Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thinking Project = Crazy Teacher

For the past two weeks I’ve been consumed by school projects.  Recently, Headquarters assigned a required special project.  For each class level the requirements were different.  My youngest kids had to be in a short musical, which I put together.  The next level of students had to write and perform their own short play.  My older students scripted and performed a TV Commercial to promote the use of secondhand items.  Finally, my oldest students were to invent a robot, decide what skills it would have and then script and perform an infomercial with one student acting as a robot and the other as show host.  All of this had to be recorded on video.  The best two groups from each class would have their videos submitted to compete against English Academy students across Korea.  Yes, this was also a contest!

It sounds cute and fun, but does it sound difficult?  Well, let me tell you – it was torturous.  I was like a woman possessed by these projects.  I thought about them all day and literally dreamed about them all night.  I scrounged around the house and brought in a giant bag of props for my students to use.  My biggest project was creating a robot costume for two classes to wear.  I would have preferred my students do this, but no time or supplies were provided.  So, after work I was doing arts and crafts.

I pushed my kids hard.  I wanted them to do well.  I wanted them to recognize this was something special and to go above and beyond their usual performances.  I set myself up for a bit of disappointment.  The memorization required was a challenge.  After two weeks some students still didn’t know their lines – and I wanted to pull my hair and their hair out.  Korean children can be very reserved.  So, having them act silly and dramatic on stage was a battle.  And for the little kids, it was a Herculean effort to keep them focused and quiet and get everything right in one continuous video take.  Of course, we never did get everything right.  That was just this teacher’s silly fantasy.

Finally, the big reveal of my robot costume.  My students oohhhed and ahhhed – they loved it.  And, then they put it on.  I had made it much too big.  Their eyes were at the slot for the mouth and their arms could hardly reach around the body of the costume.  So, as my first group performed, I found myself laughing so hard I was crying.  My poor student Terry valiantly tried to remember her lines, while trying to maneuver in this costume.  It was then I finally gave up and gave-in.  Most of my students were trying hard and I could only control so much – which is to say, not very much.

My students were challenged and most rose to the challenge.  I managed to get some students excited and excelling outside their comfort zone and that’s good too.  So, even if we don’t win the contest, that’s something to celebrate!

(We have a stage with a blue screen in class. 
You can see the video recording on my computer.)

(Another group gets a turn --
this robot can clean, do homework, and make games!)

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