Monday, August 27, 2012

It was my first day at school today.

I woke up nervous at half past 6 in the morning – early for Korea but a decent sleep in if I was still in New Zealand. Although I could take advantage of the time difference and pretend I’m a morning person for the next few weeks, I decided sleep was better and forced myself to close my eyes and calm down.

My alarm woke me at half past 7 and I got up, tried to eat breakfast and used the internet to talk to my Dad and my best friend back home. I’ve managed to connect to one of Korea’s free wi-fi services that pop up around the country – provided I sit in a certain area of our living room I can tap in and feel connected again. There’s a number of really, really swish PC-bangs (internet cafes) close to our apartment, but it’s nice not being interrupted by a parade of Korean teenagers fascinated by what the waygook is looking at online.

As I’d previously agreed, I met my coordinator outside a store a few minutes away from my apartment. Last time, I had one main co-teacher and two schools, this time I’m at one large school and I’ve got a coordinator and four English teachers I’ll be working with.

My coordinator doesn’t speak a lot of English – she’s a 5th grade home-room teacher, not a dedicated English teacher. She’s very sweet but we’re equally shy at the moment, so she spends a lot of her time with me talking on her phone. I hope it’s nerves, otherwise damn, she’s rude!

We got picked up by a third grade teacher and driven to my school – I think I’m expected to walk  from now on. My coordinator has provided me with the following map:

The route should take about 15 – 20 minutes, but I’m going to need to invest in a sunshade as it’s super hot at the moment. Our apartment’s thermostat clocks in at 30 degrees Celsius, and we don’t have a fan or air con to ease the heat. There was a nice breeze this morning which I hope will continue.

My school – Jangnok Elementary – has 1000 students and I’ll be teaching grades 4  -6. Each grade has 6 – 8 classes of around 30 students per class. Buan Elementary had 500 – 600 students with an average class size of 24, and my rural schools had between 12 and 100 students (with smaller class sizes again) so this is a bit of a change. My school is close to a Lotte Supermarket (yay!) and on a hill (boo!).

I met my principal and vice principal, remembering to bow deeply but forgetting how to say ‘nice to meet you’ in Korean. I think I need to stop cracking out the Korean I do know, because I’m giving people ideas about how well I can actually understand things. I can read phonetically and count, but the longest phrase I can say is ‘I only know a little Korean.’

Last time, (please forgive the comparisons, but it’s hard to avoid them!) I spent most of my week in a dedicated English room. This time I’m sharing an office with ten or so other teachers and administrators, plus the vice principal. I logged in to my computer and found I don’t have internet. In an effort to seem productive and on to it, I read through the assembled textbooks and then looked at the files the previous teacher had left. In a moment which seemed eerie and also made me proud of my ppt skillz, I noticed that there was a game saved that I had made– I know it was mine because the dialogue featured ‘Anna’ and ‘Mollie’ – my co-teacher at my smallest school.

One of the English teachers I’ll be working with told me I won’t have any classes this week which is a relief and also a worry, and Tom and I will be going to Wonju tomorrow to run through the health and blood tests required at the start of our contracts. This morning, aside from writing this blog post, all I’ve done is put big, red circles around New Zealand and Korea on the map I’m using for my ‘My Name is Anna’ introductory powerpoint which is a standard requirement for new English teachers. Maybe I’ll show it to you one day.

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