In Preparation

I mentioned before that I have secured a job teaching in Wonju, a city an hour and some change outside of Seoul. What I didn't tell you is that I'm teaching a seriously weird schedule and a serious spectrum of ages. I teach Monday thru Friday from 2:30 pm-9:00 pm. And I will be teaching (if I am remembering right) fifth graders through adults. At first, I was disappointed about the schedule, but did some thinking. Really, this works better for me as I am in a much better mood generally after the noon hour! This gives me my mornings at home with the husband. We've already been looking at some races to run when we return to Korea and we'll be able to get up early together and train together. We'll also have lunch together, which we're planning on making our "big" meal, instead of the usual big dinner. Kenny will be looking for a teaching job as well, one that has similar hours (keep your fingers crossed and those emergency prayer lines open!). So, despite my hardwired distaste for regimens and discipline in general, I am actually looking forward to a schedule and a new and interesting one at that.

However, I am also completely scared out of my mind. I am NOT a teacher. Something that the Korean English-worshipping population does not take seriously. At all. I mean, I have a year's teaching experience under my belt (which has substantially widened! I think I've gained all my weight back to be the size I was at the wedding!! AHHH! I hate America! Or myself and my lack of self-discipline and inability to delay gratification. But hating America is easier. So, yes. I hate America!!). But that year was spent barely surviving 3, 5, and 6 year olds who inspired many What the Crap Wednesday posts back in the day. I constantly felt I was letting my kids down and yeah, maybe they can read now, but I just don't feel that was my doing. That was more like a kids being kids and getting smarter by being alive kind of thing. So, I'm completely intimidated by the idea of stepping into a classroom again, as a teacher. To temper this intimidation, I decided to do some reading.

I found a book called Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire by an amazing man named Rafe Esquith. It's kind of his teaching manifesto and method in a short, well-written, and brilliantly inspiring book. He teaches in Los Angeles and every one of his students speaks English as a second language. But they do Shakespeare plays put to music that they play themselves and they make huge awesome art projects and they watch films and write about them and how they relate to their lives and they read novels and they have a classroom economic system that teaches them about how to earn, save, and spend money and THEY'RE IN THE FIFTH GRADE. They're like, 10, people. I haven't even gotten the hang of the whole earn, save, and spend thing yet! This book is serious. And it makes me wish I was a real teacher here, teaching all the subjects. But I'm not. I'm going to be a pseudo-teacher in Korea, teaching English.

This year should be better than last. I am at a serious school, Yonsei ELP, a partner with the Yonsei University in Wonju. They have a real curriculum that I will teach from, which I'm excited about. I always wondered how much better I could have done had I had sufficient teaching materials last year. And I'm not teaching spoiled, sometimes lovely, most of the time riotous small monsters called children. I mean, I guess fifth graders are still children, but you know what I mean. I'm not teaching preschool and kindergarten anymore. I read the book. Finished tonight actually. But I'm still not feeling super-duper prepared. And of course, why should I? I read one book.

But this was a good book, and I am walking away with more of a teaching ethic than actual material to teach with, which hopefully I won't need to get on my own. And there was one part that really confronted me with my own behavior lately. Esquith talks about the Six Levels of Morality and lists each level. In the sixth level, "I Have a Personal Code of Behavior and I Follow It" Level, the kids behave not for reward, not to please someone else, and not even just because they are considerate of other people. They behave because they know what the expect of themselves and they just do it. And I realized sometimes I'm not even coming close to functioning at Level VI. And it hit me here where Esquith discusses characters from Arthur Miller's play The Death of a Salesman:
Later in the play, as Willy desperately tries to understand his failures and those of his own children, Bernard shows up but is in a hurry. He is a lawyer and has a case. As he rushes off, Bernard's father mentions that the case will be tried in front of the United States Supreme Court. When Willy marvels that Bernard didn't mention this astonishing fact, Bernard's father tells Willy, "He doesn't have to. He's doing it."
And I thought of how many things I'm mentioning, but not doing. I want to shut up and just do it. And with that ladies and gents, I'm shutting up. I'm going to do.

But I'm still scared as all get out about teaching.


  1. 1) About the time I started following your delightful blog, it essentially disappeared when you got married. I'm glad it's back!
    2) Congratulations on the marriage thing!
    3) Kohlberg's moral stages, roughly corresponding to Piaget's cognitive stages: most people never reach levels 5 or 6.
    4) Teaching is not rocket science; you spent 16 or more years in a classroom most every day: think about what your good teachers did, and try to do those things.
    5) I'm willing to bet that most of those good teachers shared a few things in common: they had routines or at least regularities that were dependable, a kind of comfort zone of consistency; they knew their subjects well, but weren't afraid to admit, "I don't know"; and they treated students like actual people, rather than enemies to be conquered or placeholders to be manipulated. Good teachers expect their students to perform and achieve, and provide them the conditions and tools to do so.
    6) Anyway, good luck! Keep blogging!

  2. I emphathise with your feelings about not being a teacher. I always felt like that, but you are doing what I didn't do and making an effort to read up and get enthusiastic about it. I bet you are way better than you think.

    I had a schedule like yours in my job in Korea and I loved it! Why? You get a lie in, or you can get up early and achieve something in the morning and be totally awake by the time you get to work, without the hellish rush in the morning. Although...I used to be an "early bird" before Korea and now I am an affirmed night owl. I blame that schedule! When are you heading back? I'm probably going in December

  3. I just started running in 5ks and love it...

  4. I definitely empathize with your fears and about not being a "real" teacher. You will do fantastic though. I know "real" teachers and they are often as nervous and insecure as I felt, even if they had years of experience under their belt. What would help me when I was in Korea and had a bad teaching day was remembering that my job really went beyond just teaching English; it was also to represent my country and culture in a positive way and help build up students' confidence when dealing with foreigners. I can't wait to read about your new adventure! ^^

  5. I am a real teacher. And last night, before the first day of school, I couldn't sleep. Happens every single year before I start.

    If you have a classroom to yourself, you might want to check out Harry Wong's FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL. I actually hate much of his philosophy of teaching, but the stuff about setting routines and procedures is good, especially if you're teaching alone for the first time.

  6. I agree about the FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL... really great for procedures and stuff-- esp. in korean schools where they throw you in and don't really help out when it comes to that stuff... they give you books but what about classroom management and routines?!

    I taught in Korea for 2.5 years and we ARE real teachers...my kids could read, write and speak more effectively in English when I was done with them...if that isn't teaching, I don't know what is?!
    Good luck!


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