Week 4: Jiguchon, Near and Dear

The third and final full week of teaching showed several bumps in the road:

  • finding creative variety in presenting material,
  • increasing informality in student-teacher relationship from getting to know them a bit more through conversation and extracurriculars, leading to possible lack of discipline or respect during classroom time,
  • general atmosphere of raised energy among the students, leading to a distracted learning environment. Some students were the opposite, having lowered energy, which led to the same consequences of being distracted.

Thankfully, there were things that encouraged us along the way: 

  • by getting closer to the students and building relationships, that encouraged some of them to pay attention during class and hear what we have to say,
  • when classroom techniques and patterns work after an entire class period of not being able to capture the attention of the majority of the class there was a major sense of relief, 
  • trying something new not knowing whether it would appeal to the students and it turns out that they really enjoyed it and followed along gave us happiness,
  • acts of kindness from students to other students or to teachers,
  • involvement from students who are usually reluctant to join in class activities really put a smile on our faces.

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One of the things that we have most struggled with at Jiguchon has been the general communication and expectations with the teachers and administration of the school. As a group, we focused on our expectations and work with the kids at the school. Leading up to and during our experience at Jiguchon, our goals were centered on what we believed was necessary for us to do to make sure the kids had a meaningful and educational experience. Our role as teachers made us focus on what level of English proficiency the kids were at and how we could help them improve it while at the same time making meaningful connections with the kids. Now, reflecting on our experience, and with only 2 more days at the school, one of the things that a lot of the group has become frustrated with has been the lack of communication with the school about what they thought to be best for the children.
           We came into the school only knowing that they had divided the students into four proficiency levels, and the only information we knew about the teaching structure of the school came from shadowing a total of 4 classes in the expanse of 2 days before we started working there. We had no idea what the students had already learned or what they needed to work on within those proficiency levels. Now, we also realize we had no idea what the school wanted us to teach the students or do with the students outside of academics. While I don’t believe the lack of communication between us and the school inhibited us from forming good relationships with the students or helping them academically, it would have made our experience and communication with the faculty a lot more productive. We understand that this is only the 2nd year that Jiguchon has allowed DukeEngage to work with them and not every detail would have been worked out yet between both parties. So, we wish their expectations of us would have been more clear from the beginning. It is something that would be incredibly useful and essential for the next DESK class to work out prior to working at Jiguchon or at any other school they work at in future years.
Overall, though, we are so grateful for the help that Jiguchon faculty provided during our time in teaching. When times leading the classroom were tough, volunteer teachers came to help and we weren’t too overwhelmed. Organizing an English camp in the middle of their normal school routine is difficult, we realize that, and Jiguchon faculty really facilitated the process and allowed for DESK to work there. We have seen a small glimpse of the hard work that these teachers do for the Jiguchon students. For these students that we’ve come to love after a month, we are grateful for the work that these teachers do for them.

          Lastly, our time at Jiguchon is coming to an end on Tuesday, so we felt that this week’s group meeting should address the topic of saying goodbye. We have a total of 15 teaching days at Jiguchon, and yet when individually asked to talk about how they wish to say goodbye two of our group members started to cry (♥). It is clear that the quantity of time spent does not necessarily have anything to do with the quality time spent together as our experience has become more meaningful than a fortnight’s worth of teaching experiences. It was saddening in our discussion to realize that most of the students would not remember us at all. We realized that, while we feel incredibly impacted by our experience, most of the students will look back on these 3 weeks and just think of it as a fun English Camp at their school.
          At the same time, we’ve come to see that what a lot of these kids need the most is genuine love and attention. We notice that some of the children wear the same clothes every day and have exhibited neglectful hygiene or build up walls to protect themselves before they get hurt. We have tried to do our best in giving them as much love and attention as possible while at Jiguchon. However, we are frustrated because we just found out about their personalities and their struggles recently and can only love on them for 3 weeks and not stay longer. We are starting to feel they are accepting and reciprocating our care, and we are disappointed it has to end so quickly. For our goodbyes, we just want to make sure they know we care. Even if they are not able to grasp the finality- or frankly don’t care- we want to transmit how much we have enjoyed spending time with them. Regardless of how it goes, it will be hard for us to leave.

Ana & Joy 


One thought on “Week 4: Jiguchon, Near and Dear

  1. Wow. Teaching children in and of itself can be a very trying task, but I can’t imagine how incredibly difficult this whole experience must have been for you given your circumstances being part of this DukeEngage program. Knowing how much impact the experience has had on you, yet not being certain about how much of a lasting impact you’ve had on the kids, must be tough. I do think that you should feel assured that you’ve made an impact, no matter how big or small, and regardless of whether they remember the experience vividly or not. Having the courage to embark on this journey in the first place is truly admirable!


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