As soon as I stepped into the classroom for this week, my mind was shouting for this one word. Unlike other classes that I’ve taught for the past 2 weeks, none of the students seemed interested in our existence. The five boys in the 2nd grade classroom (Mark, Ryan, Jake, Jacob, Jack) kept running around the classroom despite the fact that four of us were standing in front of the classroom, and their overwhelming energy seemed unwavering. Fortunately, with the help from the principal, I barely got them to sit down in their assigned seats.
Two weeks of teaching experience gave me the confidence to control the class. Some of my co-workers seemed to be lost without the language skills to communicate with the students, and as the only native Korean speaker, the task was mainly thrown upon me. Despite some of my coworkers’ effort to teach and converse in English, their efforts proved to be futile as they were ultimately overwhelmed by a sea of Korean speakers. If one of them attempted to teach in English, the students responded with complete ignorance, and eventually, teaching had to be done by me and Youlim who could speak a little bit of Korean.
Using the same lesson plans from previous weeks, I was concerned no more about how and what to teach the students. However, it was my first time encountering with a class where none spoke nor understand English. The most challenging aspect of teaching them was that I had to speak in Korean all the time. Although speaking Korean could be necessary, it was definitely not something that I desired to do: without difficulties, I had no chance to challenge myself to teach in a “foreign” environment. Such inner conflict incessantly bothered me, but with my coworkers looking lost, I had no other solutions. Starting from alphabets, I slowly pulled the class to be engrossed in my lesson. With activities like passing around a ball, hot potato, and four corners that could entertain them, I earned the opportunity to figure out ways to approach them.
While some students like Ryan and Mark followed my lead, Jacob, Jake, and Jack constantly resisted and only listened to me only when the activity suited their interests. Jake and Jack were in particular reluctant to open up their minds, and they constantly moved around and talked to each other as if we were invisible. Nevertheless, like the saying “Little strokes fell great oaks”, I tried vigorously to penetrate into their unbreakable bond to befriend them, but every time I tried, they were simply indifferent to what I was saying and kept drawing characters from their favorite games despite numerous cautions I gave them.
After a few days of struggle, I found out they loved singing songs, and whenever they got distracted from my lesson, I promised them to play an exciting song. We decided to play “What Does the Fox Say?” as a reward, and they loved the funky sound and dance from the music video more than I expected.
By the end of each day, I crashed into my bed as soon as I got to the guesthouse. Nevertheless, the endless journey to achieve peaceful atmosphere among the five boys continued. One week almost flew by, but I can proudly say that this was one of the worthiest time I spent at Jiguchon.