We've almost reached the end of my first term teaching here (the year is divided up into four 13 week terms). This week has been taken over with the madness of finals. The kids don't know it, but their grade is entirely dependent on their mid-term and final test grades (Korea is craazzzy about standardized testing). Since nothing else actually counts (homework, behavior, work in class) finals are a big deal.
That being said, you wouldn't guess that from the way that we were instructed to make and implement them. We were given notice as to which tests we were in charge of writing one week before they were due. We weren't actually given anytime to write the tests, so we wrote them between classes and during breaks. We than turned the tests into Nicole for editing. She didn't return them back to us until the Friday before the week that the finals were suppose to take place. We were also specifically instructed to "make sure to teach the students what they need to know to pass the test, and to communicate with the other teachers so that you know what you need to teach them."
Test week itself is crazy, we have 40 minutes to give each test. Most of my classes are writing classes, so it is pretty easy for me. I just hand out the tests, read my book, and grumpily answer questions when the kids have questions. I say grumpily not because I resent being interrupted, I am there to be "Ben Teacher" afterall, but because most of the questions are inane. Apparently my students have the worst taking strategies ever. Their idea is to skip past any instructions and straight proclaiming "I don't understand, how do you do this?" Most of the time I just read them the question (that they didn't read) to them and then they set to work. Why they don' t start by reading the questions themselves I don't know. Perhaps they just like the sonorous sound of my voice. The only tests that are hard to conduct are those for the Listening/Speaking classes. In the L/S classes the Teacher has to play a recording 2-3 times (for the Listening Part) and then talk to each kid individually (for the Speaking Part). This gets tricky when you are trying to run through 12 kids in the less than 25 minutes that are left of class. Speaking in a second language (especially for a test) is nerve-racking enough without your teaching pressing you to hurry up, so I try not to rush them too much.
After the fun of giving the tests, we than have three days to grade all the tests. Grading is a whole adventure in itself. Since Ewha is a private, after school English Academy, one eye always has to be on the bottom line ($$$). Which means that you can flunk a kid, because than they might leave and that is money that is walking out the door. Instead Ewha works on a curve where no one gets less than 60 percent or more than a 90. This means that some creative grading is necessary to elevate a kid who turned in a mostly blank test to a 60 percent. We could just curve the whole thing, but that is far too much work to do for 30 different classes (that is how many I teach) and besides which Bryan tried it once and was unable to explain the idea of curving.
Tests are all over now, so now it is the turn of the Korean teachers to call all the parents up and explain to them why their little treasures did the way that they did on their tests. I'm glad that the testing is over, and can't wait to get started on the next adventure, writing syllabi for the next term!