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******

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