Starting Year Three
I’m back in Korea, back at my desk in the grade three teachers office at my school on top of the hill I have to climb every morning. Back to daily alerts from the government that is air quality is so bad you shouldn’t go outside, and back to my tiny apartment that takes three steps to cross.
When I came back from America last year to start my second year in Korea, I was met with this weird sense of disconnect. My office wasn’t the same, the teachers had all changed, and we had a new difficult batch of first graders. I spent the first 4 months of last year in weird haze between mourning the routine I’d had before, and accepting the new one.
This year, however, I came with no expectations. This is probably going to be my last year at this desk and in this school so I’m trying to make it a point from day one to just enjoy everything as much as I can. I have struggled with what exactly the Guest English Teacher’s role is in Korean society and I have no answers. The only semblance of conclusion I have come to is that it is entirely what you make of it. It can be completely meaningless or it can be incredibly rewarding but all of that comes down to you.
If I take myself seriously I can be a serious teacher. If I don’t then unfortunately no one will blink an eye that the foreign teacher’s class is a joke.
All that to say, I finally feel like I’m completely comfortable with MY role in the system. Not necessarily the system itself or how it should work across the country, but in my school with my co-workers, and my kids, I’m confident and proud of what I do.
I miss the kids that graduated last year terribly but our sad goodbyes also did a lot to remind me that we actually can make an impact on their lives.
They’re probably not going to remember the grammar I taught them but I’ve heard them repeating the way I say “oh my gosh” among themselves in the hallways. One of my favorite girls moved to a new city and has been texting me every morning with updates. When a few boys came back to visit after starting high school I heard a very familiar “TEACHER!” shouted down the hallway and found myself saying, “Donghoon I miss you!” before I’d even turned around. And on the day that they graduated the phone numbers exchanged and pictures taken together told me that if nothing else they’ll remember me as someone who loved them.
This year already looks good. Although I was incredibly sad to lose two co-teachers who have been incredible support systems for me the past two years, both personally and in the classroom, the two new teachers seem to be very capable and I’m excited to see what that dynamic is like.
My third graders now are my original tiny baby first graders. I have watched them get taller, and crazier, and sweeter, and in to all kinds of trouble. They’re not well-known in our school for being the easiest kids, but I walked in to my first girls class on Monday and there wasn’t a hint of my usual first day nerves. I’ve known these kids for longer than I’ve known some of my friends here.
I’m excited for what is almost definitely my last year at this school, and most likely my last year in Korea.
Thanks as always for reading, and I hope this post finds you well!