Sunday Afternoon: where’s the panic button?

The lesson plan that I was going to do last week got postponed by various events.  The same thing happened the week before.  I’m afraid it is becoming a pattern.

It’s not for lack of ideas.  That’s good.  I’m hoping this blogging thing may help by enticing me to record some of these ideas.  And to stop leaving little notes in pockets, or even in the hip pocket notebook, or even in the excel spreadsheet holding some 128 things to do.

Tomorrow morning, Monday, October 13th, I want to start using the refurbished school library reborn as the English Zone.  A technician who rescheduled on Thursday is supposed to arrive at 9:00 am to rewire the electric service to the projector because a weak or ungrounded connection seems to be causing an oscillating mouse.  The English Zone has a SmartBoard that is a touch-sensitive whiteboard.  While the screen of the PC is projected onto the SmartBoard, a fingertip serves very naturally as a mouse, and inkless pens will be recognized and their strokes drawn digitally on the PC display, and thereby displayed onto the SmartBoard.  But the oscillation makes a stroke drawn horizontally look like a sine wave, and a mouse click may register above or below or, 30% of the time, right on the spot where one’s finger is trying to click.

It makes the instructor look a bit of a fool to onlookers.

What shall I do tomorrow?  I will need to tell the homeroom teachers to send the kids from their normal rooms to the English Zone.  They’ll straggle over.  They’ll start to wonder where to sit,  I’ll be wondering too, “Should I scatter them from their usual neighbors, or just let them coagulate according to their own devices?”

The room is long and a bit on the narrow side.  The hexagonal tables are a perfect shape for groups of six.  They are actually two half hexagons, and as such, could form rows or a big circle or horseshoe.  I’ve decided to try out the round tables first, two across close to the SmartBoard, two across in the middle and two across in back.  The seventh table I’ve split and formed a row of two tables and six chairs at the extreme rear of the room.  The first four tables and 24 chairs can make out words on projected PowerPoints, but the last three tables and 18 chairs can’t.  I have some classes where that will be a problem; most of the 30 or 35 kids pay attention.  I have some classes who won’t mind; of the 30 to 38 kids, 60% prefer to sleep or display a manly attitude of disdain or put on makeup less surreptitiously than Korean classroom custom allows.

I visit 20 classrooms each week.  Generally the active students are up front or in the center row and the sleepers, tough guys, socialites and otherwise disjoined people are in the rear.  Following the charter I’d been handed in graduate classes, I attempted to re-engage all of them, even genially jostling the sleepers.  I ran through a full palette of jovial and stern faces mixed in with quiet, empathetic, mocking, angry, hurt, encouraging, barking voices, as well as clapping hands and sung songs before I admitted that the resulting nearly 100% pure disdainful surliness was clear evidence that I was crashing myself against the rock wall of the established culture.  If I was having any success at all, it might be that I was amusing some of them.

More than admitting defeat of the imparted charter of enlightened pedagogical practice, I’ve also been learning that they have excellent reasons for their choices.  They are imprisoned from 8:00 am until 9:00 pm each weekday and until 1:00 pm on Saturdays.  Those fortunate to have parents with plenty of money are allowed to leave around 5:00 or 6:00 to attend classes at academies.  Others with less money attend additional classes from 10:00 pm or 11:00 pm until 12:00 midnight.  Others are presumably studying at home until 2:00 am or 3:00.  There are none to admit it, perhaps because it might be used against them, but it’s reasonable to assume that most are spending those precious hours outside of prison in pursuit of diversion.

I keep thinking that a kindness would be to give them a chance to relax and have fun 50 minutes a week while hearing English, and maybe producing some too.   

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