Oh right- I’m here to teach!

Orientation kind of felt like summer camp- the excitement of being in a new place, meeting new people- who became immediate friends, and having a day scheduled with new activities. (The fact that we also ate all three meals daily together and slept in the same hotel really added to this.) They kept us so busy, it was easy to forget why we were all there in the first place. So once it was over, it felt like, “Oh right, this isn’t forever, it’s time to start my new reality and do what I came here to do- teach English!” Just like when summer camp ends and you go back to your regular life, except this time, I had no idea what my “regular life” was going to look like.

After leaving orientation and heading for my new home in Mokpo, my co-teacher and I ran several errands before we were able to call it a day. Immigration office, school visit to meet the Principal and Vice Principal, HomePlus for some essentials, and bussing to and from school from my apartment (so I knew how to get to school the next day). We also stopped at a beautiful spot for some coffee to meet two other people who work at the school in administration.

My first day at school (Wednesday) I didn’t have any real classes to teach, which was a nice break. I spent the day lesson planning, and you know, Internet stuff (hello procrastination station). This was all in between saying “Hello!” countless times to all the students curious about the new foreign teacher.

Wednesday is also volleyball day at school. Not just my school, but literally almost every school in Korea, so I’ve been told. It is HUGE here. So, since I was given the warning beforehand, I left my apartment that morning with my small gym bag in hand, hoping the gym outfit I had chosen was appropriate enough. A long sleeve shirt and a pair of yoga capri pants are about as conservative it gets, however that did not stop my mind from racing through all the possible worst case scenarios. (Can there be a worst case scenario for a gym outfit choice….?) Who knows, but this was my anxiety speaking.

What if they didn’t change for volleyball?? What if they think clingy yoga pants are too risqué?? What will they be wearing?? These were all thoughts that crossed my mind. So, once 6th period came along, I was relieved to see other female teachers changing into gym clothes, although some did stay in their work clothes. (And no one batted an eye at my yoga pants, phew).

Even though this was only my first day at school, my first time meeting everyone, and could only speak 4 essential sentences in Korean, volleyball was so fun. The majority of the time I literally had no idea what anyone was saying, but I didn’t need to know. I could still laugh, clap, say, “Nice!” at a good shot. Honestly, I don’t have the right words to say how I felt. At one point I felt quite emotional. I had just met these people and despite the language barrier, we were having so much fun and they were so welcoming. Needless to say, I left my first day of school feeling pretty good.

Thursdays I’m usually at a high school, so this day was also spent lesson planning for the next week. Friday, was my first day at my elementary school, and they have my heart already. They are so sweet, energetic and welcoming. My biggest class is 8 kids. Yes, EIGHT kids. This is so wonderful. My co-teacher for elementary is also so great. She is very curious about the English language, so a lot of our conversations are spent discussing English and all the different colloquialisms. This is interesting to me, as a lot of the expressions we use literally do not make sense, since they are very figurative in nature. Sometimes it’s challenging trying to explain these things, but it puts a new perspective on things, since they are things I have either a) never noticed or b) taken for granted in this complicated English language. 

Next week I still do not have a full teaching schedule, since High Schoolers are still writing exams, and the Grade 3 Middle School students (Grade 9 Canadian equivalent) are writing their high school entrance exams. So yes, I am teaching all levels. Grade 3 Elementary all the way up the Grade 12 (we call it High School 3 here in Korea). It definitely wont be easy, but I am up for the challenge!

I am loving my “new reality” so far, and can’t wait to see what else it has in store for me.

Until next post,

– Laura 

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