Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Run Away

I've got things to complain about. Who doesn't? So before I start complaining, let me share one thing I am NOT going to complain about: the weather! Haven't you guys who have been reading me for awhile noticed the lack of "Ohhhh my Gawd it's So Freaking HOT I want to Go Out and Commit Crimes" posts this past summer? No need, my friends. Not this summer.

As I understand it, people in other parts of the country haven't been as lucky. I know Seoul was pretty muggified for much of the summer - and Daegu? Well, that's just a bowl of soup. But down 'round these here parts we've had an easy breezy time. The rainy season started late and lasted a long time. Many a day has been cloudy and mild, and there has been an ever-present wind that has kept things very tolerable. This has been my most favourite summer thus far in Korea. For the last couple weeks the temperature at night has even dropped enough to be deemed "yummy sleeping weather." There's a hint of fall in the days here, and it's even occurring in the big city, as my buddy John takes note of.

Alright. So that's the not complaining. Moving on.

I've got a real challenge in my adult class in the form of a new student who is driving me crazy. I haven't had a problem student like this for quite some time. If it were a child, like most of my students are, I wouldn't be having such a difficult time. He just joined my class a couple weeks ago, and I sort of knew something was up when he insisted on having a 30 minute meet and greet with me before the class started. Fair enough, I suppose, but usually the sorting of levels and initial interviewy type things are left to my manager, The Princess. So he spent 30 minutes with her and another 30 with me, and then entered the classroom and monopolized the room for the next 50 minutes.

This has become his M.O. now. He usually shows up about a half hour before the class starts and wanders into the Teacher's Room, helps himself to a seat, and starts chatting. I'm usually busy preparing for the lesson and I'm not really keen on giving him a mini-conversation class before the actual class begins. I'm always apologizing, and saying I have some work to get done so can't really talk. Sometimes he takes the hint and leaves. Other times he says, "That's okay," and then just hangs out watching me do stuff.

My adult class in an Introductory one. We tend to spend about 5 or 10 minutes conversing and then we hit the book. My new student, however, would prefer to have a conversation for the whole 50 minutes, and doesn't' care that he's railroading the class and shutting out other less-confident students. As a matter of fact, I've had three students drop out since New Guy started, and I know it's because they dislike him. I resent having to try to disengage myself from his one-on-one yammering and refocus the class on what we're studying. Last week we were working on the future tense with "going to" and we were talking about special occasions. The format was "What are you going to do for New Years? Where are you going to go? Who's going to be there?" and so on. We're going around the room asking each other questions, and it's going well - but when we get to New Guy he turns to me (of course) and says, "Do you believe in Jesus?"

I said, "Awwwww come on. The question should be 'Are you going to believe in Jesus at Christmas?' but I'd like to focus on the textbook, New Guy." Sheesh. When I try to gently correct him or guide our conversation toward the group, he gets pouty. Yesterday I said, "Hangul mal hajima-seyo," (with a smile on my face) -- "please stop speaking Korean" and he said "yeaaaahhh," and then zoned out, jamming his finger into his ear, inspecting the treasure he had dug out, and then rolling it into a ball before flicking it on the floor. Awesome.

He wears his shoes in the classroom. It bugs the shit out of me. The taking off of the outside shoes and putting on of the inside shoes is a Mister Rogers Korean thing. My brother doesn't mind if you walk your outside shoes right on into his inside home in Canada, (I can't bring myself to do it anymore) but here in Korea we do no such thing. We've got big shoe shelves at the entrance of the school and all my students are wearing the provided-for slippers. So, why do I have to remind New Guy that he's Korean and needs to take off his (big ugly) outside shoes?

Whereas I used to end off my work day three times a week feeling really good from having completed a productive and enjoyable class with people taller than my elbow, I'm now heading home pissed off and feeling like a crap teacher because I can't wrangle the New Guy. I don't want the students I actually do enjoy very much to keep dropping out.

A big part of the problem is the way my manager (The Princess) will stick students in a class that's not appropriate for them. I've got Elementary school students who are the same age, yet aren't at the same ability for our classes. At five o'clock I've got eight students who can read well and understand the direction I'm giving, but there are a couple who have serious trouble with even alphabet recognition. I'm spelling something for them (trying to move things along) and I say "E." They write an "i." "No, E. Not I." They erase and write "g." Arrrgh. When I bring this up to The Princess I'm told the student can't join the earlier lower levelled class because he/she can't "make the time."

So this is what's happened with my adult class. New Guy wants an intermediate conversation class (and really, he could well benefit from the introductory one if his ego wasn't an issue) but we don't have something suitable - so we stick him where he doesn't want to be, and we're all suffering.

Anyways. We broke a new record today at my school. I mentioned it before, but almost a year ago we took over the music school down the hall from us, and my boss converted it into a math school. Recently, The Princess fired our spirited math teacher because she's got a problem showing up to work on time and there were some complaints about the way she dresses. She does kind of look like she's going to a nightclub, but whatever. She agreed to finish working at the end of August and we found a replacement teacher just in the nick of time. New Teacher signed on just last Thursday. She came in Monday for a bit of training and the 1st was her start date. I was hanging out with the middle school girls before their math class started at 8pm. The bell rang and there was no teacher. Five minutes passed and still no teacher. Another five later, and I asked them, "Where's your teacher?" Shrugging of shoulders. You know where she was? She was gone, baby, gone! She had taught four classes and decided that was quite enough thank-you-very-much. She left a note saying buh-bye and turned off her phone as she ran out the door.

I don't know WHAT is going to happen tomorrow!


Gwen said...

I understand what you're going through with the annoying adult student. Several years ago, we had a guy who would come in early and sit behind the main desk in the lobby and answer/make calls on our phone! I had to make sure all of our bills and bank books were locked away before he got there. I'm sure he would have riffled through them had they been left out.

I'd try to be polite to New Guy, but I wouldn't let him ruin the class. It's no good for you or your boss if he's driving other students out.

This may be borderline on the politeness scale, but you could pop down to the stationery store and buy him some cheap indoor slippers. Give them to him the next time he comes in for class early wearing his outside shoes. Mention that he seemed uncomfortable wearing the ones provided by the school.

Charles Montgomery said...


That reminds me of a guy I once had in a class in Daejeon.

I kind of caved - I sort of turned him into a sub-teacher and it kind of worked. Once he felt responsible for the other students, he spent a lot of his "talking" time trying to elicit answers from them.

I like the indoor slippers answer.

Also, why was the guy ever allowed to step into the teacher's room. That should be sacrosanct space. ;-)