Thursday, October 11, 2012

It is what it is

I was trying to come up with a catchy title but was having no inspiration so really, it is what it is.

This blog has become something I look forward to writing each week, and although I'm not 100% sure if I'm doing what I set out to do in the beginning, it's nice to share my stories and therapeutic to vent sometimes. This is a venting post. It's been a bit of an up and down week. Monday was a wonderful school picnic day with my students, but the rest of the week has been, for lack of a better word and because I've been in Korea too long, so-so. I've been thinking of my role as a teacher here quite a bit this week and it's lead me to become quite frustrated.

In the beginning of the year, at orientation, we were told about desk-warming. Oh it sounded so amazing...all the time you want to sit and watch movies and serf the internet. Bliss. But as we were warned, I soon discovered that in fact, desk warming can be mind numbing. I don't have sound at my main school so series watching is not an option for me. I try as hard as I can to be productive while I'm here but really, there is only so much you can do when you spend at least half your school week in front of a computer. It didn't seem so bad in the beginning...I had just enough down time to make it enjoyable. But this second semester has felt different. To be completely honest, I feel totally useless. My students have just left for the English Contest being held in Jecheon today, and although I asked to please go with, I wasn't invited to go along. Other teachers are able to negotiate these kinds of situations and maybe I could have juggled my class around. Instead, I sit at my desk, doing nothing but thinking. The fact that I was hardly involved in the preparations for the contest seemed odd to me too - why am I being paid all this money to sit at my desk?

I guess I'm just trying to decide what kind of role I have here. All the GET's have different experiences but I'm sure I'm not the only who feels this way. I really just wish I had a teacher who I could sit down and talk about all these things with but unfortunately, my coteacher is sweet but not very interested in discussing anything with me. She can't understand what I say half the time. It's hard to be in a situation where for 95% of any weekday, I have little idea what is going on around me. I'm talked about, in front of my face. I'm pointed at, I hear bits of conversations that I know have to do with my classes but I'm rarely filled in on what's going on. I prepare for classes that are cancelled; I have a 5th grade class that gets cancelled at least once a week but then have to answer to the teacher who wants me to "hurry up" because the students are behind. I feel like I'm in the wrong because I don't know whether anyone has been informed that it is in fact the 5th grade teacher who cancels, not me. I have gotten used to this and in general it doesn't affect me...guess it's just been one of those weeks.

The other thing I've been struggling with is how I'm treated here. My schools are very kind to me; they accept me and include me where they can (this is a different point to my above mentioned lack of information regarding actual class time) but I don't know if I feel like an adult. How can I explain this...Sometimes I feel like I am babied. I'm dropped off here and picked up there, with teachers always worrying about how "Bronin" is getting home if my usual lifts are busy. They make me stand in the lines with the kids and sometimes I feel like a student, not a teacher. There are times I really appreciate it and feel really cared for, but sometimes I just feel like I've been given all this independence by moving to a foreign country...but I actually have little real independence with anything school related. I am young, this is their culture, I accept and embrace it. But it does make me wonder how well I'm finding my feet in this world as an 'adult'.

I guess you can tell from my schizo sounding post that it's just been 'one of those weeks' where the language barrier gets me down and I feel really isolated. It's not always like this and there will be a time when I am SO thankful for no classes. But today, I want a glass of wine with my parents and want to be able to hear them tell me I'm capable and doing a good job, even though I feel completely out of place. But I can't do that - so I will blog. It's therapeutic, so bear with me ;)

What do you do in a situation where you feel helpless to change anything? You deal with it. I love my kids (even the naughty ones, when I'm not the one trying to control them) and love teaching. I'm trying to decide what to do next year when I get home, and a PGCE is on the cards but I have no idea what actual teaching will feel like. Here I may have control over my classes, but everything else is in everyone else's hands. I'm anticipating the moment when all the teachers wake up to the fact that my classes are behind, because maybe cancelling English for soccer practice is NOT the most productive decision. But that's somehow my problem. The communication barrier here is my biggest struggle and most weeks it's easy to shrug it off with a simple 'oh Korea'. But lately I just wish I had a true voice here and was more than the young white South African girl who teaches English.

Is it my fault? Am I doing something wrong? Well that's what I'm trying to figure out really. Maybe writing it down and getting feedback will help me figure this all out.
Until then, we keep on keeping on because that's what we do best! ^^

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