Smoke and Mirrors: Open Class Starts Soon

Open class. These two words strike fear, anger, frustration, and the rest of the host of negative emotions in English teachers in Korea. Nothing seems more unnecessary than the pomp and fanfare that most schools go through to try and ensure that their current students return to their school for the next year. This sentiment is heightened when it involves actually bringing parents into the classroom to ‘show them’ how their children are ‘doing’. At our school, open classes occur next week. All of the teachers have their plans, myself included. As the time draws near, we come to see whether those well-laid plans will ever work in practice.

Open class represents an actual class as pornography represents actual human intimate relations. The parents are herded in to the classroom situation. Everyone feels a little awkward. The children demonstrate their ‘skill’ by performing the same tasks that we have rehearsed with them for the past few weeks. The parents smile, happy that their child is at a successful institution, and that they have made progress worthy of entrusting the school with their money once again. The parents leave, waving goodbye to their little angels, telling them to enjoy their day. They leave with a glow of satisfaction, pride, and with a story to tell all of their friends. In the class, we roll over and go back to normality after the brief intensity of the class.

I have been preparing my children well, but not as well as I’d hoped. We are to read a story, write answers to questions from a book, and hopefully maintain order throughout these two simple tasks. The children were initially well-motivated by the possibility of disappointing their parents should they misbehave or not perform well. Sadly, as we practice the tasks more repeatedly, they have begun to become bored. I hope to maintain a balance between comfort with the material and complacency and boredom right up until next Tuesday, when all of the work will prove to be worth it or worth nothing.

As it is my first open class, I am nervous. I hate being observed in any way, shape, or form. I am remarkably insecure. This may seem ironic, as I regularly cast my feelings in the swirling whirlpool of ideas that is the Internet for all to see. I guess I am just more comfortable with my written expression than I am with my verbal. This is odd, considering I use my mouth for nine hours per day, but only pen words for a fraction of that. That is a contradiction for another day. Right now, I have to make sure my three small children can read a basic story and answer some easily-lobbed questions that they have managed to answer repeatedly.

Open class is little more than a pantomime. We put on a show and the parents lap it up, not wanting to imagine that they are experiencing anything other than a true class. Their little angel is doing so well! It must be true. My job is to make sure that the show is a good one, with no rampant chandeliers or over-long third acts. There are only a handful of rehearsals left before the curtain raises. Let us hope that the players will be ready.

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