Ahhh…the end of the year, a time for reflection, a time to relax, a time to rip off other people.
I basically stole this idea from Chris Wilson’s blog (see it here: http://eltsquared.co.uk/my-top-5-teaching-moments-for-the-year-2011-2012/ ). I liked the positive vibe. I really had to stretch my brain when locating five good memories from the past two semesters at my middle school. There are a few ways to interpret that, I’ll stay positive for the moment, and assume it is because I am just so present-oriented. I learned another thing while trying to generate this list: Many of the top “moments” where not moments per se, but rather consolidations and syntheses derived from previous learning, or broad re-occuring events. I found it difficult to isolate specific episodes. This might be due to having a somewhat academic approach to both work and life. Abstraction is a beautiful thing, it lays the groundwork for both an efficient and transcendent life, nevertheless it is not always conducive to delivering the most appealing message. Be that as it may…my top five recollections as it pertains to teaching:
5) English camp during the summer. The key event was based around student presentation. Many students did an admirable job and asked good questions to their peers. I actually felt like I was a conversational English teacher at that moment!
4) Realizing the value of time pressure. The term fluency development is on my mind these days. Not only comprehending a text, but comprehending it at a faster rate…certainly valuable stuff. I have played around with a variety of activities during the last several months to promote faster processing speeds, such as shifting the use of various ppt-based games, repeated and speed listening, and repeated reading. This is still a project in development, but it has me excited about the prospects for the next semester.
3) A series of articulate responses from one particular student. General intelligence restrains me from mentioning the student’s name over the internet. This past year I have had some challenging classes to say the least. During a review game one of the students in one of the aforementioned challenging classes made a very articulate response to the rather banal prompt: “Use the following vocabulary word in a grammatically correct complete sentence.” The exact details slip my mind, but I was a bit floored. I already knew this student was one of the top students in the school, but still it impressed me. It left me feeling a bit uplifted and a bit despondent. Despondent because I realized that I’m really not helping this student realize his potential—regardless of whatever excuses I can muster and uplifted because here was a student on a path to success despite institutional, peer-based, and classroom constraints. The weeds don’t always suffocate the flowers.
2) Chess. I haven’t been able to play much chess since I left Moldova in 2009. I had a few games with some kids I did some volunteer work with in Kyeongseong and Jagalchi, but it has largely been absent from my life since coming to the ROK. Since the English Café at my school was quite the misnomer, I brought my small chessboard to add to the already available games during the lunch period. Often, to my delight, the students play the game among themselves (as opposed to watching another movie), sometimes when a partner is lacking I will fill the void. There are some talented kids here. I have even suffered an occasional defeat.
1) 2-5 class. During this semester, the 2-5 class has been an oasis in a desert. There is ample participation, minimal behavior problems, and a willingness to go beyond the practice opportunities I provide. No specific memories, but just a feeling of relief when I know I will teach that class: most everything will go according to plan.
Well that is my non-moment filled list of good recollections from the past year. Not the most inspiring list I concede, but it did serve as a reminder that teaching is one of the best jobs around (let’s exclude the topic of monetary compensation for the moment). It is not so commonplace to have so many positive interactions with so many people in a paid occupation, not to mention all of the insights which are integral part of meaningful teaching. I feel blessed.