Wednesday, January 9, 2013

You Can't Take It With You

Things are changing around school again. We lost the Canadian and on Sunday night, received the Canadian 2.0, a nice girl who can rival my height. Last week was a hard week, teaching 23 hours in brand-new classes in three days after coming off my Vietnam high. There may have been some tears. There may have been some resentment. But as soon as all that reared its ugly head, life got better again.

Now, I'm teaching Kindergarten again. I forgot how utterly obnoxious 6-year-old children can be. Is it bad to be saying that? Well, I'm not even a little bit sorry. There is a bonus: the student The Canadian #1 had issues with (Jack), already has a relationship with me after all the hours he spent in the teacher's room not being in her classroom, and has been remarkably easy to teach as a result. But despite how undeniably sweet they can all be in their innocence and ignorance of the world around them, sometimes I have to ask them to all put their heads down for a moment to give myself one sweet second to just breathe.

I upgraded my Basic English class for PK4B (Post Kindergarten). The kids are in the 2nd/3rd grade and I am in LOVE. It's a good thing, too, because I see them five times a week. They speak well, have very definite personalities and opinions, and are disciplined enough to not have to be directed back to their work every four seconds. A welcome relief. We also get to read fun stories and write real sentences and goof around with each other, so it's kind of like my playtime.

I'm still teaching IE2B (Intermediate English), but I lost my four favorite students because they were just too dang smart to stay in my class. Unsurprisingly, they are all girls. So now I'm just left with five stinky and annoying boys (+2 great girls). I'm only half kidding--things can get pretty rank after 80 minutes shut in a classroom together. It's also much more energy-consuming to teach a class primarily made up of boys. You have to make sure they aren't bullying. You have to get them to stop shouting in excitement. You have to ensure they aren't drawing or playing games under the table or whispering in Korean. It's exhausting. When the girls ruled the roost, it was different. I am desperately missing them.

But it seems they are missing me, too. Linda (Teacher sucks! girl), an avid reader, comes to the teacher's room during my prep to ask me to help her pick out "good" books, even though she's read almost all the books we have to offer. She peers into our classroom during the few minutes of overlap while she waits for her new class to begin. I think she misses us. But she's too smart for us, now.

I also received my boss's pet class--PK1--a class of students that have been at our school the longest. They are supposed to be our best students, but I find my PK4B surpasses them (if only because they get supplemental English instruction daily instead of twice a week) in every area except writing. We'll work on that, though. I also find it quite difficult to build a relationship with students that I only see two times a week, like we don't really know each other, that I am only a momentary mentor to be traded in for the next with ease. Which is true, but I don't like feeling that way.

After coming back from Vietnam and being thrown into this new schedule, I am coming to the conclusion that it is not only the Korean students whose life is made up of school, but their parents' lives are made up of work. There is no work-life balance. In Vietnam, there was enjoyment, color, more. But here, this is it. Yes, the Koreans play hard, but if only to anesthetize themselves to the experience of totaling their existence in the hours worked, the opinions about them held by their peers or colleagues, or achievement.

I have always known I wanted my life to be more than that, than achieving what the world expects of me, than being successful, than being someone important. Those things are important to me, as they are generally important to people, but mostly, I want to enjoy my life. I want to savor foods. I want to find beauty in silence, in small moments observed or experienced. I want to make friends with and learn from ten-year-olds instead of merely being their disciplinarian and teacher. I want to enjoy laying in bed all day or traveling to a new country totally alone or exploring some new-to-me corner. I want to make money, if only to enjoy not making money for months on end, using up my savings and merely enjoying the breeze in leaves. I want all these things that you can't get from work, that can't be bought, because these are things that aren't things at all, that you can take with you in the end.


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