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Education Overwhelming

October 25, 2011

 When I was first looking into the possibility of teaching abroad, I was a bit perplexed by the fact that nobody I spoke to talked about the actual teaching. I spoke with recruiters, employers, organizers, and even some teachers while I was mulling over my options, and all of them spent all their time talking about the benefits, the experience, the schedule, everything except the actual teaching.

This blog is entirely guilty of this too.

In this case, it’s just because the teaching has had less compelling and bloggy stories so far. I’m not sure how interesting my teaching experience is to the casual observer, so I haven’t been writing about it much. It’s been going pretty smoothly and I’d like to think I’ve taken to it well.

But then there’s the Starcraft class, which is definitely a story worth sharing.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m the debate teacher at my school. Yes, it can be very surreal and hilarious watching a room full of Korean middle schoolers debating in English.  The topics, which are often very North American focused topics, come from a pretty detailed curriculum that I have for almost all of my classes. Oh I see, your eyes were drawn to that “almost” as if it was a key word. Well done.

There’s one very advanced class for which there is no textbook. They’re a group of older and really smart students that have known each other forever and blasted through every book we can throw at them. The main goal of my debate classes is to get the students to get comfortable speaking English in front of a group, with the added bonus of providing a little bit of critical thinking and argumentative skills on top of that. Previously, before my arrival, this class used little current events magazines and did impromptu debates on whatever articles are available. Unfortunately, the teacher I replaced didn’t keep track of which magazines the class had done and which they hadn’t.

So I went into the class for the first time, armed with a huge stack of magazines. To my horror, they have seen and debated every single one of them. Luckily, I came with a backup plan: A list of debate topics that I made myself! I wrote three of the best ones I have on the board. They had already debated two of them, and were completely uninterested in the third. Ffffuck. I had to think of something to occupy the next 40 minutes…

Then, I was hit with a radioactive hadoken of nerdy inspiration. This is a classroom populated entirely by nerdy Korean boys. This just might work.

“So, do all of you guys play Starcraft?”

“Yes…” a bunch of Korean bobbleheads replied, their eyes lighting up as they sensed where I was going with this.

I wrote our resolution: “___ is the best in Starcraft 2”, but one student still hadn’t played Starcraft 2 (in Korea? What’s wrong with you, kid! Get a life!), so I had to change it to Brood War. Still, if that’s the concession I needed to make in order for this class to work, I was going to do it. One team chose Terran. One team chose Protoss. As a Zerg player myself, I would serve as the neutral judge.

Now, I had no idea how this debate would go, or even if it would take on a proper debate structure. Would they sit there discussing pro players from the GSL? Would they talk about win rates? Cheese? Degree of difficulty? The Korean Ladder?

The debate ended up being an extensive bit of “theorycrafting”, and it went way better than I ever thought it would. It somehow retained a proper debate structure, it coaxed even the most shy students into speaking (and speaking passionately!) about a subject, and it was a great way to introduce myself as their new teacher. It wasn’t a world changing teacher moment where all the students stood on their desks and recited Whitman, but it was definitely my most memorable class so far.

Reflecting a bit on this, I realize that this class will never work again, and it would never have worked normally. The Starcraft debate happened because I was in a desperate situation and I had to call on the secret education of the geek to get me through. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, being able to apply my knowledge of Starcraft in a professional forum completely validated my wasted childhood. I’d say it validated theirs too, but they might have years of successful Korean progaming ahead of them. Now, if only I could find a use for my crazy Mega Man skills…

The next post will be about something different! It will be up more promptly than this one was. Apologies for that. Also, apologies to the girls and non Starcraft appreciating boys (who are you?) who read this.

For the real nerds in the audience: Terran won the debate. Imba fucks.


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  1. James permalink

    And so it begins… Kevin’s complete collapse into Starcraft culture. I knew Korea would be bad!! 😛

  2. Allegra permalink

    I’m with James on this – it’s getting harder and harder for you to deny the real reason for your move.

  3. annexd permalink

    Terran weren’t imba in Brood War, were they?

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