I have an “after school club” that involves 20 students and no Korean co-teacher for help. It has become what you, at home, probably pictured when we said “we got placed in middle school.” A bunch of moody preteens running around, using cell phones and acting like hormonal asses. All the while we’re shouting for quiet or running away with our tails between our legs.
If that’s what you pictured when we said “we teach middle school in a country where we don’t speak the language” then that vision has finally come true. For Kaeti. (Chris made sure I put that in there. Chris is doing great but he doesn’t have an after school club).
First of all, this club isn’t even “after school.” Classes get over at 1:30 on Wednesday then students go to 2-3 clubs that the school puts together. It’s a pretty cool thing in theory. The students actually have time to explore interests and are not graded. There are so many crazy clubs: puzzle clubs, making model airplanes, cooking, flute, guitar, ceramics, yoga, etc. And then theres my “English Conversation Club.”
Last year my after school club involved 8 students. Most of which just wanted to hang out with friends. I couldn’t really get them to listen or do any work – they would put the bare minimum effort into things whilst huffing about. The biggest problem was that I had two fluent 3rd grade students, some mediocre to-high level 2nd grade students and one poor 1st grade student who couldn’t understand anything.
That is the huge problem with these after school clubs – it doesn’t work for a foreign language. It doesn’t matter if there are boys and girls in the puzzle club. They don’t have to interact in a puzzle club (and believe me, they won’t interact). If a student is a first grader or second grader – it doesn’t matter in the guitar club. But a foreign language – these things matter. A lot. That’s three years of language development. So the 1st graders can’t keep up and the 3rd graders are probably bored.
So there I was. The very first day of the club. I had only gotten my list of students 20 minutes prior. I didn’t know I had 20 students or what their levels were- but I soon found out. Boys wouldn’t talk to girls. The girls acted all high and mighty because they are 3rd graders. They wouldn’t stop talking to their friends even for one second. I snapped quickly and told them whats what.
The second day I made groups so I could hopefully work with them more individually. Also I only have 5 computers. Something had to be done. I asked them to tell me what they were interested in so I could make this a club we could all enjoy. I didn’t get any responses except for “Korean movies” “Korean music” “Korean dramas.” Then they just played games and ignored me.
I definately gave them too many chances.
Part One: The Enrage-ining
The third week I attempted to get the groups going – we would learn about one thing (for instance Marti Gras) and the next week we could watch a movie about it to understand it better (watch Princess and the Frog). They liked this idea. Since I would only have to make materials and lessons every other week, I put a lot of effort into the materials and plan. We were going to have a good time learning about the Iditarod and then watch Balto next week.
I stood in front of the room and couldn’t do anything. Everyone was talking and acting rude. Mind you this is in the first 2 minutes. Not a good start. I scrapped the whole thing and just tried to get them to do the bare minimum of work and we would take it from there.
No one was listening or even looking at the board. People were turned around. I got things a little under control for about 30 seconds. But pretty soon some 3rd grade girls were chasing each other around the room and leaning out the window. Spitting.
Then they were using cell phones. Putting on makeup. And eating. Those are probably the three biggest rules in the school. They may as well have murdered someone for as many rules as they broke. This kind of behavior would have warranted the loss of the phone for 1 week and a phone call home. They were honestly taking advantage of the fact I am a foreign teacher in their school. What’s the white person going to do? Take my phone? They were right. I didn’t. I barely know the rules myself. And they don’t know enough English to even understand me. So I shouted at them to put their cell phones away and so help me if I see another one…
I didn’t see another cell phone. But everyone just got more and more terrible. I lectured for a while and it became obvious 3 or 4 girls barely understood any English. We’re talking about 3rd grade girls. The highest level they should be at – they were just exceptionally low level students who joined to hang out with friends. They didn’t want to do a PE class or anything – they thought my club was an easy out. They aren’t interested in English. Honestly if they were, they would know a little more. Because they didn’t even know “sit down” or “stop talking.” I lectured everyone about behavior and cell phones and talking when I’m talking. They just laughed and talked with their friends.
They darted the second the bell rang, leaving me with a huge mess to clean up. Half of the mess was worksheets we had been working on. They hadn’t even made an effort.
I marched to the nearest English speaking teacher and demanded the 3 biggest culprits be removed from my club.