Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Not So Terrible Tweens

I end my workweek with two days of sixth graders. There are four classes of sixth graders and we get them Thursday and Friday mornings, all in a row. Most of the kids prefer to talk and laugh loudly, fight, throw things, make fun of the teachers and generally do whatever they can to not learn English. They begrudgingly practice the dialogs if I happen to be standing right next to them and getting someone to try the dialog for the class is like pulling teeth. There are some in these classes that have been so successful in their anti-learning activities that I don’t think they know a word of English. Not only that, the videos and songs we have to teach them are so cornball that I feel ridiculous even trying.
However, my fourth class is the light at the end of the tunnel, absolutely opposite the other classes in every way. If anything, they are overly enthusiastic about learning English. They listen in rapt attention, they repeat with such fervor that their whole body tenses as they shout at the top of their lungs, and they volunteer like maniacs when it’s time to perform a dialog in front of the class.
Last Friday was “That’s Too Bad” chapter. We had several lame dialogs, an even lamer song and a silly game to get through. The first four classes resisted with all their might. The fourth class couldn’t wait to find out why Jinho couldn’t play soccer after school with Joon (he was sick. He had a headache).
They had been so wonderful the entire class we had some time left over at the end. So we listened and repeating some things I’d written on the board having to do with headaches and stomachaches. I read the sentences, they repeated, right on cue, so loudly the whole school probably heard them.
When they had repeated the last sentence, the class fell into complete silence. A boy a few rows back looked around a moment at all his excited comrades and then he looked at me and asked, “Good?”
I smiled and said, “Yes, very good.”
The whole class erupted into joyous arm pumps and cheering. And just like that, I had a reason to look forward to the sixth graders.

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