The First Day

This day was… confusing, overwhelming, anxiety-provoking, awkward, amusing, heartwarming, encouraging, and above all, long.

I walked to my Monday/Wednesday school today with zero knowledge of where to go once I got there. I sort of lurked in the hallways (avoiding students like an escaping prisoner avoids the guards – it was easy to do because they’re very noisy) until the Vice Principal happened to emerge from the office and ushered me in to meet the Principal.

(Later my co-teacher told me she should’ve been the one to introduce me, so I guess I messed up the hierarchy already! Dang it. But I couldn’t really help that the VP discovered me when he did.)

The Principal is very nice and his English is quite good. He gave me tea.

Then one of my CTs came to get me and took me to the English office we’ll share. She also gave me tea.

I drank more tea today than I have in all the other years of my life combined.

Since it was the first day, I was ushered to a teachers’ meeting, which was all in Korean. At one point I was prompted by my CT to go up and bow when I was evidently being introduced.

An hour or so later I was again hurried off to a ceremony in the auditorium for the 1st year middle schoolers, since this is their first year at the school. Suddenly all the English teachers were brought up on stage and I was facing a sea of Korean students… then my CT prodded me to step out of the lineup and bow as I was introduced. To my surprise, there were cheers and some students cried happily, “Maddy!” So cute.

Then I was rushed back to the office… to sit and wait.

An hour or so later, we had lunch in the teachers’ cafeteria room. My thoughts during lunch: This food is good. I don’t think I can finish it though – ohmygod my co-teacher already finished! She then sat and kindly gestured for me to eat more… and more… Note to self: take less food next time.

Back to the office, but now I knew my class was only a couple hours away and I was getting nervous. The last 10 minutes before my class started was a whirlwind of activity: loading the “PPT” (as they call PowerPoint presentations here), finding paper and colored pencils, asking my CT if this or that would be okay to do during class.

This M/W school is smaller, so there are only about 20 students in a class (sometimes even less). Still, my CT didn’t come to the classroom right away, so for a few minutes I was faced with said 20 students by myself and it felt a little daunting.

Once I started introducing myself, though, most of my anxiety faded. The most rewarding thing for me is seeing those bright, inquisitive eyes taking in information and watching their faces light up if they have a question or know an answer.

I already know where I messed up with the lesson, what I want to do differently in the future, etc. But my CT seemed happy with it, so that’s a start.

Afterwards, I still had about an hour left to sit at my desk before I was officially off the clock. I found myself mulling over each student, smiling over the ones who had been the boldest about speaking up in class and searching for ways to draw the quieter ones out of their shells and get everyone more actively involved.

It was really the highlight of my day, in spite of it also being the most nerve-wracking part.

Which also gives me hope that teaching could really eventually become a lot nicer and potentially less panic-inducing from here.

Unfortunately, at this school I only see each class once every 3 weeks in order for all the students to have a chance to be in my class. However, I’m going to do my best to learn their names and connect with each of them. That’s the most rewarding part, after all.



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