Saturday, January 27, 2007

Square One

Yesterday was another Speech Contest day at school. I don't know how much it really helps the kids to be learning these short speeches every month, but I like it. I suppose it helps with reading, pronunciation and intonation, so it's not all bad. I'm especially pleased when I can get the students to not read like little robots as they're apt to do. Inflection! Hurrah!

By the time the last group of classes rolled around we were all tired. Jane said she didn't even want them to do speeches, but I protested, "We practiced them every class! It feels like a waste of time if they don't actually perform!"

The thing is, these two classes are painful for different reasons. One is made up of five middle school students, four girls and a boy. While I like them very much, their level is ridiculously low. Two of the girls can't actually read or understand much of anything. We're currently working on the same material I'm doing with my 1st graders: "This is a ______. These are _______s." The work is slow, and this snail's pace tests my patience. But I try to be encouraging and enthusiastic, even though I'm tired by the time their class rolls around.

The other class has five students as well, though they're all in the sixth grade. All of them have been my students since I started at the school - and I'm thinking the boys, especially, are as worn out of me as I am of them. Overall, I'd give the boys' attitudes a rating of "sucktastic." The girls are, as is usual, very nice and eager to please. I've written about one of the girls before, but I can't be bothered to flip through the archives. She's constantly being bullied by her classmates. I've spoken to the boss about this numerous times. A couple months ago I entered the classroom to find her crying and clutching her hand. One of the boys had kicked her before the bell rang, and she turned up the following day in a cast! He had broken her hand! The girl's mother had come in a few months before and actually sat down with the ringleader, a little pip-squeak named "Reed," who I've probably written about before as well. He's the younger brother of the girl who opened a Love Motel in my apartment while she was supposed to be cat-sitting. So I think there are behavioral issues with all the kids in that family.

An aside, the bullying drives me crazy and I do my best to stop it and stick up for the girl. But recently she said the dog biscuits the other girl had in her bag looked delicious. (They were chaped like little bones, but they were pink. I don't know why.) Before I knew it, the bag had been opened and Bullied Girl takes a big bite out of one. Sheeeeesh, girl! A little help?

Anyways, I've teaching the sixth graders three times a week since we're still down a K-Teacher. I call it my "soul-killer class." I just don't know what to do to get the boys engaged with anything other than talking to each other in Korean, writing notes and drawing pictures back and forth in their books, and bullying the girl. During the speech contest, Joy happened to pick up Reed's book and was disgusted with the amount of "graffiti" in it. After the final bell rang, she took him by the arm into a classroom to talk to him. I recalled how Judy, a few months ago, had thrown her stick at Reed, dragged him into the hallway outside, and shouted at him until he was tears. I wondered if this was going to be a repeat event.

Joy and Reed emerged from the classroom about ten minutes later, and indeed, there were tears! Thing is, it was JOY who was bawling! It took a couple minutes for her to compose herself, with Jane and I looking on. "What's wrong?"
Finally, she told us she was "heart-broken."
"Jeeze! What happened?"
She said she knew Reed's family went to church, and so she prayed for him with him sitting there and (I imagine) rolling his eyes very far back into his head. She prayed so passionately that she became overwhelmed and started weeping.
Bawling and praying.
This is one approach I have never tried with the students. I'm not sure about its effectiveness, but I'll look for signs of improvement in attitude in Monday's class. If there is any change, I plan to go all Southern Baptist in subsequent classes.

"JAY-SUS! HEP' dis boy see the AIR-UHR of his WAYS! Bless him oh JAY-SUS, and fill him with the Spirit of Enthooooosiasm about all thing English!" And yes, I will weep - if that's what it takes.

None of this really matters, though. Joy informed us on Tuesday that she's been accepted to university to study Education. (Another four years, even though she has a degree in Chemical Engineering!) She had failed the entrance exam before she came to work with us, but was invited to an interview the week before last because they had low enrollment. So, she'll finish with us at the end of February, and unless we can find a replacement in the next month, we'll be down 2 teachers, with the boss and manager having to teach.

Please Jay-sus! Send us a new TEA-CHA!!!

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