About a month ago I wrote about the first day of classes for the new school year in South Korea. It turns out I was wrong. Very wrong.
Yesterday was the first day of classes of the new school year. What I thought was the first day of classes turned out to be the last week of classes before the students all moved up a year. During that week I taught no classes as the students and teachers were preparing for the graduation assembly. Then it was time for Spring break, another two weeks off for the students.
Taking this a step further it means that, when March 2, 2011 rolled around for the official first day of classes, some of my students hadn’t attended an English class since before Christmas. In the two months that had elapsed I noted how much English had been lost across the board by my charges. Some attended Winter Camp but that was optional and meant to be more fun than serious study.
There’s a phrase I often use when describing language study, “use it or lose it.”
Most of the students have lost part of their English.
I arrived at school on the second wearing black dress pants, a blue button-up shirt and a shiny pink tie. It’s a good thing I randomly decided to opt for the formal look, as every other teacher was similarly decked out. And in Korea, my sparkly pink tie blends it, it doesn’t stand out at all.
My first class was scheduled for the second class, at 9:45AM. No problem, I’ve got my lesson planned prepared and I’m ready to go. My co-teacher informed me about and hour before I was to teach that the second class would… have a welcoming assembly.
This is the only class I’m supposed to teach the Second Grade (Korean 15 year olds) this week. English is disposable in the northern farmlands of South Korea. Instead of learning English, there was the assembly, meeting the two new teachers, a few adults from the parents’ council attended and that was about it.
Now, after a two month break I’m expected to teach these teenagers English. And I will. Only I realize that I’m pretty much starting from scratch once more since most of these kids, much as I love them, can’t see why English should be a priority. It’s not their fault, but makes my job not harder… but more frustrating and my lessons more simplistic.
But still, finally, officially, I can say the school year has begun.
(And really, it makes more sense to start at the end of Winter than at the beginning of Fall.)