Thursday, November 4, 2010

You can call me Nikki Teacher

I didn't move to Korea for the job. I mean, I did, because I wouldn't have moved here just to be unemployed and homeless, but I really didn't want to teach. When I graduated from college, I adamantly avoided working in a classroom - despite the fact that I had teacher roommates, teacher best friends, and a teaching license. I have a whole list of reasons for not wanting to teach, but they can all pretty much be summed up by saying that I was too afraid to fail. If I fail at putting books on a shelf in the proper order, the world really won't come crashing to an end. But if I fail at loving children and teaching them how to be caring, functioning adults, then I could be single-handedly responsible for creating the next Hitler. That seemed like far too big a risk for someone as prone to screwing up as I am, so I told myself I would never teach.

Yet here I sit, in a classroom in Seoul, wondering how the heck I got here. Even more, though, I'm wondering how I ever thought I could do something other than teach and be fulfilled. (I can hear your "I told you so" all the way over here so zip it.) Are there times when I get so frustrated I literally think I might explode? Heck yes. Fortunately, the times when my heart feels like it grew three sizes outnumber those times ten to one, and that's why I keep going.

I don't really have anything more to say, but I wanted to share some stories about things that make my job totally fantastic. Some of them are funny while some are sweet, but all of them together have led me to realize that four little wooden tables and a dry erase board make up my favorite room in all of Korea.
  • I had to use my free period to sub for another teacher who was out sick. We're doing the same lessons, so it wasn't a big deal aside from the fact that I didn't get to play on facebook for that hour like I usually do. I read the story with Meghan's kids and they filled out their workbooks lightning fast, so I let them draw pictures (don't tell Korea!). When the bell rang, one little girl skipped up to me, handed me a folded piece of paper, turned pink, and scampered off. Inside, she had drawn a picture of her holding my hand inside a big heart, and she wrote "Miss Nikki I love you!" in huge letters across the top. I'd been in the class for 45 minutes and she already adored me. Picking up this willingness to love others and express it wouldn't be the worst thing that's ever happened to my personality.
  • Earlier this week, my new student had an accident... all over the classroom floor. This was something I'd honestly never dealt with; when I worked at the daycare, all the kids wore diapers, and when I student taught in a high school, most of those kids wore diapers too. Due to our language barrier, it took me a while to figure out what he was telling me, but as soon as it clicked in my mind that there was urine all over my floor, I leapt into action. I told all the kids to drag the tables onto the rug and sit under them while I went to find the janitor to mop up the tile. As soon as the kids were in place, it occurred to me that my limited Korean skills (hello, thank you, and grapes) wouldn't get the point across. Hana wasn't around, so I snatched the hand of my smartest student and took off down the hall. We literally ran everywhere in the school, looking in classrooms and storage closets, but we couldn't find the janitor anywhere. The school secretary was in the bathroom, so Evelyn and I both frantically told her what was going on. She tracked down the janitor and sent her to the room where Evelyn explained our predicament. I walked around the room, pointing out wet spots, and Evelyn trotted along behind me, pointing them out again (I think my hand gestures would have translated just fine, but you can never be too sure). I had Evelyn ask for a cleaner, hoping to get bleach or some kind of disinfectant, and the janitor sent her down to get the bottle out of the closet. When she came back, she handed me a bottle of Febreze and the janitor nodded. It was the most disgusting and stressful moment I've had all week, but really, how can you not laugh? WTF, Korea? Febreze? Oy vey.
  • We've been having trouble regulating the heat in our classroom now that it's getting chilly out, so our room fluctuates from being an ice box to a sauna without warning throughout the day. I had an extra sweater on just in case, so when the room reached equator-like temperatures, I ripped it off and asked the kids if they were hot too. Brian hopped up out of his seat and shouted, "I am buuuuuurning like the fire, Teacher!" The other kids literally fell out of their chairs they were laughing so hard.
  • The pencil sharpeners here are adorable; they're shaped like little houses or trucks, and they're ridiculously brightly colored. I was a tiny bit obsessed when I got here, but all in all, they just scrape wood off of pencils. The other day, I watched a little boy in Meghan's class sharpening his pencil. When he pulled it out, his eyes got huge and his whole face lit up. "Woah! Teacher, it's like magic!" New goal: obtain child-like joy and never let it go.
  • During fairy tales, I always draw the story we read on the board. The kids usually laugh at my stick figures (I add triangle dresses and squiggly hair to denote females, of course), but my subpar drawings generally suffice. Today, I drew a shoemaker with a funny hat, then the kids told me I needed to draw his wife. I scribbled my standard girl on the board, and I heard a slow clap starting behind me. I turned around, and Brian was on his feet, smacking his hands together in the most proper way possible. "That is the most beautiful girl I have ever seen," he said, drawing out each syllable like he was the first person to ever lay eyes on the Sistine Chapel.
I have some quotes too that are hilarious but don't really merit a whole story:

Evelyn: Miss Hana is very pretty and you are just so crazy. She will always steal your boyfriends. She will have so many husbands and you will have none.

Robin: When I was a baby, my daddy killed bad people.
Me: Is your daddy a police officer?
Robin: No.
Me: Is your daddy Batman?
Robin: No!
Me: Are you sure?
Robin: ... no...

Miss Joann: I asked you to draw a picture of an animal that starts with a "b". What did you draw?
Bella: Egg.

David: How do you spell "Imperial"?
Me: Why?
David: I am drawing the Star Wars.

Me: Who is the tooth fairy?
Brian: She comes in during the night and cuts out your tongue.

To sum up: The school gave me a few of the pictures from the field trip (service-ee!), and I was flipping through them with Hana. She started thinking out loud about how the kids probably aren't going to remember us in twenty years, and I literally teared up. I'm never going to forget the goofy little Asian kids who make my working hours just as much fun as my free time, and I really need to work harder to make sure I'm soaking up every second I've got with them.

Also, I'd give every penny I'll ever make in my life if I could keep Brian. He drives the other teachers absolutely up the wall, but seriously, I'd give the kid a kidney if he needed one. Hell, I'd steal a kidney right out of another human being if that's what he requested. I'm totally wrapped around his little finger, and I wouldn't have it any other way.


  1. I'm finally catching up on posts... this one is by far one my favorites. I seriously just laughed out loud like 184 times.

    p.s. I want to meet Brian! *begins devising a plan to call in "sick" some day so I can come visit you at work"

  2. KOREA!

    (I think that suffices for this post)