Again, the weaknesses of Hagwon education

As I said, the new semester started last week (that's why I've been so busy). I've touched on some of the frustrations of teaching at a hagwon, but a couple things happened this week that really highlighted one of the major reasons my "school" can be counterproductive to actual learning.

Unrealistic expectations
Yesterday my coworker called a teacher meeting to discuss discipline. In the course of developing a sticker system to encourage homework completion and discourage, say, yelling in class, the issue of the textbooks came up. Without any consultation with the foreign teachers (or, for that matter, the Korean teachers), the school purchased books far too advanced for the classes. First graders with no experience in real classwork were being given Level 2 Dictation books for listening, and the speakers were at conversational speed.

But they aren't willing to slow down or change. We just have to "make it work" because the parents expect more. As a coworker aptly put it, you can't go from arithmetic to physics in a week. You'd think that these parents, who are not by ANY means fluent (I've spoken to most of them) would realize how difficult it is to master a language, and yet they expect their small children to do it in a month? There's challenging students, but there's also going so far over their heads that they can't even reach.

The same day, one of my B-level students' mother came in for a meeting and to observe. She was furious that her daughter (first grade) was in the second-level class -- even though two of the smartest kids in the grade are as well, and we use the same book as the A-level. She yelled and screamed and carried on and finally my boss decided just to move the girl up, after the mother called the kindergarten teacher to get confirmation that YW's English was in fact remarkable. The truth, of course, is that she belonged and was doing well in B-level. But it wasn't about the kid. It was about the mother, and the image of being in the top class.

At least I have one sane parent, though! A former kindergarten student of mine who'd been placed into the C-level class was bumped up, and after a day his mother asked that he be moved back down to give him a chance to master the fundamentals. That kid will probably end up with better English than any of them!


Found a new website for general bookmarking: This Week in Evolution summarizes a paper a week. So much of my reading is either on the mechanisms of evolution or the general evo-creo debate that it's nice to interject some current research in there. Keep an eye on it.

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