Monday, November 9, 2009

Interview Prep, and Also, Not.

So my coteacher had been sort of pressuring me to do straight interview prep lessons this week, which is fine. The way she told it, about half of my 2nd grade classes have interviews, and most of those have interviews at KAIST, which are done in English. So okay, sure. I'm here to get these kids into college, and I'm happy to do interview prep stuff. It's kind of a slacker lesson for me to teach, because I can do like a 15 minute lesson and then just have them talk to each other in pairs, and walk around the room making sure they're somewhat on track. Easy peasy.

I planned a lesson and made worksheets and a PowerPoint. I would have my students make a timeline, with their dream job at the end, the university they are interviewing for next to that, and the highlights of their high school career before that to have a visual representation for the lesson. We would work on the questions "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?" "What is your dream job?" and "What made you select your major?" developing an answer that can be recycled for any of those questions. Pretty good idea, I thought.

Unless the school happens to last-minute schedule a special daylong interview preparation workshop for the kids applying to KAIST, leaving only the kids who failed the KAIST test and didn't get invited to do an interview, the kids whose grades suck too much and have to wait till next year to apply at all, and the kids who are already in college and now have terminal senioritis.

Yeah. That happened.

So of course, no one's explained this to me. All I know is that about a third of my first period class is MIA, including all the strongest speakers. And while those who are in my classroom may not be able to confidently form grammatical sentences, they're fully capable of telepathically telegraphing the universal language of "I Could Not Give Less of a Shit About Interview Preparation"
Maybe I should have figured it out during that oh-so-painful first class. But hey, I'm a rookie and I'm in a foreign country, so I work with what I've got. My coteacher tells me to do interview preparation, I'ma do it.
Until the next class. I'm in a mutual love affair with 2-3, and even though they were trying their hardest to stay awake and attentive, and even to participate, they just looked so miserable that I stopped the class about 15 minutes in. When I realized what had happened, I halted the lesson. I revealed to them my basic teaching philosophy - (or, at least, the sort of philosophy one develops after 2 months on the job):
1. [Very Fun + Very Useful] is the goal
2. [Not Fun + Very Useful] and [Very Fun + Less Useful] are acceptable in a pinch, but that
3. [Not Fun + Not Useful] really ought to be avoided at all costs.

With that in mind, I asked my students, none of whom have interviews for at least the next 12 months, whether they believed that interview preparation was useful for them. In response, one of my favorite students looked at me very somberly and said "Miss Kaye, we can endure it."

Obviously, that was QUITE enough of that. I allowed them to pow wow in Korean and decide as a class if they'd like to change course (and reassured them that I would not be offended).

Five minutes later, everyone was awake, alert, and happily playing M.A.S.H.

So maybe the lesson of the day was about creative thinking, a classic American game, and practice using the future tense. Or perhaps, the lesson was this -
Sometimes, teaching is about enforcing rules and creating a disciplined space for learning. But every once in a while, teaching is about throwing all the crap about how you can't be friends with your students out the window, and giggling with them over the prospect of marrying Brad Pitt and living in a shack in Indonesia.

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