I arrived 8am on my first day of school not sure where I was supposed to go. I hadn’t been given a tour round the school and my co-teacher had just said that I needed to go to the third grade teachers room on the fourth floor of the right building. My school has over 1000 students so it’s no small place! I walked with attempted purpose to try and find the room, there were already lots of students around and I didn’t want to look like I had no idea where I was going. Unfortunately I had absolutely none and after attempting the third and fourth floor of what I thought was the correct building, I headed over towards the administration office in search of help.
The administration office was also empty, but I heard movement within the principal’s office. Now the principal in Korean schools is like a big figurehead who doesn’t really deal with small things, especially the lost new teacher and I knew it was definitely against protocol to ask him, (he also doesn’t speak English), but I didn’t really know what else to do, so knock-on the door it was and awkwardly manage to convey to him that I had no idea where I was supposed to be! I’d met my principal the previous day whilst doing paperwork and he had seemed really friendly, this seemed to ring true this morning and he found someone who first took me to the main teachers lounge where another teacher brought me over to the office where my desk is outside teaching time.
The first day was a bit of a surreal blur – I basically had zero idea what was happening all day. All the other teachers, especially my co-teacher, who was also on her first day at the school, were super busy, and so I was glad I’d brought my laptop so that I could write. I didn’t have a timetable (it was apparently still being decided), so no idea what classes and when I’d be teaching them, no school laptop, internet access or really idea of the syllabus.
I had to attend the opening ceremony for the school which they spent a good hour rehearsing before they did it with the principal and others on the stage. I sat and stood through it, getting lots of looks and waves from all the students collected in the hall. Towards the end the teachers had to go up onto the stage to be introduced, I was grouped in with the subject teachers and stood hoping that I’d be able to understand when they said the English teacher, I managed just about, quickly checking before stepping forward to a fairly excited cheer. There wasn’t a native English teacher (NET) at this school last term, so I’m maybe more of a minor celebrity than NET’s commonly are, but we get stared at plenty anyway.
I was also taken to meet the deputy principal with my co-teacher, although I failed slightly at this meeting. We went to one of the big teachers lounge, my co-teacher talking to a few people along the way. We stopped at a couple of desks within the lounge, my co-teacher still talking just in Korean to people and me nodding and smiling alongside her. Then we left and she was like so that was the vice-principal. I’m not completely sure which person it was that was the vice, they certainly don’t have the large private office like the principal and looked very busy, hopefully I looked respectful enough when I was being introduced in Korean.
The rest of the day I did pretty much nothing other than attempt to plan. I got given the main textbooks for the three years so had a look through them and made some notes. I didn’t know what to plan for yet though as I hadn’t been told my classes and when my laptop arrived it was all in Korean, apparently to be set up for my use later. I was at a little bit of a loss with what to do, I’m apparently not teaching until next week, and my classroom currently has a padlock on the door, so I’m sat in the office.
Day saw another full day of ‘desk-warming’ – the term used for when we are required to be in the school all day, but aren’t actually teaching. I cracked on with improving my opening powerpoint, having been so relient on teaching without technology up until now, it will be strange to have everything there ready in technology! Still no timetable or access to the classroom, but I did find out the ex ex teachers name through one of the other teachers in my office. I facebook conversation with her revealed nearly all the answers to the questions I’d been trying to ask, even if her information was a couple of years out of date. Basically with the school being so big, I’ll pretty much teach just a couple of classes, but on repeat each week with some slight variances for their levels. So I’ll create a third grade lesson and then teach it to ten classes over the week, pretty much independently as middle school teachers are so busy your English classes are a great time for them to catch up. I’m apparently going to be teaching 3 ‘after school lessons’ – which are just afternoon lessons but I’m free from the syllabus – one for each grade.
My opening Powerpoint features what I now hope are Korean popular culture relevant. My classes are single gender, so the girls one features bands and kpop stars whereas the boys one has football and ‘LOL’ the current big video game here – I hope I’ve picked relevant characters – feel very out of touch googling the title and just randomly picking the images.
For now though, school’s out and it’s time to go find more yummy Korean food!