I’m trying to refrain from thinking of this as week 1 of 52, because well…I’m not out of my mind. That said, I’m not thinking of this as a ‘sentence’, I’m just excited to get these first few weeks over with, simply because time equals experience, and a better understanding of just what I’m supposed to be doing. There is SO much to take in, SO much confusion – both on my part and for the Koreans that have to deal with this crazy waygook – and when you can’t fully comprehend your purpose or function in this place of madness, you can start to feel a bit obscure. Misplaced and adrift.
But after a week of not knowing my head from my arse, and having previously thrown all my expectations out the Air New Zealand Boeing 767-300 window, I’ve come out feeling like I can, maybe, actually do this. Okay, so I may have spent a majority of this week flailing, but I did so internally, with a smile on my face, and everyone was none the wiser. I think.
This is what I know:
I love my co-workers at my main school. They’re all so welcoming, the women are so happy to have another female teacher – I’m replacing a scruffy Canadian man – and while I haven’t met my principal yet, the Vice principal is such a sweet guy that he drove me to one of my schools to introduce me to everyone. My students may be little monsters, but there are a group of girls that have taken a shine to me and come and visit me every lunch time to hijack my phone and show me their new nail polish.
Go-Dal, my Thursday country school is by far my favourite school. There are only 37 students in the school, I teach 5th Grade for two hours, followed by 6th grade for two hours, and they’re some exceptionally advanced students who are actually eager to learn. My co-teacher has such perfect English that I thought she was an American, and she’s actually been to New Zealand, so I’m less of a strange alien to her. It may take two buses to get there, and I may not get my own office and computer like at the other schools, but I do get a cushioned library fort in which to nap in when I please.
The high school. Okay. Um. Right. I got there on Friday morning, I’m taken into the class at 9am, my students are all waiting, and my co-teacher basically looks at me and says; ‘They’re all yours.’ What am I supposed to do with them? There’s no text book, I’ve spent all this time training to be an elementary school teacher that I wouldn’t know the first thing to teach them, and they’re all so hyped on hormones that they can barely sit still. What’s worse is that they’re teenagers. and I can already feel my self-conciousness set in as their assessing judgy eyes uncover my every insecurity. Yaaaaay!!! So I basically just proceeded to introduce myself with a bit of a slideshow and a few true or false questions. That only killed about ten minutes, so I then gave them all a piece of paper and asked them all to write down their English name, their Korean name, and three sentences explaining why they want to learn English. I kind of used the rest of the lesson to walk around and talk to them. They really didn’t end up doing anything that lesson, but at least we all got through reasonably unscathed. I had to do this lesson two more times afterwards as well. I’ve also discovered all the characters within my classroom. In each of my three First grade classes, there’s one super horny kid who’s pretty keen to get my number. More notably is ‘Leonardo Dicaprio’, who’s always trouble, but is always trying to get the class to listen to me which is kind of great. Then there’s another kid who calls me ‘baby’ all the time, so every time I tell him off he says; ‘Oh sorry baby.’ The funny thing is, we were warned about this kind of behaviour in orientation. It’s all very innocent, but we’re warned that they WILL try to add you on Facebook and get your number, and if you accommodate this, well…you’re a fuckwit.
That being said, the student-teacher relationships are definitely a lot more ‘familiar’ than they are back home. But in most ways it’s kind of refreshing.
Anyway, I won’t bore you with too much more school stuff, but I will say that Patsy and I met with some orientation friends in Gwangju today, and spent the day shopping, eating and drinking, in what has kind of become ‘our city.’ We’re all in the outer-lying counties, but have an average of a 40 min bus ride into town, so knowing that we can all meet up quite easily is kind of a god send. Seeing all those familiar faces today made me feel a whole lot more…existy? You know? It makes sense and you know it.
Now please enjoy some random photos of things I deemed interesting at the time…