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14 January 2005
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KLB - Human Robot


I'm at work. It's break time. As I write, the human robot, known as Cathy, is inside the classroom working diligently. She never stops. She never relaxes. She is nuts.

At exactly 10:00 to the second, she started class today. Every day at 10:00 to the second, she calls attendance then makes the kids say, "Hello, Shawn Teacher, how are you?" At that point, she makes them be quiet and then walks away while telling me they are ready to study now. "Yes, I can see that Cathy," I say. And I want to go on to say, "Unfortunately, I'm not ready yet. I just traveled for 90 minutes to get here, can you just calm down and let me relax before I jump into teaching for two hours? Some of the kids aren't even here yet." Instead I just sigh and ignore her and an awkward silence fills the room as I fiddle and fumble to get ready.

Everything is exact with her. She times the 10 minute breaks on her watch. As soon as those ten minutes are up, she starts class again - whether I'm ready or not. Yesterday I ran off for lunch to a small restaurant. The restaurant was busy and it took awhile for my food to come out. I was exactly 2 minutes late coming back. Cathy had started the class and was standing there at the front board, the students dead quiet, waiting for me. When I came in she said, "OK, kids, Shawn teacher is here. Time to study." I hadn't even removed my jacket. I almost erupted, really, but somehow I calmed down. However, I told her from now on not to start class until I come back from lunch.

There would be no problem if she just relaxed a little and stopped worrying about everything. She's my assistant, but you wouldn't know it the way she tries to control everything, including me. Agh! Here she is now, with that angry look on her face, telling me it's time to teach. Ugh. More to come later.

I'm back. Now it's lunch time. I'm eating a sandwich, but I need to vent more. After the break, I reviewed today's phonics again and then we played team-bingo. Each of the four teams gets a bingo card with the letters on it. Then I say the sound and they put a chip on the appropriate letter. Great. Fun. It's Friday. Let's have fun and play this for the rest of the class (30 minutes), I thought. The kids were loving it, because they could rack up the plus points towards stickers with every bingo. It was a lot of fun.

Well, I was about to play the 3rd round when Cathy, lo and behold, interrupted me and said I have to teach the book now. I saw red. I took several deeps breaths, but I still couldn't hold back the rage. "Cathy, it's Friday. The kids have done very well this week and it's game time, OK." I mean, come on, these poor kids have to study English 2 hours a day during their winter vacation now and then rush off to hagwons and whatnot afterward.

"But you have to teach the book. When do you teach that?" She walked over and found the book syllabus on my desk. "See," she said and pointed.

(By the way, the new book is a joke - it's basically a bound collection of printed worksheets from the web with very little thought to continuity or ability levels of the kids, so I've been teaching what's important - phonics phonic phonics and more phonics instead).

Yes, there it is, page 75, conversation time. I sneer and turn to page 75 (while the students are watching this interaction) and see: "I'm hungry. Can I have a hamburger please?" For crying out loud, I didn't want to stop the game to teach that for 10 minutes - but I also didn't know what to say to her without exploding. So, I stopped the fun game, on Friday, after having studied almost two hours, and made the kids repeat that stupid bit of dialogue over and over and...

Well, lunch time is over. I'd better hurry back to Cathy's classroom, lest she get upset I'm late.

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