Get on a bus. Get driven around the city. Try to keep the kids on the bus relatively well-behaved. Get driven to a slightly seedier-looking part of the city. Have the bus driver get out of the bus to attempt to find his bearings. Have him find his bearings. Get driven a short distance from the point of being lost. Arrive. Herd the children out of the bus. Take a look at the place. Wonder what could possibly be in store. These are the steps that got me to the small astroturf where the kindergarten children had their field trip today. And those were the least ridiculous steps of the coming hours.
After the children ate their regulation enormous snack provided by their parents, they were herded into two predetermined teams by the teachers. Half of the school was to be the green team, and the other half was to be the yellow team. There were equal amounts of children from each class (or as close as possible with odd-numbered classes like mine), and the teams seemed relatively evenly-matched by most metrics of assessing how children could be better than other children. Us teachers were also split between the two teams. What competition lay ahead of the yellow and green teams was, as yet, unknown. At the side of the field lay an assortment of props, seemingly suitable for a prep school dramatic production – outfits of indeterminate nature, small plastic balls (the kind you would find in a ball pit), plastic crates, a large piece of material, and three ropes with tyres in the middle. Other than the fact that we would probably engage in tug-of-war at some point, I was clueless as to the nature of the activities. I was mostly worried about what the ridiculous outfits were for.
The next few hours were spent in a haze of confusion and fun. The owners and operators of the activities spoke little to no English, so the foreign teachers that could not speak Korean (myself included) often had to frantically ask our Korean counterparts what was going on in the coming activity. Everything from the suspected tug-of-war to constructing the tallest tower from the plastic crates to blowing up balloons and stuffing them into a clown costume with a solitary victim teacher inside of it had to be gleaned from momentary explanations, or simply learned by watching the rest of the group. There was music playing, the children and/or the teachers were attempting to complete some sort of task more rapidly than the other children and/or teachers, and everyone had a smile on their soon-to-be-sunburned faces. Little else mattered when everyone was clearly enjoying themselves, having a morning outside of the classroom, bonding over simple, enjoyable games.
When everyone said goodbye to our energetic hosts, we did so with exhaustion and a slight hint of sadness. All of the running around and general mania of the morning clearly had taken the energy from most – children walked with droopy eyes, teachers ambled lazily. But we all did so with a lightness in our hearts – the morning had been a welcome break from the classroom for all. There were certainly moments that would be happy highlights of class discussion for a long while to come. Most importantly, for one morning, the kindergarten kids got to enjoy being kids, without having to worry about learning something. Sure, they need to learn how to communicate in another language – that’s what their parents pay us for. But this cannot come at the cost of their childhood. On most days, we treat them like little adults. Today, they were little kids, and they loved every moment of it.