Korean Middle School Life in Korea 한국 Teaching in Korea

Implementing thought provoking lessons

I like to challenge my students. I like to make them think outside the box. When I teach alone this definitely fails on me. However, when I am able to teach with my co-teacher the meaning isn’t lost in context and I can talk about interesting subjects. I think the students can get to know more about me through these types of lessons.

I have come up with four lessons, one I have not presented yet. I do not know if I will be able to do it before school lets out on the 31st. As I am not sure when my last day of classes at the middle school are. However, even if the lesson flops, at least I have brought interesting information to them.

I will say I am lucky with my co-teacher who lets me present to the class on varying topics. Some of the earlier lessons I did were on the Evolution of Marriage in the USA and Mass Shootings in Schools. As always with a topic, some kids will tune out the lesson as it is a video and powerpoint driven lesson. But a lot of kids find it fascinating as well.

Some of the other lessons I started was a lesson on beauty through music. To me this was a lot of fun and it was interesting to hear the kids feedback.  I used Sean Kingston’s – Beautiful Girls, Mika’s -Big Girl, Pink’s -Perfect, TLC’s – Unpretty, and Christina Aguilera’s -Beautiful. Depending on the class the videos were or were not shown. The one I didn’t show was TLC’s Unpretty and Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful video was not shown to my first grade middle school students.  We did listening exercises and also watched videos asked their opinion of it after. I did warn the students before watching videos if there were things that may upset them. The beauty lesson served as a point to stop making fun of people who are different in my second grade middle school class.

In Christina’s video there are two men kissing and in the back of the class I could hear snickering. So when it was over I asked the students why they were making noises and faces at that scene. I told them just because they aren’t used to it or don’t like it doesn’t mean it is okay to act that way and in fact they were hurting me by doing this. My co-teacher helped to translate. I have gay family and friends and if you are making fun of the couple you don’ t know you are also making fun of the people I know. Let me just say the point went home because I referenced back to myself.  This lesson did serve well through all of the classes, with some students wanting to know the names of the songs.

The older lessons on the Evolution of Marriage and Mass Shootings in Schools were received in different ways.

The Evolution of Marriage lesson came about in less than 2 hours of planning. That is very short notice and not very accurate for many people, however, my co-teacher and I are required to have an English class for the teachers. It is just me and her. So one day I was running out of ideas and for some reason interracial marriage popped into my head. With that I was able to make it into the Evolution of Marriage. My co-teacher thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it was interesting to see and thought it would be good for the kids to have more of a cultural lesson. The Evolution of Marriage proved to be an interesting lesson because many of the students did not know at one point it was illegal to marry someone of a different race in the USA. They also didn’t understand how that could have happened. The interesting point on this lesson was that although it was mostly an information driven lesson, I did let the kids ask questions as well.

To make it seem more real I included photos of interracial couples, including my previous relationship.  However, the title stems from the similarities of the marriage debate. I actually presented this lesson before the US Supreme court was deciding on Same-Sex marriage. That was my building up to point. Because the arguments in same-sex marriage are the same as the ones that were used for interracial marriages. Some of the kids really liked the lesson and I asked their thoughts at the end about same-sex marriage and interracial marriage. Some were willing to state their opinion and others were not. I told them that was okay, I was just curious of how they think.

The Mass Shootings in Schools was a lesson I asked my co-teacher if I could present on. It is a topic that is not talked about in Korea and lucky for most Korean students they do not have to worry about someone walking into a school with a gun. I made a powerpoint and covered three school shootings that were powerful in my lifetime: Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook.  I picked these three for several reasons. Columbine happened when I was in 7th grade and I remember how things started to change after that with the implementation of a school officer. The year I was graduating college Virginia Tech happened. Sandy Hook happened the year before I moved to Korea and happened in my home state.  The kids were shown a powerpoint presentation and news video clips. My co-teacher helped translate questions and what happened as their were no subtitles. Most of it was just small snippets,but I told them how mental health is also important and most shooters need a mental health professional and did not have one. I asked the kids if they have anything like this. The war drills that they practice for we don’t have in the USA. Instead we have lockdown drills for school shootings. I told the kids they were lucky to know that they would never really have to think about his problem. A lot of them thought the USA is a scary place, but I said it seems like it happens often, but it is still a safe country you just need to stay out of bad areas mostly.  My students paid more attention to this lesson even though some parts were hard to understand. I find it is a culture point worth talking about as news about shootings in the USA have become more frequent.

The last lesson I never got to implement. Timing got in the way and so did end of the year. I wanted to use the TED Talk by  Shane Koyczan entitled” To this day…for the bullied and beautiful.” (You can watch it here.) I had made a powerpoint about bullying in English and wanted to show this as there are Korean subtitles though they aren’t perfect.  My powerpoint is not 100% finished either as I wanted it be thorough and close to accurate. I even made a worksheet with questions and quotes from the talk asking the students opinions. This was translated in English and Korean by my co-teacher and I. She said the subtitles aren’t perfect but they are okay. Unfortunately, I was unable to do this with my students because we ran out of free time to do so. I was also going to include a anti-bullying paper activity that is popular to drive the point home. But alas it is a project for another way. You can watch his animated video here.

This is one of the joys of teaching middle school. I can do topics a little bit more interesting and that may grab the students attention. Not all of them are perfect lessons and they need work and improvement. Some of it is above their level, but many of them still find it interesting. One thing I have found is it is okay to talk about things you like to your students. If you think it is a good idea try and run it by your co-teacher to see if you can teach it. Maybe you can’t go into a lot of detail but you can cover some of it. I think it is great learning and teaching a language, but I think culture and society needs to come into the equation as well. Because what one country talks about another doesn’t. What is being done little by little is opening minds…no one has to accept your point of view, but you are showing them there are plenty of things to learn and talk about. So I encourage other teachers out there as well to teach what you like and be creative! I’m still learning how to be a teacher. How to be a good teacher and plan good lessons that are engaging. That comes with experience, but the most interesting lesson I had was talking about my family.

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