3.1 Spring 2021

May 10, Highs and Lows

I’m living on a sine wave.

6-6 was challenging, has always been a little challenging due to their immaturity. It took a lot of wrangling and I even had to snap in front of a boy to get his attention for the fifth time. Thinking back, maybe that wasn’t the best way to handle the situation; I’m a little embarrassed.

However, I can’t help feeling disrespected when 26 twelve years olds talk over me. Kids, I have 35 minutes with you a week and you’re wasting it! I recalled that time S shattered her glass top desk banging a metal bell to get the kids to quiet down and was very close to doing that myself had one been within reach.

Because I’m petty, when a class behaves poorly, I don’t end with our characteristic high five goodbye.

6-6 didn’t get a high five.

Worse was that their male homeroom teacher was in and out and neither did the teacher scold them nor did the students shape up in his presence. It’s a little disappointing, but I’m starting to think that maybe male Korean teachers are more lenient than female teachers.

Nevertheless, I live in fear that I’ll misstep somewhere and Helen will tell me out of the blue that a complaint was received about me. Since I teach alone I get zero observation or feedback. I kind of live in the dark when it comes to school admin anything.

The 6-1 teacher kindly chatted with me in English about the weekend. I told her about the fourth graders bouncing off the wall which she found amusing, and added that she had to round up her own students and remind them it’s learning time.

“They don’t want to learn math, or English. Just P.E. or drawing.”

I tried not to be affected but hating English sometimes feels like hating me, since I was specifically recruited and hired for my nationality to teach English…

Someone on a message board said teaching in the US was an easy transition compared to the “trial by fire” of teaching in Korea. Sometimes I feel so frustrated by the stagnation of the system, the disinterest in English as a communication tool, the disjointed support.

But then I remember something.

Despite the challenges of working in this type of school environment, of living abroad, of moving every 6-12 months, I remember that I’m free. Living authentically takes truth, hard work, and recognition that an honest life will not be void of pain or difficulty which is precisely what makes it beautiful. Every tear, every obstacle overcome is a brick laid in foundation.

Despite the hardships, all these decisions have been completely my own. I once made the tough decision to leave a highly esteemed field to work for pennies in Asia. Who does that? No one I know.

I think of my friends who tell me they’re not happy where they are but unable to change; I think of friends who want to take an international trip but are fearful to travel alone, I think of my friends who are ground down by the 9-5 life and may look at mine in curious trepidation. “What a beautiful, but impossible, life for me,” they might say.

I’m living the life I fully chose, and I hope one day I can appreciate the enormity of this decision, grasp the impact of changing my trajectory completely off the status quo. That I let myself be free, that I pursued something not so easy for others. That I’m gaining even even when it seems I may be losing.

To become a butterfly you must want to fly so much that you’re willing to give up being a caterpillar.

Winnie the Pooh

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