Last week I had an Open Class. All teachers in Korea (Korean and foreign) have to do them. Perhaps originally they were a way for the administration to ensure that teachers were on track? I really have no idea. I can’t imagine anyone ever thinking an Open Class was a good idea.
Nowadays, they are a three-ringed circus. Teachers spend weeks making outrageous props and practising with other classes. Everything has to be perfect.
As an example, this is normally what my lesson plans look like:
For Open Classes, this is what they look like (It’s like being back in Teachers College):
I have one Open Class a semester. For the Fall Open Class, parents and other teachers can attend. I was told that for this Open Class, my only observer would be a video camera. I planned accordingly.
The night before my Open Class, as I was packing my bag to go home, my co-T said:
“Maybe the Principal will come. And maybe the Vice Principals. Oh and maybe the curriculum advisor. ”
“Maybe??” I squeaked.
“Oh and maybe some of the other English teachers.”
And then she went home.
So did I. What else could I do? I was ready as I was ever going to be. I was however, a little worried. I hadn’t practised once. My co-T had had her Open Class that day, so we’d spent every lesson rehearsing before her actual Open Class during our last period of the day.
For normal teachers, practicing a lesson sounds absurd. And it is. But for a lesson that is marked on students’ learning (1%) and entertainment value (99%), having your timing down is essential. I had no idea how long my activities would take, or how difficult the students would find them. My topic was the first lesson in a new chapter.
Oh well. If all else failed, I could just wave my arms and leap around. It’s not like anyone understands what I’m saying anyway. 😀
My Open Class was first period. My co-T and I headed to the English room 10 minutes early to get ready. Imagine our surprise to find the audience was already there. The Principal looked pointedly at his watch. Gulp.
My co-T and I scurried around getting ready. 5 minutes before class was meant to start, one of the VPs asked where the students were. The students usually arrive about a minute before the bell so that they are sitting and ready when it rings.
Apparently that wasn’t good enough. When the students did arrive (right on time), the principal read them the riot act. Apparently they were late, disrespectful and a few other words I didn’t know. The students looked terrified.
I pasted on my best “English is fun” smile and opened my mouth to greet the students.
“Wait, Carrie-teacher,” the principal said. “Where is the video camera?”
Nobody knew. Frantically my co-T called the teacher who should have brought it to us. It was broken, hadn’t we received her message?
More frowns from the principal and assorted audience members.
I started class. The kids were terrified and nobody wanted to talk. Fabulous. How was I to display my awesome communicative language teaching powers when nobody wanted to communicate?
It went downhill from there. The principal and VPs wandered around frowning at students, my co-T frantically ran around the class taking pictures of the lesson on her cell phone while acting as my assistant, the other English teachers sat at the back of the classroom shaking their heads and taking notes, and I ran back and forth oozing absurd amounts exuberance and enthusiasm to make up for the students’ unusual quietness.
Thankfully, the audience left about 6 minutes before the end of class. I was enormously relieved. Because of the lack of student participation, I had burned through all of my activities, including my back-up just-in-case-we-have-time activity, in record time. I ran out of things to do with 5 minutes left in the class.
After the students left, the Principal came back.
He nodded at me before turning to my co-T and saying something in Korean. She looked startled but nodded her head. We both bowed politely as he left.
“He said he enjoyed your lesson very much,” she said smiling, then added “But he is worried because our Months of the Year signs might damage the paint. Oh, and the fire extinguishers are dusty.”
I decided to take it as a compliment that damaged wall paint and dusty fire extinguishers were the only things about my lesson he could find to criticize. 😀