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28 December 2004
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KLB - Final Tests


I graded all 50 "final tests" last Friday after work. I don't understand why the kids took the final test two weeks before the end of the semester, but that's another story.

Cathy made them. She did a good job (photocopying pages from supplied tests in the teachers' books) but they were much too hard. My class has been based on speaking (and why the hell not?) but these tests were based on writing (shouldn't Korean teachers be teaching writing and grammar?). As to be expected, with some exceptions, most kids did poorly and quite a few failed.

So, the kids were wondering where their tests were. I wanted to give them back and reward the kids that did well and show the kids who did poorly why we'll be focusing on writing for the next few weeks. Cathy said we can't give the tests back. Why? Because the parents will be angry - of course. OK, whatever, forget it; I didn't argue...until she handed me one last test I hadn't graded yet.

"You have to check this test," she said.

"Why?"

"It's the test. You have to check it."

"But what for? We're not giving them back, you said."

This is where a lack of communication can turn ugly. She didn't understand my point and thought I was trying to get out of grading it - as if it would kill her to grade one herself, what else does she have to do - but that wasn't the point. Frustrated, she repeated herself yet again. "This your job to grade the test."

"What's the point, Cathy?" I said, starting to get aggravated myself. "You just told me 5 minutes ago we're not giving the tests back to the kids, so why do I have to grade this? There's no point."

"Shawn, just you do this, OK?"

Once again, on the verge of a verbal lashing, I bit my cheek and smiled. "I'm going to check this test. No problem! But I want to know why, because the student won't see it."

"Oh, I see. It's so we know the student score." Oh, wow, that's so important, I thought with a sneer. I didn't say anything else, though. So I sat down at my desk and instead of starting class on time I sat there and checked the test. I'm not spending one more minute of my own time grading something that will be thrown in the garbage.

Several other things have been getting on my nerves about her. Yes, she is good at organizing the classroom and doing the Korean versions of the lesson plans on paper. But in my opinion, none of that stuff matters. It's all a waste of time, really. What I want her to do is make things based on the book that I can use to supplement the lessons. Not walk around all day yelling "No Korean! And minus one point!" (I'm so tired of hearing this!) Bonnie has told me several times that whenever I need something I'm to tell Cathy. However, since Cathy always looks stressed out and is constantly telling me how busy she is outside of work, I never ask her to do anything except make copies.

Today, after she told me the kids failed the test because they don't know phonics (implying this is somehow my fault?) I started hinting around that we have no materials to actually teach phonics with. You simply can't teach phonics only using English and a board marker, unless you do it day in and day out, but we can't with all the other things we have to do. I suggested we need a phonics book. I mentioned a book I used in the past that worked very well.

"Haha," she laughed. "Good idea but it's not possible."

So, then I hinted that phonics flashcards would be helpful, with the different sounds written on them and some drawings of different objects depicting words with those sounds. Of course, not understanding what I was talking about, she didn't get that hint. "We don't have anything like that," she said. So then I said, "Well, maybe you can write down some important sounds on index cards, like ck, ow, ou, sh, for example." At this point she looked annoyed, like she has no time to do such things, or as if that's somehow my responsibility. It's not. This is a part time job - I don't get paid to sit around and make materials in my spare time. Perhaps if I lived nearby and didn't travel so long I wouldn't mind doing extra things. However, I get paid by the hours that I teach, nothing extra. Making materials is part of her job description. I'd rather see her sitting around doing things like that than hanging about like a camera watching me and the kids' every move - or having me grade tests that have no meaning.

I've been getting really close with the kids these days and it's a shame all the other people involved with this program are taking away from that. I think all I should be doing is teaching them how to speak - much in the same way I am actually learning Japanese by only listening and speaking. It's amazing how much more effective a system that is than any writing study. Writing should come later. And, God forbid, Cathy actually teach anything. Ideally she should be doing nothing except teaching writing and grammar, and I should teach all the speaking and pronunciation. I can't imagine how quickly the kids would be learning if this were the case.

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