My first day of school as a teacher felt exactly the same as it did when I was a student. I was super nervous, didn’t know what was expected of me and I forgot my socks. Okay, okay, well when I was a student the socks thing wasn’t an issue, but in Korea you need socks. Unless you want to be the only one with your toes sticking out of your mandatory sandals.. wear some socks. I unfortunately didn’t know this at the time. Thankfully the staff at Chilbo is so kind, and the teachers were running all over the school until they found an extra pair.
Before that fiasco, I was first introduced to the principals, and I think I am super lucky because the principals are always smiling and laughing, so the atmosphere of the school is very relaxed and homey. The head principal did put me on the spot though and make me do a speech in front of all the teachers within the first five minutes of meeting him. He said, “Ashleigh, speak speak,” so I said something like “Hello, my name is Ashleigh…” *awkward smile/silence* and then the room burst out into laughter and he shooed me out. Not my proudest moment but I’m over it.
I am so thankful I was placed at this school. Sometimes teachers I barely know offer to give my rides home or give me small gifts for no reason, and it makes me feel so welcome even though there’s often a huge language barrier. The principal even picked me up last Sunday and took me to a Christian Church here in Jeonju after I told him I was religious, so I got to see what it was like to go to a service in Korea! He introduced me to everyone at the church and they even welcomed me in the middle of the service. I was taken aback because I wasn’t sure if I had really heard my name or not since it was orated in Korean, but then hundreds of people turned to stare at me and applaud so I didn’t have time to ponder long. Also, apparently the church I was at is the biggest in this city, and they even had headsets where the service was translated to English, so it was quite an interesting experience.
The first teacher I met at the school was Ji Yae, and she is definitely my closest friend there. She speaks English very well, so she has been there to help me adjust to teaching and to life in Jeonju. She got me a cell phone, a bank account, my alien registration card and showed me around the city in my first week here. She has basically done everything to help me feel at ease in this city, and now it already feels like home because of her. Sometimes its surprises me how generous people are here when they barely know you, but everyone I meet is basically the same way. So kind.
After my first couple days at school I pretty much fell into a routine, and I got used to the idea that I will be standing in front of a classroom five days a week trying to share my knowledge of English through ideas of my own. I also got used to the idea that there was going to be a lot of miscommunication or lack of communication between me and my students. Most days in each class we have to play charades to get different points across, but at least on Thursdays I have a Korean university student co-teacher. She’s so much fun, and it’s so much easier to teach with her to help explain in Korean the rules of different games or different concepts in the classroom.
All in all, the staff at my school is the BEST. Sorry I don’t have pictures to go with this blog, but next blog I’ll have plenty to share with you what really goes on during ESL class in Korea.