Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Limping to the finish line

If I had to choose one emoticon to display how I've been feeling recently, this would have to be it. Teaching in Korea has made one thing abundantly clear to me over the past few weeks:

Having school during the summer is just wrong.

I remember way back in the winter one of my friends here said that every July she wants to quit her job.  I now can understand why. These past few weeks have been a bit of struggle.

To start with, Korea's summers are really hot and humid, so by the time I walk to school each day I'm pretty drenched with sweat, which pretty negates the shower I take each morning.  It's not the most glamorous way to being the day, and the school itself is only sometimes air conditioned.

Secondly, despite the fact that finals were two weeks ago, we have been continuing with classes as normal, just with students who are less motivated and more exhausted.

I spent the entirety of last week trying to finish all of my grades for the writing class I did with the first grade girls.  Grading always takes a long time, but it takes way longer when you're reading essays written by students who don't speak English as their first language. At times it's exhausting to figure out what the intention of each sentence is, and it takes the mental exhaustion that comes from grading to a new level.

Nevertheless, I'm so glad I did that writing class this semester because I saw so much improvement in my students' writing.  At the beginning of the semester they struggled to write one paragraph.  By the end, they wrote two five paragraph essays.  I feel like a proud mama when I see so much improvement in their work.  These are the things that make me love working in education.

Of course, grading is grading and I don't think I've felt so overwhelmed with work since teaching back in America (and that's saying a lot!)  We're talking non-stop working, staying up crazy late busy. Last week I told myself all I had to do was get to the weekend....but it hasn't slowed down a bit this week.

Next week I'll be teaching an English camp at my school.  Although the last week of regular classes is this week, of course my students are still in school for the rest of the summer.  Actually all EPIK teachers are responsible for doing an English camp during school breaks, which essentially is just what is sounds like. You pick a theme and teach kids for an extended amount of time each day.

Yesterday I found out my camp will be next week from 4-9.  Yes, that's right.  4-9 PM.  Gross.  And since the camp will be with the same group of students each day, that means I have four hours of lessons to prepare for each day.  That's just a lot of planning...and a long time to be spending with the same group of kids.  Given it usually takes me hours just to plan one lesson, I'm feeling slightly overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do to prepare for next week.

Of course, it would be a bit better if I didn't have a teacher's trip this whole weekend.  Not to mention, my three-hour Wednesday planning block is non-existent this week because my CT told me today that I need to go to Gumi to renew my ARC tomorrow during that time.  Since I teach ALL day Thursdays and we leave for our trip on Friday, I can't help wonder: when exactly am I supposed to get my materials together? Did I didn't even get home from school until 9:30 tonight...

After my camp I'll be teaching a conversation class the following week...which I think they think will be easy, and maybe it would be except the class will only have about five kids.  As anyone who has taught a small class before knows, you have to plan A LOT more when classes are that small.

The past few weeks I just feel like I've been drowning in school work.  It's the feeling you get when you look at your to-do list and your free time and you know that there's no way to cross everything off besides losing a lot of sleep.  It's the feeling when you keep giving yourself goals ("just finish this project and you'll have some time to breathe")....only to finish your project and realize that actually there is just way more waiting for you and in reality the finish line is WAY further down the line.

This semester has, in general, been extremely long and exhausting.  Today I was reflecting and trying to figure out why I feel so burnt out.  Then it hit me--in America we have school vacations about every two months.  Now here in Korea we are going on five months now with only one five day weekend.  Now I know to people who don't work in education think this sounds normal...but truly school vacations exist for a reason and I can now tell why.  Students and teachers in Korea both are going through the motions but there isn't an ounce of energy left in anyone.

On top of everything it probably doesn't help that this is my last week with most of my students, and I'm bracing myself for some difficult goodbyes with friends coming up in August.  I can't quite wrap my head around what it's going to feel like here without these people, and quite honestly I'm trying to put it out of my mind for the time being, but it's still always there behind everything else. Just a bit of emotional exhaustion on top of everything else.

In the meantime, I am thinking about home constantly and my main motivation to plow through my absurd workload has been the countdown I have going on my phone (18 days and counting!)  The work is going to get done somehow or another, and I can't think of any sweeter way to end this marathon than with my friends and family, in a place where for the first time in a year, I'll be able to understand everything.  I can't quite wrap my head around that yet.

Since I started this entry with a rather depressing emoticon, I suppose I should finish it with one that is a little more uplifting. So ladies and gentlemen, here is an emoticon that depicts just how I feel about coming home:

And yes, he has a butt crack on his head.  Why? Because, Korea. 

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