Monday, July 10, 2006

I almost forgot I'm here to work!

Today was the first day of teaching and I was scared shitless. Not so much for the actual teaching, but for the tour that I was expected to give as a head teacher. Let me take a moment to explain the head teacher part. Basically, every week there is a new group of kids to prepare for. Every week, head teachers are picked to each be in charge of one "team" of kids. As a head teacher this week, I was in charge of Team 12. This is no great shakes, really, it just involves making 15 name-tags and collecting 15 passports to hand out during orientation. Well, you do also have to give them a tour and help them fill out the name-tags and passports. It's a pain in the ass, but your only real duties are on day one. After that, you don't really do anything special.

So, the tour. They handed us these complicated tour routes, designed to keep us from getting all bunched up in one spot at the same time, plus the most ridiculous script to read about each "class". Bullshit. Everyone more or less threw the scripts away immediately, but some people actually practiced the route! Yours truly figured she'd wing it. Mostly, I just didn't want to be huffing and puffing up all the crazy steps in this place, but there was really no way to avoid it.

Also, in all honesty, I was terrified of how the kids would react to seeing such a big woman as myself. Yesterday, some boys in the street I was walking down stopped to take my picture on their cell phone. I figured it was a tits thing and kept on going, but I was nervous that there would be a similar reaction today.

Well, as I was walking into the building first thing this morning, my worst fears came true. As I was going by a line of boys, a few of them started laughing and saying, "You so big! So fat!" I just smiled and said, "I know!" as brightly as I possibly could and kept going. Jesus. In my head, I said, "And so it begins."

Once inside, the kids all had to line up, with us head teachers at the front of our team's line. This gave all the kids plenty of time to gawk at me. (I'm quite serious when I say that I am definitely the fattest person for MILES, certainly the fattest at SEV.) After a few words from the senior teachers, we all had to go up and introduce ourselves. The nightmare playing in my head included lots of snickering and cat calls, but thankfully, they just cheered for me like everyone else.

In response to my own fears about the day, I found myself snapping into "substitute teacher" mode early on. This is a very strict Shannon that few of you have ever seen. Let's just say that I give a mean stink eye. Once in this mode, I have little tolerance for misbehavior and fidgety children. It usually serves me well in uncertain situations, and it definitely helped today because it made the kids take me more seriously.

So, my group was one that had to do the tour first instead of going through "immigration" first. Naturally. I led my group of half girls, half boys upstairs and basically plopped them in the first room we came to (the "hotel") so that we could fill in their documents. What a trial! We had been told that almost every student would already have an English name just as second nature. Hah! Maybe 5 of my 13 kids did, and making the rest understand the concept was incredibly difficult. A few of them I had to give up on and let them use the anglicized version of their Korean name. Some I created names for. One boy suggested "Clinton" as his name; that was a real winner. One girl was "Candy."

Once the agonizingly long process of filling shit out was done, I had to do the actual tour. Luckily, they were unlike American schoolchildren in that they stayed with me the whole time without running away. We went through the classrooms inside the building, outside on the balcony, upstairs to the library, right back down because you can't cut through, over to more classrooms, up more stairs, by more classrooms. By the time we took a small bathroom break, I was an overheated wreck. (They only really use air conditioning in the individual classrooms and the auditorium, not the hallways or stairwells.)

After tours were done, the kids were dismissed for lunch. I had one class after lunch to teach and then I would be done for the day. (I don't know how I lucked out on that one.) I will be the Doctor for the next two weeks in the "Medical Center." Yes, I do have my own stethoscope and an enormous thermometer. Try not to be jealous.

The kids I had for my first class were really an ideal group. They spoke a pretty fair amount of English and they were talkers (but not too antsy). I had gone over the lesson plan with the teacher who taught it before me, and it was pretty straightforward. Everything went great (and I had the air conditioning in there cranked up, too!) Another bonus was that when I got home from teaching, I found out that our hot water had been turned on. And I now randomly have an SEV wall clock. Still no garbage can or laundry facilities, though. Patienza...

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