I recently watched a series called ‘Wonders of the Universe’. As a child I disliked physics and chemistry and made an unprecedented and successful attempt to avoid studying them at G.C.S.E. level. Although I enjoyed the practical aspects and admired the concept of both subjects I could never understand the details. Which neutron was positive or negative etc… baffled me. I just liked the fact that something happened because you burnt it or stuck an electric cable in it. Why it happened was not my concern; even less was my desire to listen to someone try to explain it to me. I was the only student at my school who studied one science (biology) and two art subjects. I am almost positive that my secondary school accidentally overlooked this. I clearly remember a specific meeting for my year group on the subject of G.C.S.E. choices. I also, specifically remember being told we must chose two sciences and it was highly recommended we did all three. Being a student who rarely found trouble and rarely rebelled, I did as suggested. However, after turning up to my first chemistry class to be told I would need last years notes (they had been rapidly discarded at the end of the last school year) and then being scolded in a rather condescending manner by the teacher, I made the instant decision to drop chemistry at all costs. After studying everyones timetables I discovered that one of the art subjects (graphic design) had the same time slots. All of the other art subjects had craftily been scheduled at the same time so you could only choose one. With great guile I informed my tutor of my intent to change. Without question or study he agreed; much to my delight and disbelief! My fortunate deception complete, I never studied chemistry or physics again. Incidentally, I got an ‘A’ in graphic design!
Anyway, slightly dull school recollection over! My point is that it’s not necessarily the subject that is uninteresting, more so how it is presented or taught. Children can be incredibly harsh and my students will immediately inform me when they are fed up of me trying to teach them English. Like all people I have good days and bad days at work. Teaching has been such a steep learning curve for me, fortunately in many ways this has been entirely natural. However, some aspects of teaching match less kindly for me. Recently I have reached a stage of comfort. Where it is easy to keep the kids entertained, learning and focussed for most of the time. With the odd exception of a few children. One of my greatest guilty pleasures is tricking those few students who don’t care or have little interest in English to learn something. At first I took the easy reward option….good work and behaviour = candy. This ploy, although effective, can make your victory a little hollow. Now I like to challenge them. I like to dedicate at least half of my actual teaching time with cunning teaching trickery. More often than not it works. Getting the students to open their textbooks can be a tedious challenge so I like to teach them what they will learn in the book before they even open it. Play some games or have a discussion about the topic or grammar they will encounter. Twenty minutes later they think they have had a victory in time wasting when in reality they will do their work in half the time because they already know the answers. Genius. Like all victories it is probably short lived and I will need to evolve my teaching style continuously.
So, like Charlie Sheen, I feel like I am winning. But this state has only been created by learning from the many mistakes I have made in the last ten months. With deliberate intent or accident we all fail. We often learn from our mistakes. However, sometimes we choose to ignore or miss the opportunity we are presented with and we continue to deceive ourselves and other or act in ignorance. The glorious aspect of life is that we also succeed. We learn, develop and move on. I like to believe the mistakes we make, the lessons we learn and what we make of those lessons shape who we are. If we could unfurl our memories, the etchings we make on our own DNA and the scars our bodies and minds are marked with, we would have an incredible infograph, a timeline of our highs and lows.
The recent plateauing, if that is even a word, (it should be….more of a word than LOL which has just crept into the Oxford English Dictionary…disgracing the English language!) of my teaching comfort zone is equally measured in my current lifestyle. This is my first blog entry in sometime and it is largely due to the fact I haven’t been doing a lot. I have been saving some money and playing a lot of football. My football team is enjoying an encouraging start to the season having won two of our first three league games and being harshly denied by the referee in the other. I even scored a goal. (Which was incidentally the coolest finish ever- outside of the foot, on the volley, slotted past the keeper from 18 yards!). Inbetween the league games was a rematch of Changwon vs Sparta Busan. This time I played for Sparta as they were short of players. With little guilt I scored against the team I had so proudly played for a month ago when we beat Sparta! Sparta won 5-2 in the end and I was labelled a traitor!
I am taking a break from football for the next two weekends as Kate is visiting from Russia. I haven’t seen her since the Philippines and I am massively excited. I have a week off work and our plans involve a trip to Seoul.I have mainly contained my Korean adventures in the south of the country so Kate’s visit presented the perfect opportunity for both of us to explore Seoul and maybe the DMZ between North and South Korea. I will undoubtedly have a hefty blog entry to write when I return……….