Thursday, July 21, 2005

What summer vacation really means, Korean style..

So this week, today in fact, we started at JCEI what they called "Summer Break Classes." This means, a new schedule.

When I first heard of this, I initally thought that "Summer Break Classes" meant... more free-time, less working hours, perhaps just EVEN one little half-hour break squeezed into my normal 3-9 shift. Actually, it's both better... and worse.

Now that summer break has begun, it appears that Korean kids spend MORE time taking Academy classes (meaning, classes taken above and beyond the normal mandatory school) BECAUSE they have more free time--aka no usual mandatory school. Which, in all sincerity, is baffling to me because the very word vacation gets nullified with the very act of taking more prep/academy classes during regular school break. Isn't vacation supposed to be a break?? Not to Korean kids--or to their parents, shall I say.

When I asked one of my students today, why they've piled up the academy classes during summer break---when they should be taking a rest from so much studying---he simply replied, in broken English, "because we must to do this." I gave him a blank stare, and returned to our grammar exercises.

Then I realized, Korean kids nearly live and breath school by the time they get to highschool. School supposedly starts at 6 or by 7am, and can sometimes last until 9 or 10pm--sometimes including Academy, sometimes it's just regular school hours! I've begun to have a bit more sympathy for my kids now. In fact, I almost feel guilty giving them homework.

Then I decided to focus more on speaking than writing; as the story goes, Korean teachers focus heavily on reading, writing, and comprehension. But the speaking part goes down the drain. That's where I come in.

I'll be damned if I can't get my highest English class to finally reply to me in a complete sentence when I ask them a question!!! I no longer want "Yes" or "No" for an answer!

But I've made progress, see? I gave my 2nd highest English level students an example. I say, "Now, listen. I am American, and I don't speak Korean very well, BUT I am learning. What would happen if someone asked me, in Korean, 'Do you like Korean Kimchi?' Naturally, my reply would be, "Yaeh" (with a Korean accent). Now what if they asked me, 'What do you like about Kimchi?' What if my only reply would be, 'Yaeh?'" (I continued with numerous other questions, but each with the same reply: 'Yaeh.' They laughed hysterically, but they got the point.

I'm trying to teach them to RESPOND to me, not just reply. I want a good, detailed answer, with the noun, the action verb and the object included in the response. I don't think that's much to ask---I even told my 'G' level students (the highest) that my 'J' level students (middle level) give me better answers than they do! I think that perked them up. Plus, it helps that I gesture to them, speaking loudly and using strange facial expressions--they must think I'm some baboon! BUT, again, I get my point across...

What a summer vacation this will be!
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