For the month of January I was conscripted to teach an extra “speaking” class during the students’ month-long winter break in exchange for overtime pay. My boss changed my schedule around just so that I could do it, leaving me without much of a break between classes during the month of January… and thankfully, yesterday was the last day of the extra winter class.
[begin rant/] Without going into it too much, the class was a nightmare because of the varying proficiency levels of the students. I guess in some ways I should count myself lucky because I have been teaching each of the four students in separate classes during the last seven months, so I know them all fairly well. That being said, when you put a middle-schooler who has been studying English for several years in the same room with an 8 year-old elementary school student who has been studying English for only a year… well, trouble ensues. I felt like a terrible educator when I would lose patience having to spell out words for the little guy when the other students were able to get by without the extra assistance. And I was struggling to figure out ways to teach and motivate the more advanced students when I had to hand-hold the others through the fairly high-level textbook. I guess I ultimately felt like an underpaid babysitter tethered to a Korean-English dictionary. [/end rant]
Anyway, the point of this post was not to complain about the students– it was not their fault that they were put in the same class together. The point was to blast the “advanced” textbook that I was required to teach them. The textbook, Bricks Neat Speaking S1, while reasonably well-written and laid out in a way that might just strengthen speaking skills, offers up doses of excessive nationalism, bleak generalizations about Americans, and antiquated notions of gender dynamics. For those curious, the textbook was published in 2011 in Seoul, S. Korea.
*If only* that was my schedule in school… haha. While I might not have gone to “private institutions” (학원, hagwons), I was certainly busting my ass all day and would study until late at night. TV watching and hanging out with friends were not luxuries that I generally afforded myself in school. I know, I know… I am only offering up an anecdotal counter, but jesus, really?! Is that what the writers of this textbook think American students do? Eh, to be fair, I know that I am looking at this schedule from a suburban, middle-class vantage point, so it could very well describe some version of the “typical” American student schedule… And the world keeps on turning… and turning… and turning…
As an educator, you are an important element in how a student’s world view is shaped. Teaching fallacious stereotypes and having them reinforced in textbooks is abhorrent and should be avoided if it is even remotely possible. It reminds me very much of Lisa Bloom’s article about how to talk to little girls— what we say and do around these little sponges is so very important and may very well have a lasting impact on their growth and development, influencing how they see themselves and others.