3.1 Spring 2021

April 28, The Grind

I’m not taking back what I said about the travel school but… the feeling comes in waves. Fifth grade was noisy and the first sixth grade class acted like they didn’t want to be there. I structured the lesson with plenty of background knowledge stimulation, pre-reading group questions, listening, choral reading, and comprehension questions.

There was a moment where I looked out at my students’ expressionless faces and thought, “I don’t like you”. The feeling was jarring and I had to shake it off quickly before they sensed my irritation. That’s a slippery slope to becoming a bad teacher.

Like I once felt in Seoul, I thought to myself, “I didn’t travel 7000 miles and uproot my entire life for you to stare at me in apathy.” I felt frustrated that the content needed to help these students was so out of my wheelhouse. I don’t speak Korean well enough to teach reading strategies or discuss together the importance of learning.

One girl at the end of class asked me for pronunciation help and I mentally thanked her for throwing me a life line and reminding me that these are just kids who are products of the Korean education system. The fifth graders reacted well to the macaron-making video and the last sixth grade class was more peppy; one boy was mischievous so I comically bopped him on the head with a sheet of paper and he grinned abashedly.

I couldn’t shake the feeling, though, that something was not quite right. Why was I so tired? Why am I so challenged by making lesson plans?

I feel a lack of cohesion at my main school because Jack teaches two of the three weekly English classes for fifth grade and one of two for fourth grade. I have no idea what he does with the students.

Helen also teaches two of the three sixth grade periods so I don’t know exactly what materials she’s supplying, except for one vocabulary sheet that listed such symptoms as “I have pussing”.

Yana has asked me to lead Wednesday classes but also gently suggested that repeating vocabulary is no fun for the students. We brainstormed ways to engage the students in using the target sentences on our ride back home after school but I couldn’t quite shake the exhaustion. Even though I’ve finished planning for the rest of the week, I feel like I’m not doing well enough.

Without a mentor and without observation I’m finding myself in a rut. I want to ask myself why at every job I start to find myself feeling a certain sense of… despair? That’s too extreme of a word, but let me explain.

There’s a time in every company where I start to think about working in that position forever and cannot wrap my head around it. There is no light at the end of the tunnel because there is no end of the tunnel.

The last week has been a little challenging because I’ve fallen into the hole of thinking “I must stay here two years” and then feeling trapped by my own decision, when I can simply… not renew.

I know as a teacher I must reach out to all students, but I feel out of my depth with the language barrier. Are my talents being wasted when I have such limited interaction with my kids? Is it selfish to want to teach motivated students whose families also value education?

It’s hard to say how much is COVID brain. Do I really just need a vacation? A trip overseas? Going to a bar without a mask? Is pandemic life grinding me down?

Cultural fatigue is real. Pandemic fatigue is real. I just want to sip juice from a coconut on a beach in Thailand, but that’s going to have to wait at least another year.

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