Thursday, April 26, 2012

When "Teacher" becomes your name....

While in Korea teaching, I've had the unique experience to have taught older kids, public schools and kindergarten all on one contract. I first began my teaching adventure with mainly kids that were 7-12 years old (western age). For my first 6.5 months, I generally had the same classes. I was able to bond with these students and observe the unique personalities that were forming.

But stop. Let me rewind and start at the very beginning. When we arrived here, it was such an intimidating situation. To be observing in a class and be sitting there thinking, "I'm no teacher. What do I know? These kids will never listen to me. What if they don't listen to me? What will I do?" Five million different things can roam through your mind and the first day of teaching can be filled with such anxiety. I remember telling my mom that I wish I could just flash forward a bit because I knew I would be totally fine after a month. I was a good way. After a couple days of teaching, one can easily see that the students are quick to love and easy to forgive your shortcomings. I will keep this part short since I think I've addressed this aspect before.

In contrast to this hogwan position, my school also contracted myself and one other teacher to public schools. This was a very different experience. In a hogwan, I had my class and my students. In the public schools, I was lucky to know one students name. It was a combined difficulty of having 20-30 students in a class, only having each class once a week and also the fact that they used Korean names. I also was not the one running the classroom and had rotated through 4 different co-teachers in my 2 different schools. This was definitely a challenging aspect of my job. The students had very low English skills and there was no ability to communicate with them without the help of my co-teacher. Also, as I assume you can imagine, it's not so easy to teach a class where you can only call on people or reprimand them by pointing and saying "hey, you! no, the one behind you. Red jacket. uh, yeah that one". Not my fave thing ever. FYI: this is a picture of the class playing "Heads up, Thumbs up". It has absolutely nothing to do with English, but they loved it and my co-teacher insisted they play it. Eventually, the public school contracts were up and I came very close to being placed in an adult school twice a week. With a strange turn of events, I transferred schools and am now a kindergarten teacher.

Ahhh the great and so frustrating all at once!
I began with 8 students in my class and I currently have 11. Needless to say, that's a lot to keep track of, but thankfully I have wonderful kids that are fairly good about listening to me.It's amazing to see such personalities forming, untainted by the fears one acquires as they group older. I would love to be able to see these beautiful children in 20 years to see how accurate I am with my predictions. I feel as though one can pick out the troublemakers, the kind and motherly girl, the girl with the biggest heart, the girl with the snotty attitude, the proper boy next door and all the other personalities one can imagine. When they make you want to scream at them and pull you hair out, they turn around and do something that is so ridiculously adorable you can't help but love them.
We've been on several field trips in my 2 months here. We've had birthday parties at an indoor play land, planted flowers for Arbor Day, made clay pots and most recently (and bazaarly) went to a potato field. I think the potato field may be the most random and hilarious thing ever. We hiked the kids to a dirt patch in a field and the Korean teachers said "we're going to let them play here". As in some strange horror movie, the 2 other teachers, the kids and myself looked over at the dirt patch only to see an insane amount of spiders and other various creepy crawlies scurry away. The children were less than enthused about this I think. We marched onward with the kids all huddled together in the middle. Eventually, after all the insects had scurried away, the kids started playing a bit with some shovels. Another enjoyable and funny moment on this trip was when the kids found a worm. Anyone that knew me as a kid new I had no problems digging a hole in search of worms to keep as my temporary pets. So I picked up this earthworm and the kids and even a couple teachers started screaming. After some time, the kids started lurking closer and closer to get a look. The brave ones pet the worm and others just watched the event. This was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed since my whole goal is to work with people and animals. I told the kids we had to release the worm back in the dirt, away from the kids so it wouldn't get hurt. Shortly thereafter, my friend, Matt, comes roaming over (unaware of these previous events) talking about how his kids were over yonder finding worms so they could kill them....I was less than enthused by this, but what was done was done.

Anyways, a bit of a list of some I will and I will nots......
I WILL miss
      -"I love you Anna Teacher"
      -the biggest and happiest smiles ever!
      -watching them learn new words and use them (properly...sometimes)
      -visits from my little ones in my office
      -class sing-a-longs
       -a million and one questions like "Teacher, name what?" (referring to whatever they were pointing at)
       -laughing at the 5 year olds (3 in western age) as they find Ben's glue stick and begin gluing the floor behind his back, mysteriously getting toothpaste in their hair, running into the girls bathrooms (the boys) and turning into a limp noodle when you pull them out only to immediately run back in. All those funny 3 year old stories :)
        -holding the kids hands while we walk

     - "_______, take your pencil out of your nose"
     - "________, take your hands out of your pants"
     -"_________, don't put that in your mouth"
     -"not off the floor..ick!"
     -children sticking their fingers in my lunch, their dirty spoons on my rice, or generally making my food undesirable.
     -poop on the floor or pants down on the way out of the bathroom
     -Jamie, no. David, no. Louis, no. Jamie! Jamie! Louis! DAVID! grrrrrr 
      -Dong chim (trying to stick their fingers in your nether regions)
      -Snot on me, the pencils, the papers, the desk, their hands, my shirt, the chair, my food......

So to sum all this up, I have now evolved into the point where my name is no longer just Anna. When "teacher" is said, it no longer means a position I have taken but rather part of my current identity. I guess a year ago if someone said "teacher", I would say "what do they teach?" but now it's "teacher"...."what do you need?" It's a strange and beautiful phenomenon and you would think that with 15 teachers roaming around in one area this could be confusing, but somehow it's not. We know our kids, we learn what teacher they are referring to and, by the tone of voice, how important it is. It's a beautiful thing to experience and I'm glad it's one that I can say I have. I hope this gives you a little insight into my teaching bubble. It's like having 11 of my own little ones.....only I can return them at the end of the day. HA! 

                                 *****Don't chase happiness, create it******

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Everything about nothing

I think it's safe to say I am completely failing on this blog thing. In some way, I think it's due to falling behind on what I've seen and the things I've done and never really catching up. I think, also, that it is in part to the fact that when life is happening with such great events, the mind can become overwhelmed, exhausted and to write it down seems like a daunting task when your other option is to rest and recuperate from all the adventures. So I guess this is a blog about nothing specifically that I've done. No pictures needed. Just my take on my 8 months on the other side of the world.

I think I can say with great confidence and with no surprise that I am not the same person I left as. I've learned so much about people, the world and mostly myself. There is no one great change that I could tell you. It's all the small accumulation of things, as is most of life. A house isn't a home. There is no certain number of people required to make it a home. No one specific piece of furniture, painting or particular color of paint will make a home. When you add these things together, you create something bigger. I guess the good ol' scientific saying of "the sum is larger than its parts" would greatly apply here. It's not that I walk differently or talk differently (though I have been picking up some Irish and English slang here and there), but rather I've just evolved into the next version of myself. To be here, with no friends or family from home to know you and your behaviors, really makes you rely on yourself and discover what you're made of. I've come across a new strength that cannot be shown, proven or words spoken to express any of it. I can just feel it. I feel as though the person I was has become more set in stone. So, I guess it could be said that I haven't changed in so many ways, but rather that I have solidified my being. I speak up and speak out with a determination I lacked before. I have more ambition, yet am ironically more confused about life than I ever have before. To meet so many people that have come from so many different walks of life can really open a persons eyes. To see that so many different roads can lead to one location is a fascinating thing. Though, as quickly as you can think it is so interesting that we all ended up in the same spot, you just as quickly realize that it's not a spot you were all heading to but rather a crossroads where you stopped to have a drink and meet some nice people at the corner pub. I've met people whose life ambitions are to be a lawyer all the way to those that are determined to never have more responsibility than choosing which country to visit next. Yet we all find solitude together in this place. A common ground in this road stop of life. We can laugh at the clothing we don't understand or the food that drives us nuts together. We struggle with our language barrier and then together realize that hand gestures work far better than any attempt at Korean ever will (since any accent with Korean language makes it so they will NEVER understand you). We meet. We bond. We say goodbye and shed a short tear.

As such, during my time here, I've discovered how much the people in your life can make such a difference. My first city was great. I met some wonderful people and I hope that some of those friendships can remain through time. Though even with these friendships, I felt very detached and separate from my surroundings. I made the presumption that this was because it was Korea; an ever changing group that never had any real attachments formed. Then, I moved to my second city. A smaller city with fewer stores and activities...yet I've never done so much in my life. I've met people that I feel at ease with and I feel like I belong. I don't have to call to ask if I can come with on their outings because I'm already presumed to be in the activities. There is no judgments passed and a freedom to be yourself. We've bowled, batted, danced, hiked, gone to festivals, and more. This diversity in my experience here has given me such an in-your-face evidence of what the people in your life can do for you. I wasn't unhappy before by any means, but I definitely did not enjoy my experience nearly as much as I do here. It was a random turn of events and a split second decision as to how I moved schools and I've found that some of my greatest decisions have been made two very important things....1)an emptiness of mind. I say this because to sit and think to long on pros and cons can create a decision in itself. One could worry themselves out of a situation and remain in their circle of comfort. We need to not worry of what we will miss but rather empty our minds and embrace all the possibilities of what we could gain. and 2) a leap of faith. Just do it. Believe that everything happens for a reason and this was what I'm meant to do. I used to be obsessed with planning and I would worry so much about everything that could happen that I would miss so much of my life. Yes, somethings need to be thought about and planned, but somethings you can just know in your gut are right for you. A friend once told me he would have moments in life, essentially a deja-vu moment, and he said he knew right then and there that he was exactly where he was suppose to be. He believed that those moments were the glimpses when the life you're living intersected with where you should be, and as they overlapped, you had a deja-vu feeling. If this is true, I had one of those moments today. So perhaps I'm exactly where I'm meant to be at this moment. It's difficult to be away from loved ones. It's hard to exist in a culture different from our own. I don't know where life will bring me, who I'll love, when I'll have a home, what job I'll take, I just know that I'm exactly where I should be and I'm becoming the person I always wanted to be. I'm doing my best to gather as much life experience as I can and to learn as much about myself and the world as I can. I want to be able to enrich others lives with what I know someday, and to do so, I needed to do something outrageous and unique. I dream about stepping off that plane in 4 months and seeing parents (preferably with Chipotle and a Diet Dew in hand, maybe even a beef n cheddar to boot :P ), but I'm also trying not to live too much in the past or future. I'm trying to enjoy and embrace every bit of this as a I can, as this is a rare and unlikely experience that most people will never have. Thus completes my blog about nothing and everything. Perhaps it's boring, perhaps it's insightful, but it what I had to say at the moment. To write about events and things that happened months back is just difficult to do and I know I would procrastinate because of this. Hope all is well in the world of whomever is reading this. If you're friends or family, I'll be seeing you soon. If you are a random blog reader, I hope you're enjoying your life to the fullest (that goes for my friends and family as well, of course).

                                           ******Dare to be amazed******