Monday, March 3, 2014

First day of school: Take 2

Today was my second "First day" of school, as the 2014-15 Korean school year began today.  For numerous reasons it was much better than my first day of work here last fall:
  • I was not jet-lagged and culture shocked
  • I did not have to appear on TV and introduce myself in Korean to the entire school without notice
  • I didn't have to teach any English classes today ^^ (The regular schedule will start tomorrow)
  • It was not my first time using metal chopsticks, so lunch was as enjoyable as ever
  • It was a real joy to see the hallways and classrooms filled with kids again
  • A small group of 7th grade girls (last year's 6th graders) had stopped by the school when I was leaving for the day, so I got to see them again -- in their middle school uniforms.
  • I've officially passed my 6 month mark, so from here on out my remaining time is less than the amount of time I've been here
In the morning there was an "Opening Ceremony" outside in the dirt yard in front of the school. It looked kind of funny, but since we don't have a gym/auditorium, everyone was standing outside and listening to the principal talk from a mic-ed podium they put outside.  The students were all lined up in their new classes, with teachers standing in front. Many parents were there for the ceremony as well, standing outside with their coats on.  I was in my office with my co-teacher; we didn't need to be at the ceremony.

Once it was over, all of a sudden there was a loud ruckus in the halls. The kids were now inside, getting acquainted to their new homeroom classrooms. Parents were inside too, for the next hour or so.  Since we weren't teaching today, my co-teachers and I got to go to lunch early, at 12:00 instead of the usual 12:10 when fourth period ends.

And in the afternoon there was a teacher's meeting at 3:30. My previous co-teacher always told me to just stay in the office when she went to the meetings, since they were all in Korean, but my new co-teacher told me I should go today. So I went and listened during the hour-long meeting. It was good to see the new teachers' faces, and kind of get an idea of who was teaching what this year based on where everyone was sitting. My co-teacher wrote a few things to me in the notebook he had on the table, so I vaguely knew what people were talking about 20% of the time, which was nice of him.

It was a painless, very relaxed first day!

A few weeks ago I was talking with my (now former) co-teacher about the school schedule, and I asked her if there was any particular reason why Korea's school year starts in March and ends in February. I mentioned that the USA has a 3-month summer break because historically kids were needed to help on the farms during the summer, hence a fall start date, and it just never got changed back to the year round school schedule. (That's according to research I did in 6th grade and committed to memory -- hopefully my sources were correct back then!).  She said no, there's not any reason like that one, but rather it fits naturally with the seasons. The new school year starts when spring is beginning, and it ends in cold, grey winter when many plant lives have ended.  Makes sense to me!

And it does feel like a fresh start, a feeling I hadn't had until today. The last couple of weeks have been considerably glum and grey. To top it off, last Thursday night I was really nauseous and threw up, so I stayed home from school on Friday. After three days in bed (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), it felt good to be up and see all of the kids' faces at school today. The weather is warming up.

Oh, and here's some news about my new schedule, for those of you who don't get my email updates:

  • There is no 5th/6th after school "Special Class" this year (Apparently that was a grant the school applies for, and hardly any schools got it this year)
  • There are only three 3rd grade homerooms, rather than the usual four classes that every other grade has
  • So to get up to my 22 required teaching hours (since there isn't a Special Class and there's one fewer 3rd grade class), I'll teach five 1st/2nd grade after school "Daycare" classes each week.  Three are required, two I'll get paid extra for.  I don't know the schedule yet, but I'll have the first class on Wednesday, my co-teacher said today.
  • For whatever reason the school is short on classrooms, so a second grade class will be in the English class for the first two weeks of school, so the English teachers will be going to each class's homeroom for English classes during that time.  It will be a little bit of a hassle, but two weeks is not long at all, and I'm kind of excited to go to some of the other floors in the school and see the students' regular classrooms.
So that's what's up with me on the school front.  

Did anyone else have their first day of school today? How did it go?  For you American readers, what do you think about the March - February academic year?
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