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New classes

Two weeks ago the new semester started at our hagwon, so I’ve had a slew of new classes to teach. This means becoming familiar with the new schedule, the new books and, of course, the new students. So far things have gone reasonably well. I have a lot of classes with L05 and L06 students – which are higher level younger students – and maybe one or two L04 and L07 classes.

To be honest, there’s a slightly stilted feeling to many of these classes. I hope that this is just a side-effect of the all-round unfamiliarity – me with the books and the students, and the students with each other and with me (where they haven’t had me before). But on the other hand, I hope that future familiarity doesn’t breed contempt.

The oldest students I’ve taught this past fortnight were in my solitary MP class (MP for ‘middle school preparation’ (and L for ‘L-ementary’)) – MP12. One of the students, Louis (or Min-gyu) I know from last semester when I had him for Speaking and for Speaking Novel (Moby Dick). He’s pretty intelligent, but given to messing about continuously: giving non-sensical answers to questions and so on. Last time, his MP12 class went from five student at the start of the semester to a mere two at the end. This time we started with four, quickly gained one and who knows what’ll happen in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, the subject of our Speaking Novel class is Othello (an ultra-dumbed-down version thereof, anyhow). No disrespect to the Bard, but it’s not the kind of thing that’ll grab young teenagers, and the more interesting aspects are probably somewhat beyond a) their ability to discuss them in English, and b) their willingness to discuss them or take seriously.

I’ve downloaded a filim version Othello from way back in the 1990s; it stars Lawrence Fishburn and Kenneth Branagh as Iago. I’m not sure they’ll have any appreciation for it at all, but I think they ought to see what Shakespeare really looks like (he’s a short guy with long receding hair and a little beard … wait a minute: he’s Bill Bailey). It has English subtitles – which will probably prove more useful for me than for them. There’s a more recent film calledO with Josh Hartnett where the story is transposed to a modern-day American high school. I’ll give that a go later on.

I have two other novel-based classes – both L05 and therefore both doing the same novels: A Dog of Flanders later on and currently Anne of Green Gables (in this ‘Happy House’ edition, Lucy Maud Montgomery is referred to as ‘Lucy Mode Montgomery’). I’ve downloaded what I think is an American TV movie – it’s a mere three and a quarter hours long (it might be a miniseries condensed into one file). I débuted yesterday in my two consecutive Novel classes. The response was mixed.

I came into class carrying my small backpack, which of course raised a few questions – which I avoided by saying something like, ‘Yes, it’s a bag.’ Once the register, homework and random stuff was out of the way and I had the classes reading Chapter Two, I got out my laptop and speakers. And when the reading was finished and I’d asked them a few comprehension questions I asked a student to turn off the lights and started playing the film (which also has subtitles).

There’s a slightly disturbing digression to be told here. The previous night, as usual, my last activity before settling down to sleep had been to download porn in bed and have a wank. All my downloads automatically go into my Downloads folder (which makes sense); from there I later move them to the appropriate location: Tools, Pictures, Videos etc. On that Friday early afternoon I went to Starbucks (also as usual – I am a creature of habit). I decided to have a look at Anne so I could have the folder up and ready to play the file. My μTorrent folder is in my Downloads folder.

So up came a modest array of porn and I was acutely aware that there were a couple of women at a table behind me. I lower the birghtness on my screen and angled the computer towards the wall. And then what did I do? In my nervousness I managed to double click a video file. Fortunately, I’d been listening to music at home and Windows Media Player stayed minimised – but still, a few seconds of girly moans were emitted from the tiny, tinny speakers. I muted the speakers. And moved the files, and applied the three-second Vulcan neck pinch to the power button and went to work.

As I was saying several paragraphs ago, the response to the video was mixed. Each class was divided into two camps – those who gathered round to watch intently and those who stayed further back and played on their cellphones or Nintendo DSes. I wasn’t bothered with the latter as long as they were quiet. I should possibly have taken the time to watch more than a few minutes of the film. It looks like the movie has an opening section with Anne living with the Hammonds, before she actually goes to Green Gables, but this episode is absent from our 100-page abridgment. It might help the students appreciate the story if I show them the part of the story they’ve just read. I have to say, watching it made me feel a little emotional, almost – almost, I say – to the point where I was struggling to keep an even voice asking the students questions about the film.

The other thing to note is that my schedule this past fortnight has been on a par with what had gone before. However, many of the middle school students have been absent, busy with school tests (I’m now very familiar with the Korean term ‘naesin’, but I still don’t know what it refers to exactly). Furthermore, we now have one foreign teacher fewer, so next week, I get six more classes – older teenagers, at that. Oh, joy.

Categories: Employment, Life
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