Well, it finally happened. I worked 8 hours solid today and lived to tell the tale. Let’s be honest. Its been a while since I had a REAL job. I know you are all thinking it. But even more astounding is that I worked as an elementary school teacher in South Korea. Lindsay made it too, which is very impressive. I promise that she has actually stated aloud that she would never, ever, under any circumstances teach children. Well, she did and by all accounts she did very well.
We started our day at Songwon at 8:15AM. Another teacher, who does not speak any English, picked us up at our apartment and transported us to school. The children, already arriving in droves, walked by us in their red and white uniforms in absolute amazement. Not only did I feel like a giant next to the younger kids, I felt famous. “Hel-low,” most of them yelled at us when they spotted our white skin and round eyes. The girls giggled, the boys stared mouths agape. It was quite the scene. It almost reminded me of those clips of when Michael Jackson first went to Japan, but not quite as out of control, but it did last all day.
We made it through the front door, removed our shoes and put on our slippers that would be our shoes for the day. I bought some shiny, black leather ones over the weekend and felt very “with it” as I tromped my 10.5’s up stairs to the fifth floor. Classes began at 9:30AM and we quickly shuffled down to the first grade class. Lindsay’s apparently were out of control, mine are better described as controlled chaos. The first graders knew more than I thought, but we certainly went over plenty that seemed to confuse them. It was obvious after the first class, and other classes confirmed this, that Korean school kids are no better or worse than American school kids. At least not at the elementary school level. They are funny, awkward, cute, sometimes naughty and sometimes perfect. They are simply kids.
My favorite class of the day had to be my third graders. They were eager to learn and very interested in me. “Are you married?” “How old are you……46?” “Where are you from?” The questions came from all over. The funniest question though came when I was listening in on Lindsay’s fourth grade class. When I walked by I heard Lindsay ask, “So do any of you have anymore questions?” Pause, two beats. “How much do I weigh? Um, we don’t ask that in America?”
Lunch was probably the most interesting experience of the day. You shuffle into the cafeteria, line up just like you do in America and lunch ladies serve you. Instead of Pizza and corn bits though, you get kimchi, soup, rice (always rice), noodles, rice balls (Korean cake, look it up) and beef with potatoes. It was actually a lot better than it sounds. I would definitely, and most likely will, eat it again. But I was sweating like a man in a sauna, mainly because it felt like a sauna in the cafeteria on this very hot and humid Korean day. Second, the kimchi was spicy and apparently drinking anything with your lunch is forbidden. They didn’t serve up any boxed milk with this meal. You were on your own. Napkins, forget about. There might be toliet paper nearby, but most likely you are going to have to sweat it out. Which I did. Profusely. My co-workers sure got a kick out of the American sweating like a water buffalo, especially Lindsay.
Then came 6th grade. These kids almost speak better than our co-workers and us. Lindsay said her class was smarter than her. We are suppose to teach these kids Earth Science in English, and we are quite worried we are going to insult their intelligence. They are smart. However, when I asked them to be “more specific” today I really threw them for a loop. If it takes big words like that to show my sixth graders up, by God I’ll do it. But I am still not sure I am going to get much by them. Apparently Lindsay asked her class what science terms they knew in English, some kid threw out “photosynthesis” like it was nothing.
Wish us luck.