student who realized after I passed out all the pizza and chicken in a special after-school class that there was none left for me, so he gave me a piece of his chicken.
Yes, the teaching can be stressful at times, the noise is a fact of life at the all-boys school and occasionally things can get out of hand. But these are just teenagers. Most of these kids try really hard, and I appreciate all they do in my classes and when trying to speak with me outside of class. It is, after all, why I am here.