In principle, I really enjoy the annual talent show concept we do with the elementary-age kids at Karma English Academy. It takes me back to my own elementary years, at the "hippie" Centering School in Arcata, where for each hour we spent doing math or reading, we spent 5 hours doing drama, art projects, and other "touchy-feely" stuff that was built on creativity and kid autonomy. My strongly held notions of the best pedagogical methods with children are substantially derived from this experience.
But in practice, there are issues. One is the somewhat poor planning that is inevitable in such undertakings in the Korean context, in my experience. Though actually, that doesn't bother me so much, though it can create some stress.
What creates the most stress, though, is differing philosophies vis-a-vis the purpose and goals of the project. In my mind, the main purpose is to give the kids autonomy to create (and/or fail to create) their own expressions using English. I will grant a secondary purpose that it serves to provide some positive "marketing" or publicity for the hagwon. But I don't believe it should be some kind of slick, professionalized production.
But most of my colleagues are incapable of granting kids autonomy, and so letting them fall down on their own is unacceptable. If the kids can't do it, you do it for them. This is built in to the Korean educator's mindset, I suppose. It's partly why kids spend so much time sitting in class, learning so very little. But it has definitely led to some unpleasant conflicts on this year's go-round. I hate to see teachers doing things for the kids. Help them, sure... nothing wrong with that. Show them how, sure. But don't take over the kids' projects because the work the kids have done doesn't meet some ideal standard.
One younger, lower-level class is doing a little play entitled "The Frog's Tail Tale" - a script I found and adapted from somewhere online, based on a traditional West African folk story about how the frog was too proud of his tail and angered the gods, so he had it taken away.
So the kids need costumes, and all the animals' tails play an important part in the story, so that is the focus of our costuming. Grace suggested we do "finger knitting" to make the tails, and it seemed like a fun, creative idea. I got some yarn, I taught myself the basics of the skill well enough to be able to teach the kids, and then we spent a few classes learning finger knitting, and making tails for our animal characters.
Of course, the kids' output was fairly low quality. One of the other teachers said, "Oh, you'd better do it for them, then, so it looks good." I started to argue about it, but such conversations devolve quickly into a kind of debate where we talk past one another because our foundational notions of child pedagogy are incompatible. We don't even share definitions. Previous years have taught me this. And I'm tired of arguing about what are fundamentally cultural issues like that. I live in Korea, now. I feel the onus is on me to just go with the flow.
And I sit at home, these last few days, finger-knitting animal tails for our play.
I could see myself adopting this as a hobby as an old man, to pass the time sitting in a rocking chair somewhere.
[daily log: walking, 7km]