First day at School


Sans kids, but met a lot of teachers.

Don’t even ask me to remember anyone’s names.  One very fashionable guy asked me my name and I told him Leanne Leith, and he said, “Oh!  That’s hard to remember!”  And then he told me his name, in Korean, and I said, “No, THAT’s hard to remember!”

There were about 80 teachers there.  I’d say it was about a 60/40 mix of females & males, respectively.  About half of them were my age, about ten were older, and the rest were all under 30.  In fact, there were about a dozen new teachers, and I suspect they were all fresh out of college.  The guys were predominantly in full suit and tie, and the girls were all in very conservative (yet stylish) wear.  The building wasn’t being heated, so everyone had their coats on.  A sea of black coats for the most part.

Had to sit through a half hour of hyms, then a benediction and list of twenty meditations, half hour of the Vice Principal giving an address, then the Principal, and then a two and a half hour long sermon by a minister.  He must have been really good, because he talked without a break and without notes for the entire thing.  He was using different voices and I could tell his jokes were good because everyone was cracking up.

They put out a big catered spread in the cafeteria, and part of lunch the Vice Principal, the co-teacher and I tried to hammer out what my job was going to be.  “The Vice Principal wants to know what your lesson is.”  I tried to explain I couldn’t possibly know what my lesson is for the whole year.  Then we narrowed it down to the first lesson, and I explained that I couldn’t possibly know what the first lesson would be, since I didn’t even know what level of English the students were reading at. Could I PLEASE have a textbook?

Turns out that I will only be teaching about 500 kids, and they will all be freshman. 7 classes of boys and 7 classes of girls.  For the boys, I have a male co-teacher named Lee (who I can not understand his English AT ALL) and my female co-teacher Pat, for the girls.  Wow.  I have no idea how boyfriend/girlfriend things work in such a segregated scenario.  Won’t have to worry about mixing up the boy and girl groups here!  (as we were told they are too shy to mix at TESOL training)

I asked about incentives for learning, because I’m kind of disturbed that English speaking classes are not graded.  This seems to be a concept they can not comprehend.  What?  I asked, What is their motivation to particiate without any incentives?  You must provide the incentives in the classroom.  Great.  I’m not into bribing, and there’s only so much encouragement I can do.  Hopefully, as freshman they have not totally lost their interest in learning English.  Unfortunately, I really have more in common with the older students.

I asked the co-teacher what level of speaking the students were, if they spoke as well as her.  “Better,” she said, “these kids have been taking classes since kindergarten.  I finally got a hold of a sophomore text book, so I at least know where they are at reading, writing, and grammer.  It’s surprisingly high.  It turns out there are 12 English teachers at this high school.  Crazy.

Two scarey things:

One – The class for teachers already has four people signed up, and one of them is the Vice Principal!

Two – The overtime after school class I agreed to teach is for NINETY MINUTES !!!  Holy crap – how am I going to fill ninety minutes?  And when I realized that, I no longer wanted it to be a supplementary class for freshman.  Turns out the after school classes the students pay extra for.  So this is a cash cow for them, and my measly overtime pay and pressure to teach it is probably how they justify the expense for the officetel apartment I have…

I discussed the difficulty of both filling a 90 minute class and how I didn’t feel kids who’d been to school all day could possibly remain interested in studying that long, or even be able to learn anything after so much time.  I explained that maybe a more advanced class with some reading comprehension might be able to fill the time, and I suggested a college survival class.  But even then, I will be hard pressed to fill ninety minutes.  I think this “extra” class is going to be much, much harder to plan than the regular class I am contracted to work.  Fortunately, I don’t have to submit a lesson plan for this or the teacher’s class.  But, I DO have to figure out a syllabus of sorts and a way to make this class sound attractive to students so they can sell it to them…

So that’s the task for the evening.  Then dye my roots – why the hell does my hair grow so fast?  It’s really ridiculous how I have to dye my hair every two weeks, and the rest of the planet can go a month…

After lunch we listened to something like a business plan and how the school was or wasn’t meeting it.  Followed by some sort of provincial minister of education, at which the teachers paid a lot of attention and fielded serious questions to.  Then, I got to go and address all the teachers and I joked about not being as foreign as they expected.  Then I went on to explain that I was a returning adoptee, that Korea didn’t like to hire us because we weren’t foreign enough, but that fortunately times were changing.  I then explained what a great resource returning adoptees are:  because all we know is western thought, western culture, and in my case, the English language; and that there is more advantage to hiring us over just foreigners, because by way of our skin and eyes, we have been forced to represent Asia our entire lives and are therefore more personally interested in promoting Asia, more empathetic to Asians, and more interested in helping Asian students suceed in understanding the west.  I thanked them for the opportunity to be a bridge between two cultures, and I asked them all for help learning about my culture, as well as appreciative over the school assignment and happy to work by their side.

Holy crap – the building PA system is going off AGAIN.  That is twice tonight.  That could SERIOUSLY inhibit romance, if that were going on…

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