Conversation while leaving school the day before the new teachers came.
Me: "I'm so excited about the new teachers coming. When we go back to the teachers' lounge after class, it will be like Christmas morning. There will be a new teacher waiting for us like a present under the tree."
Neil (in his fantastic South African accent): "Amy, man, you have got to get out more!"
Maybe no one else was quite as excited as I was about the new teachers coming, but all of them have been through that before and it was my first time. Even though it wasn't excatly like Christmas morning when I first met the new teachers, it was still rather exciting. I remember how it felt my first night waiting to meet everyone. Ten minutes after I arrived at the airport, they put me in a van to go to school. The driver got lost many times and so the supposedly 1 hour trip took at least 2 hours. When I finally got to school, everyone was in class and the Korean counter teachers were busy with parents registering new students for the upcoming session. I just sat in the middle of the lobby with my suitcases around me until Dave came by to tell me that I could go set in the teachers' lounge where it was more comfortable. Things quieted down and the counter teachers came into the lounge to take a break. They gave me some juice and pizza and then class was over. All the other teachers came into the lounge which was all just a blur of meeting people as they are running around, carrying on other conversations and gathering their coats and bags. My manager drove me to my apartment where my building mate Dave showed me how things work. Then it was off to have Korean barbeque with some of the other teachers even though I was so tired and out of it that I wasn't hungry and couldn't carry a conversation.
But now, after only two months, I'm not the new teacher anymore. That's a great feeling. Being the new teacher is a little rough. You feel like you're always under scrutiny, and even though you're trying so hard to do everything right, you inevitably screw something up and get told about it.
The first month I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. I was trying to remember everything that everyone had told me during my training week, but the minute class started, I forget almost all of that. I was amazed that the other teachers could prepare so quickly for the classes while I was coming in early almost every day trying to stay on top of things. On top of all the classroom stuff, you're trying to figure out how you fit in with the rest of the teachers and get adjusted to living in Korea.
When the second month started, I was much more wiser. I had learned the little tricks and hints from experience. I knew what worked and didn't work. I had mastered the art of prepping for my classes for maximum results with minimum time. I was determined not to make the same mistakes again. I felt more at ease with the other teachers and became part of the group. My apartment started to actually feel like home. I developed my everyday routines.
Now, at the beginning of my third month teaching (and the beginning of another session at school - same students, different levels), it's strange and somewhat comforting to see the new teachers going through the same process I did. Even though they don't say anything, you can almost read the thoughts going through their mind. And you're rooting for them. You want them to succeed. You want them to do great. You want to welcome them into the group.
I'm excited that from the first day of classes for this session on Thursday, I am officially no longer the new teacher. I also know that the new teachers are going to soon start counting down the weeks until they can hand over the new teacher title to someone else.