Thursday, April 2, 2009

More adventures in tutoring

I went to the Korean family again. This time I managed to get through the gate myself, by pressing a silver button. I wondered what the point of the gate was if they let everyone in. Did someone see me on a security camera and decide that I looked trustworthy?

The boy (Min Joon) greeted me again, along with his mother. They were both smiling and showed me down a hallway instead of into the kitchen. I tried not to gape as I saw more of the apartment. Most of the doors were closed, but I caught sight of a big hot-tub as we passed the bathroom.

We entered a newly modeled bedroom, which Min Joon said belonged to his sister. We sat down to have our lesson.

"I write in my diary," Min Joon informed me. I didn't know what to say. "Is it for me or for school?" "You," he said. "Can I read it?" "Yeah." "Did you write it yourself?" "Yeah."

He had written an essay about his new tutor. "I have a new tutor her name is Elizabeth. She from America (I'm not sure about city). She Christian. She help orphan. About her character. I think she smile every day. And she composure."

Well, that pretty much knocked my socks off for the day. How had he gotten an impression of me after only one meeting? And how did he remember the orphan part? His mother must have taken very careful notes during the "interrogation" the previous day!

I was a bit conflicted as to how the journal should be corrected. As it is "free writing," I feel that correction marks should be at a minimum so as not to hinder the freedom of expression. Yet uncorrected mistakes lead to more mistakes. I might try to note the frequent errors for myself and use them for a lesson later.

We sped through my lesson plan in about half the time. I had forgotten how much material can be covered in tutorials (and when discipline or tardiness is not an issue!). We did some ad-libbing at the end, and then it was time for the next lesson.

As Emily sat down for her lesson, Min Joon came in with a glass of orange juice on a tray for me.

I asked Emily how she liked her room. "It's okay," she said. "A little small." I bit my tongue. I wondered what kind of home they had in Korea. Maybe I will make them do a comparison activity at some point.

Emily went through the material quickly as well. She converses in English easily, but with mistakes. It's a little hard to correct someone who is so confident, as opposed to someone who pauses all the time and is waiting to be corrected. It is also apparent that she hangs out with teenagers quite often, as she is a big fan of "stuff," "kind of," and the like.

Time to go work on lesson plans again...


  1. Oh, yes! When to correct, and when to let it go!

    If it might be helpful, there is a "pattern" that they insist on for both the adult lessons and the school lessons, so perhaps you will please the Korean parents if you use it. They like to begin with "Practice"; this means emulation, simply repeating after me. I do this for all but the extremely fluent adults. Then they like a lot of controlled responses from the students. With the kids, it is usually something like "Is spring your favorite season?" with expected answer "Yes; spring is my favorite season." and you work into "Yes, spring is my favorite season because..." So, compared to what I might have expected, it is pretty structured. They emphasize a lot that I should correct everything! Frankly, I don't, always... I just use my good judgement. I look for typical errors (Koreans leave out small words, both articles and prepositions) and they want to put an "eh" sound on words ending in a lot of consonant clusters....

    Anyway, I ADORE my Korean students. They truly want to learn, most of them - even the kids, and they have a happy spirit.

  2. I pretty much structure my lessons the same way, with more controlled answers leading towards independence and improvisation. I don't have them do the chanting unless it's new vocabulary or a dialogue. I noticed the small word omission as well.

    After my minimal correction on the diary entry, there was a note (from one of the parents) asking to redo it, so I had to go back and nit-pick. Oh well.

  3. Your post made me smile :-). Have a good weekend.

  4. Liz, I don't know if you read (or heard of) this before, but Russia has plenty of Korean immigrants. Almost anywhere. I remeber we had Lisa Pak, a pupil, a daughter of Korean immigrants in my school when I was still a pupil myself (good 30 years ago!!!).

    They come to Russia because the life there is better for them than in Korea. I am pretty sure about it.

    Russia has changed, of course, in the last decade or so. Korea has probably to. But still, why would they come to Russia, except if it was not for a better life? No other reason. Imagine that! Coming to Russia for a better life!

    I guess what I am trying to say is they may list other reasons why they are in Russia, but the main reason they are there IS for a better life.

  5. Vitali, you're right that there are a lot of Koreans. This family seems pretty well-off, so I'm not sure what they are seeking. Maybe it's political reasons, maybe work, maybe something else.


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