Sunday, September 13, 2009

Episode 10: In Which DFM Channels Sigourney Weaver, And Builds A National Treasure Using Child Labour

Friday was an exhausting day. Actually, the day wasn't exhausting, but I sure was exhausted during it.

On my trip to school I was so tired I missed my transfer station twice. It wasn't that I was sleeping either - I had looked at the platform sign and said to myself "okay, one more stop," but somehow it just failed to register that one more stop meant that I should get off at the next platform. Fifteen minutes later I did the same thing again, this time when I should have gotten off at my final destination. It was highly fortunate I had left fifteen minutes early that morning, because my two errors added twenty minutes of travel time to my morning commute.

When I showed up to school I was prepared for two scenarios: one in which I had to teach six thirty minute classes of my own material with no curriculum or help (like I had the week before), and one in which I would be told that I should teach the originally planned unit for that day which now made no sense at all since on Wednesday I found out the children were not doing that unit (it's too long of a story to fit nicely in this post, but not long enough for its own post, so I've left it out). When I showed up ten minutes before class (the train fiasco), I was told to use plan B (apparently the school had talked to my boss who then told them they had to teach this unit today).

Well, wouldn't you know, not everyone got the message. Although I was able to finish the lesson easily enough with the five-year-olds, since I had all the materials with me, the two six-year-old classes had none of the materials they were supposed to prepare for me, and so I had to make up a thirty minute "art lesson" on the spot... with no art supplies.

The seven-year-olds had the supplies somewhere, but the first teacher must not have known they would be needed either since they were not ready when I came. I tried to explain to the teacher what I needed, but she couldn't understand. We then tried to use a girl who had moved from Australia and could speak English to translate, but I'm not so certain she's confident with her Korean, because when I asked her to tell the teacher what I needed she looked sick and said "I don't want to."

Eventually, I was able to get across what I needed, and while the teacher went on a search for the materials, I tried to entertain a rowdy class with some songs and games. The songs were well received, though perhaps a little too well received - a few boys decided that it was necessary to start kicking other students. One boy hauled off and Tae Kwon Do kicked another girl for, as far as I could tell, was "no reason." Other boys were pushing each other and soon students started falling over and into other students. I stopped the music and even though the students have limited English, the Ripley Death Stare from Alien is apparently International Language for "you'd better stop if you know what's good for you."

When I did get the class settled, and the materials finally arrived, I set the children loose on trying to make Namdaemun gate with straws and glue. Not having access to a giant piece of paper, or straws, or glue myself, I could not do the assignment at home before I came to school. Consequently, my instructions were not overly clear, but somehow the students managed to pull together and make the famous gate (National Treasure #1). For the next class though, I started with some more clear instructions and the results were downright astonishing (especially since I've since done this assignment at another school with less spectacular results).

While my first class got themselves into fights over who had which colour of straws, or how many, my second class quickly divided into tables and seemed to be racing to try and finish first. I'm almost certain it was the result of good discipline from the teacher (or the absence of a few rowdy boys from the other class), but this class has always been a pleasure to teach. It could have also been that I told them I would take a picture of them if they finished.

Below are the final results. Keep in mind these are what we in Canada would call six-year-olds, and they made these creations with no help from myself or their Korean teacher.

(Starting with the roofs.)

(Getting an outline.)

(Almost finished.)

(Keep in mind the picture of the gate is upside down in this view, so it looks worse than it was.)

(Best pose ever. Thank you boy in orange.)

(Second place gate, but by far my favourite picture. This group had seven kids as you can see, but they worked together almost flawlessly and were the first group to finish.)

(Hands down the first place winner. This group's straw gate was almost better than the original version I drew on the white board at the beginning of class. I'm pretty sure that boy at the back walked through this picture on purpose though.)

To compare the pictures with the original, click here.

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