Everyone always said that the first day of teaching would be one of the hardest. Not harder than if the kids all had a tummy bug but were still at school, but still challenging. I only truly found out what they all meant today.
The first lesson itself was probably the worst. I felt underprepared (because I was), unsure (because I was) and completely and utterly useless as a teacher (even if I wasn’t). These feelings were not helped by the fact that the director of the school, the lady who will (hopefully) be the one kind enough to pay us at the end of the month, sat in and watched as I floundered, trying desperately to fill the time between the start of the lesson and its end.
I started my first lesson of kindergarten with a modicum of confidence. I had been here for a few days, and had been told what to expect. However, being told and actually experiencing it are two completely different things. Once I began to realize that the children were far smarter than I had expected, and they could all actually understand a fair amount of English, the plan I had had in my head came unglued. I began to sink into a quagmire of panic and despair.
But, 40 agonizing minutes in a room with the world’s 3 most unintentionally intimidating 6-year-olds later, it was over. I had taught my first lesson in Korea. The director had a few pointed comments that stuck in my chest like caltrops to the heart, but I held back the tears, and headed to the break room.
10 minutes later, I was back in. From then on, I had book material to work from, and I fared a little better at fleshing out their skeleton on the spot. Before I knew it, my kindergarten lessons were over. I can’t say I enjoyed them, and I can foresee major conflict with one of the girls in the class over her attitude, but it was over. They went home, and the teachers all had a well-deserved lunch break, in preparation for the arrival of the elementary children.
As with the later kindergarten lessons, the elementary ones flew by, as I had some material to work with. Not a lot of material, but something. This helped me improvise, however badly and boringly it may have seemed from the kids’ perspective. Consequently, I began to enjoy the lessons, and have more fun with them. It’s ironic, really, that it works like that. Maybe one day, I will have the teaching chops to find good improvisation in the bad moments, but today was not that day.
Nevertheless, before I knew it, the day was over, and I had taught my last lesson. For today, anyway. And I was proud of that, but I was also daunted and despondent with teaching. How was I going to do it for a whole year, if not more?
After several hours of contemplative moments snatched between going out for dinner, prepping for the next day, and relaxing, I found an imperfect answer. I’d have to live for the moments that I’d want to share later, where the kids and I genuinely connected and laughed together. I had my first true moment like that in my last class of the day, over a dog named Chip in a story of a grammar text. Will those moments keep me really keep me going? I don’t know. But we’ll all find out together.