We recently had a new boss arrive at our first school in Korea, vowing to make changes and improve the state of the school. Unlike the majority of such vows made in Korea, he has actually acted on them, making a number of small changes already. The most pertinent of these is a change-up to our daily schedule. Our breaks are now shorter, and we have one additional class per day. It may no be a big change, and it may have only been in effect for a couple of days, but it has already made a noticeable impact on our approach to the school day.
Previously, we started the day with a period of largely smoke, mirrors, and bovine excrement known as ‘Sharing’. This class is one that all of the teachers at our school dread, because there is literally nothing to do for it. Until now, we have gotten by, weaving vast, creative webs of time-wasting and reviewing past content. As of yesterday, there is now essentially an additional 20 minutes of Sharing, in the form of ‘Morning Circle Time’. Where did this additional class come from? Our break times. Before this week, we had 10-minute breaks between the majority of our classes, an hour for lunch, and a 20-minute break between kindergarten and elementary classes. These have been hacked to pieces. We now only have 5-minute breaks between classes, 50 minutes of lunch time, and 15 minutes between kindergarten and elementary. Again, not exactly monumental changes. But the effects that these shortened breaks have had are quite significant.
The morning classes leading up to lunch feel like they take an absolute eternity to pass, simply with the addition of Morning Circle Time. We reach our shortened lunch break feeling far more drained, and have less time to recover through consuming either home-made or restaurant-bought edible goods and talking about everything and nothing with the other teachers. We also have less time to prepare for the upcoming classes, which hurts the effort we want to put into these later classes. In ten minutes, we had time to photocopy any necessary materials, or collect things that we needed for a lesson such as Arts and Crafts. Nor do we have time to simply sit, play a silly game on our cellphones, and disconnect from teaching for a couple of minutes and recharge our batteries.
On the other hand, the classes after lunch, including elementary, pass considerably more quickly. So, once we manage to reach the milestone that is lunchtime, it feels as if the majority of the day is over, even if this is not the case. Ultimately, I am sure that these feelings are temporary, and we will adjust to the new schedule quickly. For now though, we simply have to get used to it, and it is proving more unpleasant than I had previously thought it would be.
Will these changes truly change the course of the school? Who knows. For the time being, we will simply grin, bear our slightly less energetic smiles, and do what we do every day – try to actually teach our kids something.