Today was the first of three workshops that we are teaching for “CampFulbright”, a summer program designed for us ETA’s to get classroom time and for students to learn conversational English. The theme for our first lessons was “heroic moments”. I chose to modify a workshop I did in the past to see how my teaching skills and style would translate to a Corean educational environment. I was initially concerned that talking about the birth of hip hop as a cultural response to the cycle of systematic, economic and social violence in the Bronx might be too much for an ESL class. However, after our initial classroom observations and hearing that one nine year-old had read Ender’s Game, my worries were alleviated.
The class was small and, in case you didn’t catch the sci-fi reference, extremely high level. Six young women, 2 young men—in total 8 nerd-awesome, over-achieving, elementary school students. Fell in love with ‘em instantly.
The first comment I got was on my long hair (something that seems to becoming reoccurring theme, and a characteristic that my teacher told me might help with fitting in at a performing arts school). To begin class, I opened my mouth with a bellowing “how are ya’ll doin?”, instantly triggering a flashback to the one time I got booked to do a show at a restaurant filled with patrons who clearly had come for the food. Yet the students soon warmed up to my frantic pacing and shouted instructions. I’m used to, and most comfortable in, a loud classroom, so having to encourage students to be rowdy and vocal was not a familiar experience (note: it seems that from past ETA’s experiences this will not be a problem in larger classrooms).
I still gave instructions too fast (damn you cliché spoken word speech patterns!), but overall the workshop was successful. The students learned and contributed a lot. Perhaps most impressive was their writing (ie my home looks like my mother’s kingdom [insert poetry-moan here]). I tried my best to not be overly critical of my first lesson (as I have the nasty tendency to try and solve systematic oppression within the period of a one hour workshop).
I am still struggling with what it means for my privilege and humanity to teach English in a country so obviously impacted (often for the worse) by American imperialism. But like my co-teacher back in the Bay reminded me, these things are a constant process of reflection and growth. Also I have the agency to control my curriculum and experience with this program, so I am feeling up.
Also, good news: I heard today that there are placements at both performing arts schools and schools with low-income students so I am crossing my fingers for one of those placements. Either would be an amazing chance to not only learn from my students, but also to engage them with similar student populations back in the States.