After my whirlwind vacation and a few quiet weeks in Gumi I'm back at it - time for a brand new school year. To be quite honest, I feel like I haven't taught a real class since about November of last year, so getting back into the swing of things might take some time. On the plus side, I don't have to go through the "new kid" weeks again since i'm already accustomed to my school. There are, of course, new students and teachers to meet and many changes to be had, but I think I'm ready for them all. We had the opening ceremony this morning and I got my 15 seconds of fame as applause erupted from the student body when I was introduced. I wasn't the most popular teacher of the day, however - our PE teacher 윤종태 was easily the most popular among the students, followed closely by a few of the attractive math teachers.
My co-teacher 이혜진 (Anna) from last year has taken over responsibility for me after my old co-teacher, 김주연 decided to take a year leave to care for her baby. I'm excited about this change and think it's going to be a great improvement for the year. Communication between Anna and I is a lot clearer and I feel more comfortable asking her for help - she also has a great appreciation for the work I put in which I believe will benefit me as she spreads this recognition through the rest of the staff. She's also been encouraging other teachers to speak to me, even if it is only "hi" or "bye" as they enter/exit our office.
As I walked around during lunch today it was amusing to see the changes among the students. My old second graders are now the head of the school, which in Korea takes on a different meaning than in the US. There's no room here for senioritis as the kids prepare for the SAT next November. I fear that some of my favorites will turn into, what I call, the shadows of Buksam. Hopefully, they'll still find time to break away from the classroom and come find me in the halls, or on the playground, making time for some fun. I've yet to officially meet the new students but I have been stared at with a look of wonder by many, with a few brave souls testing out a "Hi" or "Hello" as I walked by - hopefully, that enthusiasm will spill over into the classroom.
As I start my second year here in Korea, I can confidently say that I've made the right decision to stay. Although I know there will be many Sunday night discussions with friends which sound something like: "ugh school tomorrow / what am I doing this week? / oh crap I have nothing prepared / can't the weekend be longer?" I'm eager for the new school year and can't wait to see what it will bring. I can't wait to repeat the highlights from last year: school festival, sports day, school birthday, teachers dinners and the epic summer field trip, but know they'll be even better this time around, as i'm more prepared.
On top of everything from last year there are a few great additions this time around: First, I get to join the second grade class on their 4 day field trip to Jeju Island! Knowing they go every year I figured it didn't hurt to ask if I could tag along and seeing as my principal loves me, he jumped right on board - in fact we're travel partners for the week. Also, at the end of April my mom will be making the journey across the globe to come visit me! I can't wait to introduce her to my life here: friends, students and teachers - I know she's going to fall in love with everyone and have a deeper understanding as to why i'm still over here. After that it'll be time to jump back into the festival season of Korea and plan loads of weekend trips with friends, there's still a lot to be explored in this beautiful country and i'm going to take every opportunity I have to do so. Oh and i've also found myself falling in love with running - not sure if it's the gorgeous weather or boundless rice fields at my door step, but whatever the reason I hope it lasts....
So, to the year of 2013 in Korea: show me what you've got, I'm ready for it.