June 6, 2011
It’s been three years since I first opened the door to my classroom at Bucheon Girls’ High School. I still remember how awkward and disoriented I felt because of the strength of the language barrier, the newness of the Korean school schedule, and the difference in the school curriculum. At first, both the students and teachers were extremely shy and reserved. To be clear, they were very welcoming and polite, and they were always greeting me in the hallway and smiling excitedly, but most of the teachers were unwillingly to really open up and talk to me due to their shyness when speaking English (and probably because I was a bit intimidating as well).
In turn, I felt extremely isolated and alone at first, especially for that long hour at lunch time when I ate at a table surrounded by nothing but Korean conversation. I knew many of my co-workers and students spoke English, yes, but I didn’t know how to get them to speak English with me, and I knew that I just had to figure out a way, somehow, to make them comfortable with me.
I tried my best to open myself up to my fellow teachers and students and ask questions about Korean culture, language, and pronunciation. My mistakes in speaking Korean and eagerness to learn allowed them to feel less nervous around me about their mistakes in English. This in turn led to me telling them little details about myself and my life, to show them some pictures, and tell them some stories. Slowly, they too reciprocated in kind.
I wrote little notes about the students I talked to. “Third student from the left at the third desk: has round glasses, likes Big Bang. Spoke with me Tuesday after class, smiles a lot.” I made sure to look up all the music they suggested, even if I wasn’t into it (YET!), so that I could bring it up with them next class. My eagerness to communicate with a few students from each class trickled over to other students and classrooms. They all soon began suggesting their favourite bands, inviting me to their club activities, and openly stopping me in the hallway to chat about TVXQ and the recent American drama they watched.
Within a couple of awkward and hard-working months, I felt totally at ease with my school. As a result, in my three years at my school I attended graduations, entrance exam cheering sessions, sports days, club activities, school festivals, school plays, school trips, band performances, teacher team-building trips, and made a new best friend who I’ll be friends with foreverâ€¦ì„ë³µâ€¦(if you’re reading this, that’s you!) ^^ All of these memories are filled with laughter and smiles from the most excellent co-workers I’ve gotten to know, and my super-awesome-funny-clever-amazing-talented-warm-hearted students.
My lesson plans got better each year; I learned what worked and what didn’t, how to keep my students interested, and how to help motivate disinterested students. My teaching style became smoother and more confident each year, and my new students’ shyness didn’t bother me, because I knew how to eventually overcome it. The positive and negative reactions my students had to my lessons were the clearest indications as to whether I succeeded or failed, so I really have to thank the students for teaching me what a good teacher should be like. I’ve grown a lot because of them, and for that I am grateful.
During my last week of school, everything my students did made me cry like a sucky baby sissy pantsâ€¦”Martina, here is some chocolate” *sob* “Martina, we wrote a song for you” *sob* “Martina, we got a cake for you” *SOOOOBBB*. I know I’m moving on to a different career path now, and that I won’t be teaching at my school anymore, but teaching is something I’m going to miss and fondly remember. Many of my students said to me during that last week, “Martina, don’t forgot us, okay?” As if I could! It is totally impossible for me to forget my experience at Bucheon Girls’ High School as they have forever changed me in the most positive way. I’ll really really miss you all.
Thank you for letting me be a part of your lives and don’t forget me! ^^