Well, I was a kindergarten teacher for 5 minutes…

So, two weeks ago, my school imploded. The Korean staff (bus teachers, supervisors, cooks, lunch ladies) had not been paid on time for over 2 years and had not received their full salary in 3 months.  Two Wednesdays ago (July 23) was the final straw and they all quit.    By Wednesday evening, kids were getting pulled from classes and told to take all their books home by parents.  By Thursday, only about 3 Korean staff remained. That same day we received news that the school was closing on Friday.  Since then it has been a whirlwind of confusion and chaos sandwiched around a one week vacation.

David and I had planned to go to Jeju for the week, leaving on Friday night straight after work.  But suddenly, I had no job.  My school was closing and my kids were getting ripped away from me.  On my way to work on Thursday I cried for the first time about the whole situation as the weight of it hit me… on the bus… surrounded by random Koreans.  It was a great way to start the day.  I had no idea how I was going to enjoy a vacation when I had no income to come back too.

Luckily for us, on Friday (the day we were supposed to close), a man, ironically also named “Mr. Kim”, bought our contracts and we were saved in the nick of time.  And when I say “nick of time” I mean we were told that we still had jobs at 6pm that night, an hour and a half before we were supposed to start our vacation.  Those three days were an indescribable cavalcade of emotions for me.

It seems like David and I have been beaten down a lot since we have come to Korea.  It has made me question whether coming here was the right decision for us and if I am where I am “supposed” to be.  The answer is still unclear.  Here’s hoping that things get better at the “New CIS”.

Fire Drill: Hotbox of Horror

Yesterday marked another first in my time teaching in South Korea: my first fire drill!  Fire drills are a critical part of education in every part of the world, insofar as incineration is among the least desirable outcomes for students.  With my classroom situated on the third floor of an entirely wooden (and not entirely up on its maintainence) building, I was glad to know my kids were learning important survival skills.

I went through a fair number of fire drills as a substitute teacher back in America (one wonders if there’s a statistical correlation between drills and teacher sick days), and of course I trudged through more than a dozen in my own student days.  But on the morning of, I didn’t really know what to expect.  Korea is always full of surprises.

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This being a kindergarten, the “drill” began in our (very flammable) gym with a safety presentation by an officer from the Uijeongbu fire department.  It was all in Korean, so I don’t know what he said, exactly.  But there were a couple of animations featuring a fire safety mascot of indeterminate animal species.  It was pretty easy to follow that.

Incidentally, they dial “119” for emergencies here in Korea.  I should probably remember that so I don’t waste time in a crisis.

The drill itself came later, mercifully without the obnoxious klaxon call I’d been brought up to associate with pretending to be in mortal danger.  We brought our classes downstairs, put on their outdoor shoes, and marched into the adjacent parking lot.  But there was no lamely standing in rows for us!

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Inside this truck, the firefighter guided four kids at a time through what I can only imagine to be a carnival haunted house-esque obstacle course, simulating an escape from an infernal housefire.  And there was smoke: lots and lots of smoke.

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Were the children scared?  Oh yes.  Most of it was the giggling sort of nervousness associated with roller coasters and high dives.  A few of the kids shed copious tears the moment they saw the smoke; another few broke down before they saw it, either from the rumor or the memory of the year before.  At least one scuttled down the steps after taking a good look inside.

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My own class did a great job.  Selina in particular was nervous before we started, but quickly got caught up in the excitement.  Dolphin Class is made up of second year kids (Korean age 6, western age 5 or so), so I guess you can say they were old pros at staring into the maw of death.  It takes more than the back of a smoke-filled truck to make Dolphin Class back down!

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In America, some might view the act of making a child crawl through a smoky van that’s been made to look like the burning ruins of their home or school as traumatizing.  But they do a lot of weird stuff in America, so who knows?  I personally would have loved to crawl around in their myself, as curious as I was.

You Might Be Hearing Less of Me.

I have been very neglectful of this blog lately, mostly because I have been exhausted from work but also because I have just been lazy.  Starting July 18th, however, you might be hearing even less from me… Is that possible? I’m going to venture to say yes.  Basically, long story short, David and I don’t seem to be able to find a good job, work for a year, and go home.  My school, Gangbuk CIS, is doing some “restructuring” to put it nicely, and I am being required to take over a kindergarten class without getting any of my other classes taken from me.  This basically comes down to me working from 9:30 am to 7:20pm straight (minus a lunch break), Monday through Friday.  That is 42.5 teaching hours a week. It is going to suck…

However, I have had a few days to digest this information and  decided to look at this a good opportunity and not a something that will steal my sanity.  Here is my list of reasons why this is a good thing.

1) I get to teach a kindergarten class.  I might be eating my words in a couple weeks but, honestly, I am really excited to teach a kindergarten class.  When I signed my contract, that is what I thought I would be doing.  This will be my chance to experience this age group in my own classroom, with my rules, and my teaching.  Plus they are so darn cute.

2) More specifically, I get to teach Dolphin Class. Dolphin Class at my school had 8ish adorable, really smart, mostly well-behaved six-year olds.  It is their second year at CIS so their English is already pretty dang good.  Dolphin class was always one of my favorite classes to teach in Activity Room because they are consistently awesome!  If I had to choose one of the kindergarten classes, it would be that one.

3) No more Activity Room. I was not a fan of teaching activity room.  I liked teaching a couple of the classes but most of them were really crazy and hard to control.  The hardest part though was coming up with activities each month.  The activity room is a small space filled with toys and slides.  I have to keep the kids doing an activity for 25 minutes before they can play.  This is not an easy task.  I am glad I will be done with it.

4) I will get paid more. Not a lot more, not enough to make all the hours “worth it”.  But still more.  I have realized that I need to start saving more money and this will help.

5) I already almost work this many hours anyways.  I usually come in by 10:30 everyday already so I only need to add one hour extra AND I will be getting paid for it.  Right now I am at work a million hours and don’t get paid for it… so yeah… might as well throw another class at me.

The Best Part of PTC’s

Today I had my last parent/teacher conference. I am so happy they are over and that I will not have to do them for a long time. The best part was what I found out about one of my favorite students. She is in my ESL class and the cutest kid ever. Her mom told me that she LOVES my class. She told me that her daughter rides the bus everyday a long distance just to come to my class. Apparently, this student told her mother that she could be taken out of all her other hagwons (art, piano, math…) but not CIS because she loves it so much. I love this girl.

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