In typical Carrie-fashion, the morning of my Open Class, I awoke to find an enormous zit protruding from my face like the proverbial wart on a witch’s chin. Not exactly an auspicious start to such an important day. Nevertheless, I got up and went to school dressed in my best “teacher clothes”. I even dug out my second best pearls for the occasion.
Every teacher in Korea must do Open Classes. It’s neither enjoyable nor realistic but there is no way to avoid them. Everyone, from the most senior teacher to the newest recruit, from the PE teacher to the incomprehensible foreign English teacher; everyone does Open Classes.
An Open Class is in theory a day when you open your classroom to whoever cares to come in. Based on my previous Open Class experience in my old Korean school, I expected the principal and the vice principals to come for a while, and a few other teachers to pop in and out over the course of the class. Usually teachers will try to figure out when the principal will be there so they can be there at the same time.
At my old school, my first Open Class was extemely well attended, mostly because everyone was curious about the weird new foreign teacher. Attendance at subsequent Open Classes steadily declined. Only my principal came to my last one (and the school photographer and the school videographer, of course!).
Some schools even open their classes to the parents (which, in all honesty is a pain because the Moms always chat and you can’t really shush a Mom…).
In theory, an Open Class should be a normal class, just with a few more people. In actual fact, it is a three-ring circus. People will prepare for weeks, and it’s not uncommon for teachers to practice their Open Class until it’s virtually flawless.
I would have liked a bit more time in Korea before having mine but the powers that be informed me on my second day at the school, that my Open Class was to be on September 28th. I was also informed which class I would be teaching. This was fine with me since I hadn’t taught any classes at that point and would have had no idea which class to choose.
As the big day drew closer, I was informed which of my 5 co-teachers I would be teaching with. This particular co-T is a sweet young thing who is about 10 years younger than me; a fact which causes him considerable angst. Korean society considers age to be extremely important. The older you are, the more important you are and the more respect you need to be paid.
The fact that I am about 10 years older is clearly of great importance to my co-T. He always opens the door for me, and always lets me go ahead of him into the classrooms. His hands shake whenever we talk and he defers to me in all things, even when I am blatantly wrong. (The other day I cheerfully told 4 different classes that I love housewives. It wasn’t until the 5th class when one brave child asked what I was talking about. I had mixed up the Korean word “chubu” [housewife] with “tubu” [tofu]. He hadn’t corrected me because he didn’t want to embarass me. 🙂 )
I didn’t think he was so sweet however when I approached him last week about our Open Class. He told me what lesson I would be teaching and when I mentioned planning together, he looked at me strangely and said:
“Carrie-teacher, they are looking at you, not me. Good luck.”
Clearly someone needs a lesson in the meaning of the CO in co-teaching.
Thankfully, I’ve done quite a few Open Classes in my time and I know what is expected. I wrote up the lesson plan, handed it in and waited for the big day. I always think it’s funny that extremely detailed lesson plans need to be submitted about a week before we actually teach. It’s apparently so other teachers can read them and be prepared for what they’re about to see. I wonder about my plans though. Who can read them other than me?
The big day arrived. The Open Class was scheduled for the period right before lunch. My co-teacher and I had decided that since the other classes needed to be taught the same lesson we were doing for the Open Class, we would use the first two classes in the morning as practice classes. I almost wish we hadn’t.
In our first class, there was a fight; an actual rolling on the floor, hair pulling, fists flying kind of fight. In the second practice class, the entire losing team cried. Every single one of them. Totally unexpected given that they’re in Grade 5.
Finally the big moment arrived. I walked into the classroom to find chairs set out at the back for the spectators and video cameras set up in three of the four corners of the room. No angle was to be left unfilmed apparently. The teacher in charge of the video cameras shut all the windows and doors so that our every word would be recorded properly. As a result, with 35 students, 2 teachers, the videographer, the school photographer and a number of spectators, the temperature in the room very quickly reached the tropical and I could feel sweat trickling down my back as I exhorted the students to enthusiastically repeat after me.
The topic of our lesson was “Do you want some more?” and I had made a Powerpoint presentation of various famous people and food. For example,
Carrie: “Everyone, please ask Justin Bieber if he would like some more pizza!”
Class: “Justin Beeebah, do you want some more pizza?” (Imagine zombies saying this. My students listen and repeat with no emotion or inflection whatsoever.)
Carrie [showing a picture of Justin B with his thumb up]: “What does Justin Bieber say to more pizza?” (As a result of my zombie students, my intonation tends to be wildly exaggerated in the hope of inspiring some sort of emotion. Usually it just inspires volume.)
Class: “Yes please!” (Ear-splitting response.)
It was a peculiar feeling having a camera behind me. I kept wondering if my outfit choice made my bum look enormous from that angle. And I wondered what the school was going to do with all that footage. Surely one camera would have been enough? The school photographer kept popping in throughout the class to take pictures as well. It was an extremely well recorded lesson.
All in all, the Open class went extremely well. So well in fact, that I’ve been asked to do another one on Friday.
In case you ever wondered if Darth Vader likes ice cream sundaes…… Not sure what I’m doing. Looks like I’m dancing. 🙂
And yes, Obama would like some more chicken!
After my class, I wanted to relax and read some email but it was not to be. There was an announcement over the loudspeaker and suddenly I found myself in the gym with 100 or so of my co-workers being organized into teams to play dodgeball.
“What’s going on?” I whispered to my co-teacher.
“Don’t worry,” she reassured me. “We will play a few games and then leave.”
Normally, I am happy to join in with all the weird things Korean teachers do after school but I really hate dodgeball. I hate it in Canada but I really despise it here. I might as well paint a target on my forehead. I’m six feet tall and thus take up considerably more space than my petite 5 foot co-workers. Clearly, everyone had the same idea because they all tried to hide behind me.
And so I stood, rather bemused in a long white linen skirt, pretty cardigan, my second best pearls and flip flops (my school shoes) with several co-workers huddled behind me in the corner of a dodgeball court reminding myself that I had voluntarily applied for this job.
Somehow, with no help from me (who predictably was almost always the first person out) my team won. Our prize? A bottle of Detol hand soap. Awesome. 🙂
Yesterday, one of my co-teachers took Rachel (the other foreign teacher who is at my school twice a week) and I into the Bamboo Forest in the middle of the day. She wanted to take pictures of us. Random and a little odd but it was a beautiful day and we were just sitting in the staff room….
Me in the bamboo
Rachel and Mercy in the bamboo.