This week, our group began teaching at Woorideul School (우리들학교), a specialized academy for North Korean refugees and Korean-Chinese who have history in the DPRK. Coming from Jiguchon School, we were used to a rigid structure and relatively simplistic schedules. Unfortunately, coming into this school, there was lots of confusion on how teaching was supposed to play out. The biggest difference between this school and Jiguchon was the fact that these students were much older, and therefore, there was a greater emphasis to learn other subjects. Here at Woorideul, the students had greater pressure to focus on additional topics.
At this new school, our day is structured into a reading club, and two periods of English classes. Our first big surprise at the school was that the level of English was slightly lower than we had anticipated during lesson planning. Since we were teaching adults, we assumed that the learning level would at least be at the middle school level, but the first day showed otherwise. The range of English levels spanned from pre-college to elementary, but a majority of the groups were unable to read some of the passages that we had prepared.
As for the English classes, it was confusing for the group to see multiple groups of students in one day because of the structure that we had gotten used to at Jiguchon. Before this school, we had taught one group of students for a whole week with no change. Now, we were forced to adapt and figure out how our lesson planning would adapt accordingly. By the end of the day, we felt rewarded by the teaching, but we also felt a strong sense of unpreparedness.
After a group discussion and a few days of reflection, we prepared harder for the next few days of teaching. On our next class day, reading period passed smoothly. Since we were more familiar with our students’ reading levels, we were able to prepare more appropriate readings for the various reading levels. Without a doubt, all of us really enjoyed the process of reading together with the students and discussing the various topics that were presented in our readings.
In adjustment to our classroom teaching, we agreed that it would be more realistic to teach them simple dialogues combined with some vocabulary. As we moved in to the next periods, we introduced our students to basic conversations such as “What is your name”, “How are you” and “What do you like”. This provided a more interactive atmosphere amongst the students as they were conversing to each other as well as practicing with us. It was a pleasant surprise to us as to how quickly the students were able to absorb the knowledge. Some even asked us how to say phrases that were not on our lesson plan. In addition, it gave us an opportunity to get to know them better in a lively classroom setting (playing “Simon says” or “hot potato” was a little impractical with these 20-year-olds). While the beginner level English students learned simple phrases and questions, students in the college preparatory class took on a more advanced challenge in preparation for their college entrance exam (대학수학능력시험).
While the students had classes during the fourth period of the day, the DESKers rolled up our sleeves and prepared lunch in the kitchen. The main menu of the day was fried pork cutlets. We prepared the rice, washed the cherry tomatoes and cut up the pork cutlets into even slices. When the bell ran, students poured into the dining hall and lined up in an orderly fashion to receive their food. The meal was very different from what we had previously in Jiguchon school, and all of us enjoyed it very much.
Next comes Friday, the third day of teaching at Woorideul school. As our lesson plans on Thursday worked out well, we carried on with a similar syllabus. Everything is starting to head in the right direction. It’s unfortunate that we have such a short time with these students, but we look forward to the fun we’ll have and memories we’ll make in the next two weeks.