Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Emotional Journal Entry

Guess what?! I finished my first quarter! Who'da thunk ..... I survived!!! 2 months ago, I would have said (and did!) 'I'm not going to make it working here!'... but now, my engine has been started and I'm ready to take over that classroom and show them who's boss!

Last Quarter:
My 3 conversation classes (University students/adults from Jeonju) were absolutely amazing, and I enjoyed all of them! There was one small class that was awkward at times, because it was 4 girls.. and each came whenever they felt like it. 2 were older women, and 2 were my age.... anyways, one of them constantly looked like she hated life, another had a smart phone permanently attached to her hand, and the class was just.. WEIRD! I never knew what to expect.. and I learned not to expect too much, that's for sure!

I had 1 class of children, who were absolutely heaven sent. I've never had a group of kids that I've enjoyed more! They were (and are.. I still have them) extremely well behaved, SO smart, and we had a lot of fun!!! At least I think we did, ^^.

AND THEN.. there were the professors! As many of you know, I almost peed my pants from fear when I first walked into that class. Korean professors are VERY VERY VERY different from the professors I'm used to. And it fully has to do with the culture, it just isn't quite what I had expected because I've never been around Korean professors before.

This was more of a growing experience than I ever in my life expected to have.. I knew that getting a big girl University job would change me as a teacher, but I feel like this class has actually bettered me as a person! I am much more informed with the world around me now.. I'm sure you're wondering how on earth that could happen.. but I meet this class 5 times a week for 7-weeks straight.. it's titled a 'Discussion & Debate Class'.. however I was informed quite early on that the professors aren't a fan of debating, and they don't want to discuss politics/religion. They want to talk to ME, they don't want to talk to each other (HELLO, it's a conversation class.. 10 Professors.. 1 of me..) WELL, there goes extremely controversial topics, the news, LIFE... and I know you're thinking.. well Paula, this is YOUR class, YOU'RE the teacher, do it anyways.

It doesn't quite work like that here in Korea! LIFE is based around who is higher up, who is older, who is more important... I can't change a culture.. in a classroom or out, no matter how hard I try. I've adjusted and I've asked them to adjust as well, and in turn we've worked together pretty darn well!

So I give them news articles or interesting TIME Magazine articles every day, they can read it if they want to or just discuss anything they know about the topic from previous knowledge, and then we discuss that article the next day in class. This system has worked out amazingly well, and this is how most of the previous teachers worked the class.

The first article wasn't so hot though... it was about South Korea working with Russia to build a pipeline through North Korea into South Korea... an important topic to Koreans (I thought).. and it turned out that it IS important.. however the author of the article was extremely biased.. and this TICKED my professors off. I began asking them questions to get the conversation going.. and you could almost hear a pin drop.. they didn't say anything! NOTHING! OMG, I think they could almost see my heart pounding.. until one professor finally chimed in and told me about how the article is biased. WOW, I definitely pulled the foreigner card on that one and tried to get them to tell me how/why but they were totally shut down and shut off. Later I find out that you don't argue with people who are of a higher status in society than you are and you surely don't express opinions that are contrary to the majority. This really bothered me at first, I was imagining every class being that strange and just weird! There was OBVIOUSLY something to talk about there, but it was almost like they couldn't! After that day, I can't even tell you how stressed out I was about the class.

For the next few weeks...
.... all I could think was that I'm only a Li'l 23 Year Old Bachelor Degree Holding Uninformed American ESL Teacher... how the heck can I be expected to converse with Korean professors like this?! Are you judging me? Do you hate me?! How can I be better?! Will you ever like me? What did I do? Do I look bad? Do you think I should wear more make-up to class?! Do you think I'm dumb? Unintelligent? Unimportant? Unworthy of your time?! How can I be better? What can I do? What DO I DO?! How do I handle this stress? I hate this city! I hate this University! I hate that I didn't move back to Jinju! I hate that I left my family and friends again, for this... For this treatment! Do I cry? Do I relax.. but what if that makes the class even worse? I can't relax! I can't stop worrying about it! This is my character, myself, me, it was ruining me.. I didn't feel happy, I didn't want to be me, I didn't feel like I could go in that classroom and be optimistic, I didn't think that was what they wanted.. but I am optimistic.. I'm not the girl that worries about things like this....

After a few weeks (the longest few weeks of my life), we got used to each other and I felt more comfortable. I thoroughly enjoyed some of the classes, I thoroughly HATED others and just wanted to punch something because they made me so angry... but that comes with teaching right?

I've snapped out of my 'woe is me' attitude, I'm back to crazy antics, and I'm enjoying my lovely time with new friends!! It's shaping up to be a great year (9 1/2 more months.. but who's counting?! ^^)

This Quarter:
Everyone's schedules got cut, so I'm now down a class.. which I don't mind, although that means no overtime..
My 2 Conversation classes consist of new students, for the most part.
Kids class is the same, 3 new kids who I think will get the hang of things quickly.
And the professors class.. they all came back! Plus 1, so it must not have been too unbearable for them. I now have 11 professors, and this 7-weeks is starting off a WHOLE heck of a lot better than previously.. Thank God! I'm enjoying researching everything going on in the news, I'm becoming much more informed & I adore it, and I feel like I know them much more, so that is helping me choose topics! However, it may start getting difficult finding something NEW to talk about everyday, without recycling any of the ideas from last quarter! But, that's part of the challenge.. and I'm ready to take it on!

OK, end rant! I had a lot on my mind.. and now it's off :)

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