Saturday, February 23, 2008

Performance Review

In my year’s reflection, I neglected to mention a not so small detail about my life in Korea: I have a job as an English teacher! Despite having no formal teacher training, I’m comfortable enough identifying myself as an English teacher here, but I probably won’t go flaunt that label to veteran teachers back home. At least I don’t have to coerce my kids into thinking that I’m some kind of authority; they identify me more often as “teacher” or “teacher Haley” than just “Haley”.

Calling what I do “teaching” may be a bit of stretch most of the time, but I do have moments of actual teaching. In general, I see class as structured practice time and me as the facilitator and resource for proper pronunciation, correct grammar, appropriate words and cultural insight about America. Of course, when I actually teach, I can evaluate how well I’ve done. I feel accomplished and satisfied when students demonstrate greater competency. When students don’t seem to learn anything, feelings of discouragement and frustration can lead to mild annoyance, especially when students repeat the same mistakes and make seemingly little effort to follow my instruction. Before essay time with the core students, I generally talk about writing rules, like not beginning sentences with “And” or “Because’. They nod their heads like they’re tired of hearing me say the same thing over and over and yet some of them forget my writing wisdom three sentences into their essays. I repeatedly talk to my advanced students about proper essay format and on using specific details to support their ideas. Some have improved their writing dramatically and consistently use the proper five-paragraph essay structure. The others…well, at least they look slightly less baffled when I talk about the necessity of thesis statements. All in all, it’s hard to gauge how much I have to do with a student’s improvement. I’d like to think I make a difference…

I’ve gotten better at explaining words and ideas. My drawing ability is still pitiful, but it’s improved slightly. I try to give precise definitions of words, but often resort to using the words in sentences so kids can guess the meaning from context. I never found this technique all that helpful when I was learning a language, but it’s hard to give good definitions. My advanced kids get their 30 weekly vocabulary words from a set of 2000 alphabetized TOEFL words. We had “eq” words last week. Try explaining the differences between equivalent and equation or equitable and equality. It’s tough!

I’m teaching 22 hours a week this semester and maybe do 4 outside hours of work. The work itself is not particularly challenging. How am I not totally bored with this after a year? The students. Based on the grouping of students, each class has its own personality. A certain group of students can consistently make a class enjoyable. Granted, there are those classes that drain me of energy and force me to exercise my vocal chords more than I’d like. I would obviously prefer a schedule filled with classes of smart, engaging students, but at least the variety of classes keeps things interesting and staves off boredom. When I started, I was very aware that I’d be going through the same motions for three different classes per night and time passed slowly. Gradually, I began to accept the routine and focused on enjoying my time with the students. That shift in attitude helped a lot, but admittedly there are still days when I get a deflated feeling from knowing I’m stuck in my classroom, smiling, for another few hours.

Of course, my job is more than just the teaching and the students. My current group of coworkers contributes to the positive and fun work environment. I would have been reluctant to stay longer if I didn’t like them all so much. As a demonstration of our camaraderie, we’re ordering matching Cornerstone jerseys. Woot!

I’m enjoying my experience in the classroom, but I haven’t been inspired to change career paths. I’m not a social enough person to enjoy the constant interactions with others. If I’m in a bad mood, it’s a challenge to stand in front of students with a smile plastered on my face for the duration of class. I’d like a better balance of working with people and working alone. Also, my personality isn’t perfectly suited to working with kids. I’m too serious! I’m fine with leading discussions but I’m not as good as the other teachers at relaxing and joking with the students.

Overall, working with students has been a highlight of my time in Korea. I’m looking forward to teaching for the next 6 months!


Blogger Ellen said...

Oh Haley, Your personality is great for working with students! You're not always THAT serious :-)
I miss you!

8:02 PM  

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