Teaching on the fly

One thing about teaching anywhere, but particularly in a foreign country, is the ability to think on one’s feet.

Take today for example. The class in question is scheduled to begin at 3:05PM and run 45 minutes. The lesson is prepared, the photocopies made, the powerpoint presentation polished. Well, polished enough. This is my favourite class with students still interested in learning and not so riddled with hormones as to make them unteachable. Yes, they can be disruptive and distracting but they’re good kids and they enjoy my class. Some students obviously get more out of it than others, as even when I’m teaching to the least fluent student, the savvier ones are asking questions to further advance their own abilities.

It took me a while, but I recognize that my class is not a priority for the school. I’m a bit of a trophy. “Look at our Native Speaker! Our very own for such a small, rural school!” I’ll bow, say hello in Korean, “Anyeong haseyo” and then slip back into the shadows while the principal shows the visitors something else of greater importance… like the new dishwasher.

Today half of the class didn’t show up. They’re in the school. I’ve seen them all, but because the students (but not me, dammit) are going to Japan in a few weeks, and they need to learn how to play a song or two for their hosts in Japan, the musicians of my class went to practice. The musicians just happen to be the top four English speakers in the class.

Now I can teach the lesson as planned or I can wing it.

I winged it.

Instead of a proper lesson we sat down and played games. Jenga was their first choice but I vetoed that. Instead we played a few games of Boggle. Most of the words were two or three letters long but they were able to find and recognize short words. Ok, cool. Then I’d show them four and five letter words and insist that they sound them out. Correcting the pronunciation and then explaining the word to them. Beam, leer, swat.

Some students tried to be silent but I know my students by name so 미선 (Mi Sun) and 경문 (Gyeong Moon) found some short words.

“Jenga?” No 미선.

Instead we played Junior Scrabble. A semi-proper version. They made the words themselves with a lot of help from me. The rules went lax as I didn’t force them to have words being formed on the horizontal and the vertical, one axis was fine with me. Also, occasionally the words didn’t go left-to-right or up-to-down, but they discovered lion and ice, bath and tool.

Not the lesson I intended but they had fun, realized (without realizing it) that they can spell in English.

Sometimes, the best laid (lesson) plans are ruined by band practice. When they are, it doesn’t phase me much, I can wing it with the best of them.

When life gives you 레몬 make 레모네이드.

(I wonder if any non-Korean friends can figure that out.)


One thought on “Teaching on the fly

  1. It’s always fun to wing a lesson. I find ‘the word game’ is a great teaching tool too. I’ll have to show you sometime. Spiderman and Hurricane are excellent competitive games too.

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