This weekend I had to go in to school on Saturday morning. In addition to my contracted 22 hours of lessons per week I teach a group of first and second grade students five times a week, after school has finished. Most native teachers that do this get paid a basic overtime rate per hour, but my pay is dictated by however many students sign up for the classes and on Saturday a big after-school fair took place where teachers could advertise their programmes. Otherwise, I might have protested more than I did at only getting one lie-in that week, but I decided I’d probably have a better success rate if I actually showed my face.
When I got to school it suddenly became clear why the co-teacher who occasionally joins me in these classes (and who gets paid just as much as I do to sit and play games on her smartphone while I run the lesson, as I found out recently) had been taking so many photos of me in action over the past few weeks. A billboard advertising my services had been prepared, as well as handouts giving details of the programme. It transpired that before the fair the students were participating in form group talent shows and so I was to go and watch a few of them – in the hope that the kids’ parents would get a good luck at me and how their children react to and interact with me. My only brief was to “smile a lot”.
Overall, I’d hesitate to describe the shows as good, but they were pretty entertaining and each group had at least one standout performance. There were lots of groups of tiny taekwondo-ers punching and kicking and screaming in sync and generally you didn’t need to look at the colours of their belts to see how much training they’d had; but I walked in to one room just in time to see the “grade 1 champion” sailing over three prostrate classmates before splitting a wooden plank held in mid-air. Another favourite of mine looked like he should be doing taekwondo because of his hairdo (long and tail-like at the back, with streaks of gold highlighting), but he stood up at the front of the class and started showing off his mental maths. A series of four or five two-digit positive or negative numbers would flash up on a screen and he’d be given a few seconds to add them up, and he did so to a transfixed and cooing audience.
The fair itself was pretty boring. I stood behind my stall next to my co-teacher who did all of the important parent-talking – I tried to look as child-friendly as possible and offered a token “hello”, “hi” or “how are you?” to every other student that filed past, receiving a conversation or a sweet here and there in return. I had a chat via interpreter with one of the military service guys who at one point awkwardly asked me to take off my glasses and then told me I looked “cool” without them, and at roughly midday I was allowed to leave. I don’t have any photos of the fair or the talent shows, but here are some teaching shots from the past few months.