Saturday, February 25, 2006

My BA4 class

Going towards Chinese New Year I was growing frustrated with teaching. The problems varied. I never felt they were learning. I suddenly realized I should have been teaching harder. I wonder if I was wasting their time. It was a minor comprehensive crisis of conscious.

Coming back from Chinese New Year, I was pretty refreshed. It gave me three weeks off which was valuable. During those three weeks I could focus on my Chinese. During that time however, I still was not a hundred percent Chinese, not even close. What it did was show me that when I don't have class, I have a natural tendency to end up studying the same amount. So teaching English no longer felt like the opposite of learning Chinese. Now I am still studying up to eight hours a day and at least four, so I did not break the stride that I wanted (mind you that is nearly entirely reading and listening, so if you hear me speak對不起).

I also have changed how I teach a lot. With my main class, I have seven students. They are all smart kids in their way. Last semester I let them write on their own too much, I now feel. Almost all day they were working individually. This was easier because of the dynamic of the class. But now I am trying to teach more to the whole and have less one-on-one time. An example is that before I gave them each a book to read, and then they would one-by-one read me the book while the others practiced the book or worked on related stuff. This was good sometimes, as it helps pronunciation, but it is also a time-suck.

Now I have more genuine teaching, and I will talk about this more in my next entry. For now, here is a run down of my students:

My most problematic student is Henry. Henry has the determination of a bull-headed Apprentice candidate, and that comes with all of the same subtle social graces. Henry as your class devil is really not so bad. It could be much much worse. His biggest problem is he is just so loud. He yells constantly, and so I am always trying to get him to be more quiet. I know I was a loud kid [sic: am a loud adult], but I don't think I was so insulting and loud. But he is a smart kid. If I teach it, he learns it. He does not excel at anything that is not taught (natural talent if you will), but if it is a spelling word, he knows it.

Summer is naughty to a T and loves my class because she can disappear from my view and get away with more. Her English is not fantastic, but she does her work. Anytime I deal with another student though, she is trying to do something else. Before she was dependent on Candy, and at least that is changing.

Candy is incredibly bright, and could likely read much of this blog out loud (understanding none of it, but being able to pronounce most of the words). She is shockingly moody sometimes, but she has great capabilities. She has lots of natural talent but is hard to teach. Sometimes I will explain really basic stuff that everyone will understand but her. This typically puts her in a bad mood so pronounced she won't learn anything.

Daniel is one of the brightest and works so fast I have to keep extra assignments in stock for him. I like him because he seems to be on a constant hunt for BS. He will ask why to virtually any statement. Candy does this to be cute/annoying, Daniel does this to try and "get" someone. I don't think he is used to me, who gives him straight answers and forces him to actually try and trap me logically. He is also inordinately obsessed with the fact that he was the only one of my students to successfully learn the extra credit spelling word: "antidisestablishmentarianism" (which he can spell very well, but refers to as simply "antidis"). His mom is a teacher and shockingly loves my class. She renewed for this semester almost immediately and is really flattering when I run into her. I would also note, I had a 100% of my students return from last semester, which made me happy.

Kevin is a sweet kid who seems perpetually sick. He has a cough that sounds remarkably like a scream. He is an amazing artist and a social outcast. Its easy to see why he is a social outcast, he unnecessarily tells on students nearly constantly. You should note, this is the same Kevin that I had in the summer class. They bumped him up two levels from BA1 to BA3. This means his English, although far too good for BA2 (which he now would be in) is not nearly up to BA4. This is worsened because I like to teach very obscure (but in my world useful ) words, which now most of the class is accustom to, but he has not had the time with (my boys all have words like "abstain" and "proposal" at ready use).

Allen is the most like me when I was a kid, though I think he is a bit more selfish. He is a sweet kid, but sometimes I discover a streak of selfishness or whatever that surprises me. He has amazing spoken English, but his writing is a train-wreck. It is just not pretty. His mom is amazingly sweet, and stays involved in his progress. I like that a lot. I have made Allen a lot better in spelling and writing, but he still has a tendency to drift. He needs the handwriting coach I needed [sic: need?] and that is a terrible terrible fate for someone of his age. He was a serious hugger, and before I started pushing away physical affection from kids (now i recognize the fact that I really don't want their dirty hands grabbing my arm), he constantly wanted to be touched (I think its from his very sweet mom who must hug him continuously).

Lastly, Jerry is my new student. Jerry is a great kid it seems, and the first two weeks with him have been great. He is a good stabilizing influence for Henry. When a student goes crazy in my class, I like social pressure to be my biggest weapon. Before, Daniel and the girls were the only one would would look at Henry like "what are you doing?" Allen would laugh and Kevin would continue staring at the cartoons that surround his peripheral vision. Now I have one more student, who is sitting very near Henry who can look at him like "dude, that was really weird." Jerry has spectacular spelling problems, but otherwise he is getting the class. His work is not amazing, but he is a great guy and I think he will continue improving.

So that is my main class, next time I will talk about my other classes (not student by student), and how this semester has been better.

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