Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I'm a teacher!

I wrote this post in two parts: a little last night and the rest this morning. I'm sorry if it's confusing!

When I left this morning, I intended to find Dunkin Donuts and buy breakfast for me and Hana. Well, I did find the Dunkin Donuts, but I failed miserably at ordering. I'm pretty sure I inadvertently purchased mud-water, and I somehow ended up with a mix bag of donuts instead of the two plain ones I wanted. When I showed up at school with the evidence of my failure, Hana laughed at me because I couldn't even order American food correctly. I deserved it.

Last night when I left school, my classroom was a mess. This morning, it looked like this:

Basically, Hana's a rockstar. I'm totally obsessed with this classroom.

So around 9:15, my students trickled in. I have five of them - two girls and three boys. One of the boys was kicked out of two other classes in the school for being a pain in the butt, so I was intimidated by him right off the bat. In my opinion, he wasn't really that bad, but I've only had him one day. We'll see. My kids are "six" in Korean age, which means they're 4 1/2 to 5 in America. I know that doesn't make a lick of sense, so I can explain it if you're genuinely curious. They're young but crazy smart. These kids read better than our second or third graders, and their vocabulary is off the charts. They don't understand a lot of slang or cliches, but I've yet to notice a grammatical error in any of their speech.

I'm not going to outline everything I did because (1) I simply don't have time - I have to get ready for work soon and (2) it's not all that thrilling. I mean, I'm teaching phonics to first graders. Pretty easy stuff. There was a moment, though, sometime after we put forty-something animals on a felt board, and the kids were laughing and playing, when one of my little boys looked up at me and said, "teacher, I like school with you" that totally made me melt. Why did it take me so long to realize how much I adore teaching? I was smiling the whole day... I really, really love this job.

Aside from the sappy "I'm changing lives!", here are some hilarious reasons I love my job:
"Teacher, you look like the Power Rangers teacher."
me: "Can anyone name an animal?"
Brian: "CRAP!"
me: "Do you mean crab?"
Brian: "Oh, right."
"Teacher, I think you are my grandmother."
(draw a picture of your favorite person) "This is my uncle. He's holding his iphone - 4G"
(she handed me a box with Korean on it) "Can you read this to me please? HAHAHA you can't."
"You drink a lot of water, teacher. You are an elephant."
(and my personal favorite!) "Why does your stomach hang out like that?"

People comment A LOT on your physical appearance here, and that's another blog post for another time, but suffice it to say, it's quite unnerving to be so scrutinized. I think I may have to shower daily or something.

At the end of the day, Hana was running around the room, tears in her eyes, trying to get everything ready for when the parents arrived. I felt terrible for her. She seems to be the kind of person who needs to do everything one thousand percent, and I consider ninety percent stellar, so a part of me just wants to tell her to take a deep breath and let herself make some mistakes. She's going to drive herself mad if she keeps working this hard! But I don't know her that well, and I'm trying to be extremely careful when it comes to offending people, so I'll let her do her job. Once the parents were gone, we sat down together and talked about the day and everything was calm. Then I tried to turn off the desktop computer on my desk by pulling down the monitor (like I do with my laptop), and she laughed so hard she nearly fell out of her chair. I just stared at the fallen computer, wondering what on earth I had done wrong. Lack of sleep will do that to you.

Just before I left, one of the parents came back into the room and asked if her son had made any friends. There are so few kids in the class that they all seem to be friends right off the bat. She said to let her know when he starts to make friends because "friendships are much more important than studies." Amen.

After school, I intended to go home and get my apartment set up, but I read Ben's comment on my last post telling me to get to Jubilee. I was torn - I was really looking forward to doing this whole Korea thing on my own, and if I went to make friends right away, I'd have help. And I didn't want help - I wanted the pride of accomplishing things alone. But then I stopped at the market and ended up buying this for dinner:

And I realized that maybe a tiny bit of help wouldn't be so bad. (Sidenote: I got this home and discovered there is no silverwear in my apartment, so I had to eat the oranges with my fingers. You'd have done the same, I'm sure.)

I had asked the other teacher at my school to draw me a map to Jubilee in case I decided to go, and sitting at home with my "Sweet and Delicious" somethings, I made the choice to attempt the journey. It was about a thirty minute walk, and it was already dark outside, but I wasn't really nervous. I've already gotten pretty good at locating either Kyobo or the cheese grater building when I'm lost, and I can get home from either of those. This was pretty far away, but there weren't too many turns, so I tried it.

I got to the church just before the service started, and sat down next to the first girl who smiled at me (that's really how I choose my friends here). Her name is Joanna, and she's British. I was dead tired from the walk and jet lag, so I didn't make a lot of conversation, but she knew a lot of people, so it wasn't too awkward.

There were maybe a hundred people in the part of the room I could see (it turned, and I don't know what happened next), but when the music started, you'd have thought there were a thousand. The voices were peppered with all kinds of accents, and it was amazing. I knew all the songs, and I sang along when I could - I was so overwhelmed by this pocket of deeply passionate people that I kind of just stood there in awe. After the music died down, they started to pray.

Korean praying is not like anything I've ever heard before. The person on the stage starts the prayer, but then every voice in the room picks it up. No one's whispering; everyone speaks their prayers at the same time. It's the most jumbled, incoherent, and heartbreakingly beautiful sound in the world.

I'm rapidly running out of time before school, so I can't describe much else about the church service. The speaker was passionate, hilarious, and profound, and I wished I had brought something to write his every word onto. They ended the service with more singing and more prayer, and I just felt so content.

I really, really like it here.

The service didn't end until almost 10:30, so I was struggling to keep my eyes open by the time it was all over. Joanna introduced me to some other people, and I probably came across as a zombie, but they seemed friendly. I told my new friend Heather what I had for dinner, and she promptly offered to meet me for dinner tonight so that won't happen again. She asked how I was getting home, and I told her I was walking because it only took half an hour; she looked shocked and asked why I didn't take the bus. That seemed pretty obvious to me - I don't know how to take the bus. She offered to get me home even though it was the total opposite direction she needed to go, but I told her I could do it. It really wasn't that bad of a walk, and I was too exhausted to try to keep a conversation going. I got home and fell asleep as soon as I laid down, and now here I am.

I have to leave for work in about an hour, so I need to start getting ready if I'm going to have time to talk to my family before I leave.  If I haven't talked to you personally yet, I'm terribly sorry, but thank you for following my adventure here. Your support means the world to me while I try to bumble my way through this new life.


  1. HA you're my grandmother too...ok am I aloud to comment on every post??

    Love your blog fan,

  2. So I have a notebook in my classroom with all the hilarious things kids say. You should do the same.

    My favorite quote was the one about the girl asking you to read the box. I can imagine her face. HAHA


    P.S. Mattea wore a Darth Vader mask to recess to protect herself from the sun yesterday......

  3. And your classroom is pretty! :)

  4. My favorite is "You drink a lot of water, teacher. You are an elephant."
    My coworkers and neighbor think im weird because ive been drinking water like its my job... We're just thirsty people...
    Hana sounds like a dream come true.
    Love "another" blog fan

    ps. Leah brought me home some Korean presents and they are hilarious. One is a note book with 2 pigs on in saying " pigi and pogi. We do everything together. we are good friend."
    AND an apron with 3 crying squirrels on it saying "Dont Cry Squirrel."


    pss. Love your face.

  5. I paid the girl to ask you if you could read something in Korean and then laugh at you. Glad to see she came through and didn't just steal my money.

    Also, you weren't in my freshmen bible study but Stevie introduced Korean prayer to us and I loved it, but it was also hilarious and confusing. I LOVE that you LOVE Korea! this all makes me very happy.

    Also, you are my grandmother too.
    your brown mother

  6. Also, how do you keep from laughing in your students faces when they ask/say hilarious things?

  7. We're following your blog and feel like we're on the adventure with you! You rock!

  8. Nik, I got tears in my eyes reading this. I am soooooo incredibly happy that you like it and are having a great experience so far.

    PS Happy Birthday month :)