Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Back To School

A week from tomorrow begins 9 months of craziness. Actually, that's not true. My school year starts tomorrow with an MUN conference in Beijing. That means I'll be traveling about 25-30 days this semester. I'll be going to Beijing twice, Singapore, Seoul and somewhere in China for a volleyball tournament. Thank goodness my classload is different this year.

Last year, I taught AP World History and MUN (Model United Nations). See here if you want to learn more about MUN. Both turned out to be full time jobs. That means 1 person doing 2 jobs. I averaged out my work time for the year and it turned out to be about 80 hours a week. That doesn't include additional meetings or the 1.5 hours a day spent in transit or coaching volleyball. It was a really tough year. I was teaching two classes, one that I just wasn't smart enough for (AP) and the other, all the students knew more than I did and were super loyal to the previous teacher (MUN). I've never worked so hard or felt so inept. I think part of it was that the students that I was (and will be) teaching are so different here than they are in the US.

In the States, it's all about relationships. Once they know and trust me, they might listen to what I have to teach them. But mostly, it was about just getting through the class. Loving them and getting to know them was much more important. I was working with kids who had been abandoned by their parents, raised by grandparents, students who had immediate family members in gangs or serving life sentences in prison, students who had parents that didn't care one iota about how they did in school, it was just a glorified babysitting job. You had to be rough and abrupt and fun and tell stories and play games and do activities.

But here, it is literally the complete opposite. My classes are about 90% Korean. The rest are mostly Westerners that have almost genius IQs. For them, it's all about Academics. The more the teacher knows, the more respect the students have. First academics, then the relationship. And they don't want to mess around with group work or activities (specifically my AP), they want all lecture all the time. Maybe some discussion. To lecture for 1.5 hours is very difficult. I had to stud 4-6 hours for every class period. And I still didn't feel ready.

Last year was kind of that I-don't-have-the-time-to-prepare-properly-so-everything's-going-to-suffer year. I was doing a halfway job in everything. I had to, that's the only way things got done. And I hated it.

Looking back though, I did have some success. Even though the individual classes didn't go well, I was able to take my MUNers on trips all over the world successfully, host a large conference in Qingdao and my APers did VERY well on their exam. 13 out of 15 got 3s or above ( six with 5s). And I feel like I've grown tremendously as a teacher. Last year stretched me professionally unlike any other year. I definitely wasn't able to coast like I have in previous jobs.

THIS year, things will be different. I now know what I'm doing in MUN. I will have actual lesson plans and activities. I will know how to plan the trips and what paperwork to fill out. I'm already working on the conference we host next February. And the biggest news...I'm NOT teaching AP anymore. Woohoo! Man, I loved the students- we spent a lot of time together (A LOT!) but I will not miss that class. Instead, I'll be teaching World History I to 9th graders. We can do fun stuff and take our time. I don't have to lecture everyday. I can't express how happy that makes me. :) Man, it's going to be so fun! And I'm incorporating a whole bunch of stuff including student blogs and current events and well, I don't know what else yet, but it's going to be AWESOME!

I'm really excited about school this year. Yay. I think it's going to be a great year. I'm finally getting to teach the same subject two years in a row and stay in the same classroom. That in and of itself is a big deal. Anyway, God is good (of course, He was even last year when things were hard).

The following is for my mother but you all are welcome to read.

Mom, here's my class schedule:

Odd days (1,3,5)- WH1 9am-11:30am; MUN 1:30pm-3pm
Even days (2,4,6)- MUN 8am-9:30am; MUN 11:30am-1pm

I know it looks like I'm not doing much but I have Chinese two hours a week and MUN takes up most of my other prep time. Plus I'll be doing volleyball during first quarter and then traveling 2nd quarter.


Anonymous said...

Just reading all that makes me tired. You are living an amazing life. I love to read your posts. Thanks for sharing all of this with us.

I hope this school year is all you hoped for and more.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you have a good plan this year. Your students are so lucky to have such a dedicated teacher.

This is some kind of incredible experience for you...keep it up.


Momstheword said...

You never cease to amaze me! I am so proud of you.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it looks like an easy year. But hopefully it will be easier than last year. Ninth grade WH should actually be fun! And now that you know the ropes on MUN, maybe that will even be fun. Thanks for the class schedule. I enjoyed our talk this morning. God bless you and keep you.
Love, Mom