Friday, March 14, 2014

First week at two schools, Doji thoughts

[On February 18th, I was told by my employer, Doam Elementary, that I would start working at a second school, Doji Elementary, two days a week. Three days a week, I continue to teach at Doam.]

Happy White Day! Students at my new school kept coming into the English classroom with candy, and I finally made a comment about it to my Doji co-teacher Seong Ho. He told me that it was White Day, similar to Pepero Day. A second "Valentine's Day" where boys and girls give sweet candy instead of chocolates is how he described it. I liked that they were comfortable enough to approach me since I met three of my classes for the first time today - and I'm the first native or foreigner English teacher at Doji in either two or five years. I've been told both so...

The first week (or two days) at my new school went well. It was reminiscent of my first week at Doam back in September, minus jet-lag and culture shock. I had classes, met the principal (who is referred to as the royal director), and was introduced to the various teachers as we ran into each other in the hallways. It was nice not to be completely lost - a sign of growth for sure. I am an expert at what it's like to be a native English teacher in my section of Korea.

Teaching with SH, my co-teacher at Doji, went pretty smoothly. He had mentioned that he graduated from the university last year, and until the second grade teacher spelled it out for me, I forgot that last year was February of this year. He graduated last month, started this job this week. My first day at Doji was his fourth day at Doji. Needless to say, he was insanely busy and tired and I think he's catching a cold. I'm glad that I was in a position to have my head on straight and to be prepared with lesson plans, because, really, a ridiculous amount of work was expected of him. I wish I could've helped more, as reminded by a funny-sweet interaction today --

As we walked back to the main school building from the lunchroom, a cute fourth grader ran up and started talking to me. SH translated: basically, she said that she was sorry that I didn't speak Korean. As in, it must be hard not to speak the language that everyone else speaks. Such an astute observation. I wish I did know the language for all the selfish reasons but also just so I could help my co's with the pile of work they have. Computerless, I kept asking SH if I could help him and he said, "I'm very sorry, but my work is in Korean." No, I'm sorry

Other random bits from Doji: The first question one of the sixth grade classes had was, "What is your height?" Didn't expect that, but I proudly stated, "Five foot, two and a half inches." And since they use the metric system and I don't care to know the conversion, SH told them his height and they all discussed plausible heights for me. It was very interesting. School lunch continues to be my favorite part of the day, but it was also the part of the day I missed Doam the most. The food is exactly the same (same food company), but no teacher lunch trays and I missed the Doam atmosphere. 

Like at Doam, the teachers eat ungodly fast, and I haven't learned yet how to gauge their eating . In other words, I have no idea how much time I have left to finish - and I will finish - my food. Yesterday, I ate too slowly. I could see my co picking at his rice, waiting for me. Today, I ate too quickly. Sat there with an empty tray for a good five minutes. It's a disaster. 

Overall, I got a good impression of Doji Elementary. SH and I get along, I like the students, I have a well-equipped classroom, and once I get my desk and computer, it'll be back into the swing of things. I still think it's unfortunate that I'm being stretched so thinly, because I will have to prioritize. I have three times as many classes at Doam than at Doji and Doam is my first school. It's unrealistic to expect that some corners won't be cut, not to the student's disadvantage, but maybe to my own standards of quality. Kids don't care about a powerpoint's color scheme, but I do. 

My time at Doji is being categorized at Doam as a "business trip." I tend to think of business trips as a chance to learn more about one's craft in a city where one's employer pays for the hotel. Alas, the irony in Korea's version of a business trip -- it's a second job. A second job with adorable, candy-wielding kids. Happy White Day, all. Much love from Korea :: 


  1. Happy White Day! I got some suckers, all of which I'll eventually give back as treats in class (I'm not a candy fan).

    I'm in the same boat with you as far as gauging speed at lunch! Every day I watch the others and try to figure out if I'm on schedule to finish eating when they finish, or if I'm behind. But it's so hard! You might appear to have eaten the same amount as them, and then all of a sudden they've somehow nearly finished everything! I was watching the whole time, how did that happen?! And then there are those random days that I rush and hurry because I think I'm way behind, but then they sit and chat for 10 more minutes after I finish. Hah, oh lunch.

  2. That's a good idea, giving out the candy as treats! I should've done that instead of eating it -- some sort of rebellion against my root canals, which I know is counterproductive. And yes, lunch is such a fiasco! I have it down at Doam -- I know that certain teachers leave x amount of food on their trays when they're nearing the end. Look what Korea has done to us lol. Happy White Day and happy Monday, Rebe!