Thursday, January 29, 2009

Teaching Without a Voice

My voice decided to go somewhere without me, so today I had the "fun" of trying to teach twelve classes, including two kindergarten classes, with a voice that went no higher than a whisper. Fortunately for me, most of the classes were sympathetic to my plight.

In my first kindergarten class, the monster-child was absent, which meant all the kids behaved very well. I managed to keep them busy (and still learning a little) with a last-minute craft. I had them make caterpillars and then glue pictures of a few "c" words to the bodies of the caterpillars. It worked well, and the coloring, cutting, and gluing kept them busy for about half of the class time, which allowed me to save a bit of voice for the next bunch. I felt guilty about the kids not hearing very much English from a native speaker, so I played some music while they worked.

For the second batch of kindies, I was fortunate that their book comes with a CD. So, I was able to let the CD teach for awhile. I also had them sing a lot (they enjoy it, and it helps them memorize sentence structure and terms). As a treat, knowing that the lesson would not be up to my usual standard, I gave them a game of picture bingo at the beginning of class. It was the perfect game for a voice-less teacher, since I could write the words on the board instead of saying them (thus letting the kids work on their reading skills).

With the afternoon classes, my luck varied. Most classes were very quiet and tried hard to make my job easier. A few classes decided to take advantage of my handicap and do as they pleased - but after I started handing out homework, they settled down. With one class, I temporarily lost even my whisper, so I wrote "GAME!" in huge letters on the board and set up a game of hopscotch for them. In another class, the kids decided to have fun with me by trying to mimic my voice whenever they answered questions. I retaliated by (gently) smacking several of them over the heads with their (very thin paperback) textbooks. They loved it!

My last two classes of the day are my most advanced classes, which means I really need to be able to communicate with them. In both classes, I am currently teaching them a bit of US history, which is normally a lot of fun for me. Today, trying to explain the plight of American Indians, I almost cried from frustration. My whisper had grown very weak by this point, and it was imperative that the kids hear me. I used the whiteboard as much as I could, and fortunately the kids were extremely quiet. I can only hope that they managed to learn something.

On the way home, the cold weather had shifted into even colder, rainy weather. Naturally, I stepped out of one of my shoes while risking my neck running across the street (Korean drivers seem to enjoy ignoring "walk" lights). I was able to run back into the middle of the road to retrieve the errant shoe, but not without attracting glares and horn-honks from several drivers (keep in mind, I still had a green "walk" light - albeit a blinking one).

Tomorrow, being Friday, is a game day for most of my classes, so I am making activity sheets for most of them. They'll be entertained, they'll still learn, and I won't have to talk!

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"