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The new term

We started our new term at work last week. It’s been fairly stressful.

There’s all the paperwork that had to be sorted out. Vocabulary lists for the novels being studied by the elementary students; syllabuses for all classes (the foreign teachers were responsible for the speaking class syllabuses); grade sheets for recorded homework; getting used to the timetable. We also had a new teacher start with us, an American woman called Sandy – that wasn’t stressful as such, but we needed to advise her on how things ought to be done.

Getting the syllabuses and vocabularies done wasn’t too much of a hassle. I did most of the former myself, and even the books that don’t easily break down into ten units aren’t all that tricky to do. I tried to make the homework as specific as possible, balancing it with the amount of work done in class. I knew that one or two textbooks, though, would be difficult to complete more than a couple of pages per class, so my homework for that one was ‘Finish classwork’. I don’t take those classes, but I’m sure the students weren’t too impressed. I don’t think my colleague Travis put in as much thought. I have one book with long units (and therefore difficult to finish in one 45 minute class) where the syllabus he made has just one page of homework per class.

The most stressful part is getting all the pieces of paper ready for the classes. On each classes very first lesson each teacher has to hand out a range of sheets: the overall syllabus, a timetable, that class’s syllabus, the students’ new books. Then the students should glue, tape or staple their papers into their folders and books. Some classes have addition pieces of paper – vocabulary lists and ‘mini-tests’. The second speaking class of the week for the elementary students also requires the handing out of green tape grade sheets. Of course, I forgot to get enough for some of my first SP2 classes – and then the green paper ran out.

There was one moment where I’d put students into groups to work on a sheet of questions I’d made up for the SP2 class and one girl was sitting on her chair in the middle of the aisle up the centre of the class. As she was sitting right on the edge of her chair and I needed to leave the classroom to make photocopies and I didn’t have much time I decided not to get her to move out of the way, but instead just stepped on her chair and headed out. She wasn’t too happy about this, but the main embarrassment was that the father of one of my students was right outside the classroom with a book that his daughter had forgotten.

And then there are the large middle school classes. These are the really soul-destroying ones. The smaller middle school classes with students who don’t say anything aren’t too bad – frustrating, but also quite relaxing in a way. I don’t like the classes with a large percentage of boys who won’t shut the fuck up. I’m going to start giving detentions early on this term I think. We also have a new piece of paper in the registers which is to be used to make notes on problem students. I’ve not really looked at this so far, but I should.

The highlight of last week’s schedule was probably the extra speaking class on Wednesday with L6 students. The L6 classes (with maybe eleven year old students – they’re in the middle of elementary school) were some of my favourites last semester – and I had a lot of them. This term I have none – except for this special, double-length Wednesday class. I was asked to choose a book for the class a couple of weeks ago – and it’s turned out well so far. My students (mostly, if not all students I had in the previous term) had to brainstorm ideas for things to include in a spacecraft that might be received by aliens – a Voyager II, basically; then, in a second discussion, they had to pare this list down to five items. One group said they would send one of themselves, Betty, along with food and water, air, and a cellphone so she could call home.

I work till ten on Fridays so that’s conflicting with my taekwondo classes. I had no taekwondo last Friday (although I did get hold of my blue belt on Wednesday). Master Lee did say she would stay behind later on Fridays to teach me, but she was meeting friends last week. We sent a few text messages back and forth on Thursday to see if I could come at a different time, but nothing came of that.

That was last week. This week has been less stressful (although I’ve only taught Monday’s classes so far). Well, except for marking the dictation homework for listening comprehension classes – it’s the first time we’ve been required to do that and, having done it twice last night, I’m still not sure I quite understand what’s required.

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