Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"Planting Day" at my Korean elementary school

Today my co-teacher mentioned something about "planting" in the afternoon, but I wasn't sure what he was actually talking about. Then when we had tea after lunch with a few 3rd grade teachers on our floor, it came up again. At 2 o'clock the third and fourth grade teachers had to go outside to plant trees, it sounded like. Two of the teachers were talking about last year's "planting day", saying they had to dig up and plant so many trees, that it was really tiresome. One teacher left around 13:50 to go change, and asked if I was going to go. "Yeah," I said, and he was surprised and laughed it off -- I don't think anyone thought I'd actually go outside with them.

Everyone scattered from tea time and my co-teacher left the office to change.  From the window I saw some teachers starting to appear outside, so I went downstairs on my own because I didn't want to miss out on this event, which would have happened had I just stayed in the office.

I felt a little out of place when I first went down because none of my co-teachers were there yet. Thus I felt like a hinderance because I didn't know what I should be doing, but didn't want to make some random teacher stop their planting work to try and explain in English what I should do.  Some of the male teachers I know were taking turns shoveling to plant some small shrubs. They didn't even think to offer me a go with the shovel - that's not a lady's job. I kind of hung around them, then picked up two shrubs when they finished shoveling and moved them two feet off the sidewalk back into the flower bed where they'd just dug the holes. After my co-teacher showed up outside he soon went around to the back of the school with the men (to go do tree stuff I can only assume) and dropped me off with the female teachers who were planting flowers in the pots along the sidewalk in front of the school. 

Almost everyone - both male and female - had brought and changed into two-piece track/sweat suits. And the women wore those gigantic visors that are quite common here, to keep the sun off of their faces (Look for suits and visors in the below photos). The principal and vice principal were outside for the event, too. Our vice principal had changed into different clothes with a visor, and I hardly recognized her (she's usually really dressed up). Our principal took off his suit jacket, but still wore suit pants and a button-down shirt.

After I got going with the flower planting I didn't feel out-of-place anymore. I had gloves and a trowel, and I knew what to be doing! After filling all of the planters along the school, we planted a few rows of different flowers in the dirt by the school's entrance gate.

My co-teacher mentioned at one point how good of me to help, because I wasn't being compensated for it (or required by my contract to participate, is perhaps what he meant). But why wouldn't I? A reason to go outside during the warmest part of the day, feel sunshine on my skin, be around other teachers that I don't normally get to see, and do an interesting activity like planting flowers? Win-win-win-win! I did lose some valuable lesson planning time, but I'll catch up. And now whenever I see these flowers and trees around the school yard, they have more meaning to me since I helped plant them.

It was a great Tuesday afternoon that caught me completely by surprise. You really never know what might happen during any given day at a Korean school.
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