Saturday, August 30, 2014

Endings and beginnings.

As of Tuesday this past week, I began my second contract with EPIK.  Although I thought my second year would be a breeze to adjust to, in many ways I feel like I'm starting all over again.

This is my fourth year teaching.  Each of those years has been at a different school, and  I'm getting a little tired of getting comfortable, only to start all over again.  Just as I start to know what I'm doing, I start back at square one. I'm really looking forward to being able to teach at the same place for two years in a row someday. Unfortunately, this probably won't happen for quite some time.

This year is especially challenging because I'm actually working at three schools, meaning that I had THREE first days.  That means three times the pressure to make good first impressions, three times the awkward small talk, and three times the nerves. It's been a long week. 

I'll write a longer post about my new school-life next week when I have a better idea of what's going on, but here are my impressions so far:

--Third grade is SO CUTE!!! Since I've been in Korea, I've been saying that Korean kids are the CUTEST, but third grade is just helping to prove this point. When I first met them they spent a solid 15 minutes just asking me "Do you like ______?"  Hmmm I wonder which phrase they just learned?  Then yesterday when I taught them they were extremely enthusiastic about simply repeating the phrase "I have ________" for the entire class.  When they started to sing and dance to the song that went along with the lesson?! I just about lost it.  Cuteness overload. These kids are going to get me through this year. 

--The only thing that matches the cuteness of the third graders is seeing the kindergartners at lunch.  These little babies are killing me at lunch each day when I see them carrying their lunch trays, which are just as big as they are.  

--Teaching elementary is much more straight-forward than high school was.  This is mostly due to the fact that the elementary curriculum revolves solely around the textbooks.  There are cds that go with each book, and essentially we are expected to just put the cd in and teach.  Last year I didn't really use a textbook, and I don't know how many Sunday nights I stayed up late thinking "what am I going to teach this week?!"  Last year I pretty much made all of my materials, especially for the writing class I did, which was entirely my own.  Overall, planning this year is going to be a lot easier, especially because when I do need extra materials, there is a TON of stuff on I think teaching the textbook will get old quickly, but for now it's at least making life easier. 

--My schools are really in the countryside.  The middle school I'm teaching at has a total of 24 students.  The elementary school I'm teaching at on Thursdays only has 15 kids in grades 3-6.  I'm totally amazed that they keep schools open for such small groups of kids.  These middle-of-nowhere schools mean I have some long bus rides, but so far I've enjoyed the absolutely beautiful views of mountains and rice fields.  When you just stay in the cities it can be easy to forget just how beautiful Korea is.

There are many other things I'll write about with greater detail after I have a bit more time to adjust.  I think this week was one of the most difficult of my life between saying goodbye to my old school and closest friends here and trying to figure out a million different textbooks, going to teacher dinners, and trying to make good first impressions. 

I'm kind of drained and feeling a bit overwhelmed as I try to adjust to a new sense of normalcy, so sorry for the lack of anything interesting to say.  To end this post I'll leave you with a few pictures from the past week or so. 
Words cannot express how much I will these kids.  I feel so lucky to have had the chance to work with these amazing students.  I can honestly say that I will never, ever forget them.  

Some of the students who made this year amazing for me.  If it weren't for them, I'm not sure I would have ever have felt at home in Korea.  

The pensions we stayed at during the grand farewell weekend. 

Adventures at noraebang.  Thank God Jen isn't leaving Korea just yet. 

Last time out with Marize.

Farewell dinner with speeches from the departing veterans. 

Last night at Advice

My favorite person in Korea this past year...going to take a long time to get to life without James.

This picture perfectly describes our relationship.

Jeomchon family. 

Can't even say how much I will hanging out just the three of us.  It was ALWAYS a good time.  

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