OK, I feel I'm ready to make gross generalizations about my students now that I've had them for 3 weeks! So, I have 58 students total in 6 classes, which is 100 fewer kids than I had last year at Kamiak. I teach 4 sections of 10th grade US Literature and 2 sections of 9th grade General Literature. We have a block schedule so I see my first 3 classes on A days and my last 3 on B days. All of my students are Korean and literally about 1/3 of them have the last name of Kim. It's been a little bit of a struggle to learn their names, largely because I don't see them everyday, but I think I just about have it down, with a few exceptions. I have a ton of Andrews, Davids, Christines, Kristys, and 2 Janices, but also a lot of Korean first names as well.
Overall, they're pretty good kids. Their behavior has been really good so far, although I can tell there are a couple of kids who are testing me to see how far they can go. One thing that I love is that they don't line up at the door before it's time to go. They also don't have their iPod earbuds in their ears 24-7 like Kamiak kids did and the girls don't put makeup on in class, which was an issue last year at Kamiak. Also, most of them make sure to say goodbye to me when they leave class, which is nice.
As far as their academics go, I can tell that some of them are definitely ESL kids from their writing skills. Most of them have the basics of sentence construction, spelling, and punctuation down, but need help on some of the higher level things. For example, a lot of kids write things like, "the main character wants to revenge the other character." So it's little things like that that I'll try to teach as the year goes on. I'm making a list of things to focus on. It seems like things that can be memorized are what the kids have focused on, so doing in-text citations and spelling, which have a process that can be memorized, are things kids do well on here. One of the elementary teachers was saying that she's been impressed by the kids' spelling, but that if there's a word they don't know how to spell, they don't know how to sound it out, so they come up with basically jibberish. They just memorize how to spell all these different words.
Many of the kids are busy because not only do they go to school and are involved in sports and activities, they also go to hogwans. Hogwans are basically cram schools. It sounds like there are different hogwans that specialize in different areas, so a kid might to go a math hogwan on Monday, a reading hogwan on Tuesday, a taekwondo hogwan on Wednesday, etc. One of my sophomores said she spent her summer going to a hogwan for the PSAT, which I think is ridiculous! That test doesn't even really mean anything! But they take things like that really seriously here. A lot of the westerners who come to teach over here teach at hogwans. Some of them are good, but some of them are pretty shady, for both students and teachers.
Last night was parent night and I had a parent asking me about her 8th grade son (who I don't have). He apparently isn't a very good writer and is better at math and science, so she wants to have him improve his writing skills. She was telling me that she had never sent her kids to hogwans before, but is considering sending this poor kid to a hogwan where they meet for 3 hours every Saturday for 3 months and in that time, they read 100 of the "classics." Kids need to read 2 of the books per week and then they spend Saturdays going over the books. I think that would be the worst thing she could do for a kid who already doesn't really like reading and writing and if I had been in the US, I would have told her that, but I didn't want to offend her, so I was saying, "well, you could do that...". For the kid's sake, I hope she doesn't! It seems like students and parents here put a lot of focus into quantity, not quality. For example, an elementary school teacher was saying that she's had 3rd and 4th graders who have read To Kill a Mockingbird and the fact that they didn't have the foggiest idea what was going on isn't the point...now they can say they've read it.
Another big thing here is grades. I've heard over and over about all the pressure that parents put on kids to get As and then kids put pressure on teachers to give them As, and if the teachers don't, the parents may get involved. Apparently it's not uncommon to have a parent at the end of the semester telling teachers that they've ruined their kid's chances for getting into a good college, and therefore their chance of a happy life, because of a B in a class. One of the high school science teachers was saying that she had e-mails from 15 sets of parents at the beginning of this year wanting her to change their kids' grades from last year! She said she just deleted those e-mails without responding, which is what they deserve, in my opinion! Yesterday I handed back quizzes from their summer reading books to my sophomores and one kid hadn't done terribly well on the quiz. I looked over a couple of minutes later and he was standing in the corner, just staring at the wall, which is kind of weird, to say the least. I was about to go over to him when he kind of collected himself and went back to sit down, so I left him alone. I don't know what he was doing, but it was obvious that he was very disappointed/annoyed/distraught about his quiz grade. Of course, in the long run it doesn't really matter since he'll have all quarter to bring his grade up, but I don't think they see it that way.
It's rainy and cool today, which is a nice change from rainy and hot! Next week I think I'm going camping, so I hope it stops raining for that.