Wednesdays are my easy days. I only have two classes - 3rd and 4th period - so I'm not rushed in the morning AND I'm done by lunch. Today, the 6th graders had a speaking test, which is always a mixed bag. Speaking tests are the only one-on-one interaction I have with a lot of my students, and I never know what to expect. Sometimes kids who barely speak in class surprise me by being super competent. Sometimes it turns out the kids who barely speak in class are silent because they can't string a sentence together. Sometimes the kids who act out and make me want to throttle them instead of explaining for the tenth time that 두통 means headache IT'S NOT THAT HARD, SERIOUSLY show improvement, which is super gratifying. And then there are the silent kids.
The silent ones are depressing. There are a few in every class and they just. won't. talk. They spent the entire test looking at their feet and won't say a word (in English or Korean), no matter how much I cajole and prompt and finally just give them the answer in a desperate attempt to make them to say something FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JINHO, JUST TALK. The thing is, I've worked really hard at being someone who is approachable because I KNOW English is difficult to learn and I KNOW it's hard to summon up the courage to speak in another language when you know you're going to make mistakes, even though that's the only way to learn, and I want to be a safe person for the kids to try and talk to. For the most part, I think I've succeeded, and I certainly have plenty of students who love showing me pictures on their cell phones or pages from whatever cartoon they're reading and won't stop talking long enough for me to start class, but I also have the silent kids and I don't know how to motivate them.
The test itself was pretty simple. We just finished Lesson 13: That's Too Bad, which is all about illnesses and using them as an excuse to get out of doing things. I took the students into the back room, showed them a few pictures of people suffering various ailments and had them describe the pictures. He's sick, he has a cold. She's hurt, she had a bloody nose. I was sick over the weekend and I still have a deep hacking cough, so when the more confident students came for their test, I turned my head, coughed into my hand and asked, "What's wrong with Teacher?" It confused a few of the kids, but most of them thought it was funny and the answers ranged from Teacher has a cough to Teacher has a bad cold to Teacher has swine flu.