Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Smile Bank

And the award for the cutest thing a student has written in their journal all week goes to...

"My friends make me happy, because they are my smile bank."

That was in response to the prompt, "What makes you happy?" I think having my students write weekly journals was one of the best ideas I incorporated into my classes this semester. Some of them have very clearly improved their writing skills even though they only worked at it for five-ish minutes a week. Since I read all 120 journals and correct them, their writing is also a good way for me to evaluate what they're learning and for them to communicate with me.

The last journal question I asked my second-years this semester was simply, "What have you learned in my class this year?" Here's one response that stuck out in particular:

"I have been learned many things from you. How to read and write sentences, many interesting subjects, … etc. Especially, this journal makes me have bravement. When I wrote journal first, it was too hard. But constantly I was writing. Finally I can write english sentences easily before than last day. English time with you was so helpful to me. Thanks."

Cue positive feelings of purpose and fulfillment!

Oh, on a different note, here's a pro tip for high school teachers abroad: a great way to connect with your students is to show them your own high school yearbook. MSJ Costanoan '08, represent! I brought Inspired back to Korea with me last winter, and my students fawn over it. Yesterday, YJ and MW, two of my third-years, skipped out on self-study period and hung out in my office for over an hour, engrossed in the 졸업앨범 ("graduation album"). I sat next to them, correcting journals and chatting with them on a huge spectrum of topics, each one sparked by interesting photos that they saw.

On a student life page: "Oh, she is dressed up as a Starbucks."
On an article about a party: "Are they a couple? Are they dancing? Wow, her dress!"
On an article about a school play: "오만과 편견!!! Bingley!"
On the gymnastics page: "Teacher, are these students professional?"
On a clubs page: "Gay... Straight... Alliance? Teacher, do you support them?"
On the Senior Superlatives: "Are these all couples? What is 'Future Dictator'?"
On the people pages: "Chen Chen Chen Chen Chen Chen Cheng Chi Chi Chiu..."

And every time they found a picture of me, it was as if they'd discovered treasure. MW commented that I looked more mature now than five and a half years ago. YJ squealed when she found my baby picture. (She was also excited by our football team, our cheerleaders, and basically the entire book.)

I was delighted to spend that bit of quality time with my students. For them, it was solid language practice and a jackpot of cross-cultural exposure in a casual setting. Also, they taught me Busan-flavor Korean slang (including 까리 and 간지, which were used to describe female water polo players, the models for our charity fashion show, and every attractive guy they saw). A simple yearbook provides almost limitless possibilities for building positive relationships. I think I'm just going to leave mine open on my desk from now on.


  1. Bingley? Are your students Jane Austen fans?

    1. I guess so! YJ loves all things English, so she must have seen Pride and Prejudice (that's "오만과 편견"), which my school produced as a play during my Senior year.