October 29, 2017
I forgot how fast the process goes. As an EPIK (English Program in Korea) teacher, you receive an application to renew your contract around the September-October time frame. This week, I received my application and unlike last year, I filled out the information immediately. This time around, I had complete and absolute clarity about how I foresee the rest of my time here in Korea. Last year, I knew that I’d be signing for another year, but I didn’t know exactly when the right time would be to end what’s already been an amazing journey so far. So I ended up stalling the application process to give myself more time to think before I took action (again despite the fact that I knew that I was staying AT LEAST another year…I know, I’m weird).
With that time, I was able to think deeply about what my expectations were for myself going into my second year as an English teacher. My first year, as awesome as it was, still had its difficulties. Sometimes I felt like a teacher that was simply surviving day to day in the classroom. Teaching with a co-teacher (depending on which one) had its ups and downs. Sometimes you’ll have a co-teacher who fully supports your ideas and respects your time in the classroom. And then sometimes you’ll have a co-teacher who will do and say whatever to the students even if it’s on your time. (I should’ve been like “reclaiming my time!” 😂). Basically, this co-teacher specifically wouldn’t be as considerate of my time with the students and would often put me in situations where I’d have to work around her actions in the classroom; stressfully trying to make up for lost time. Surprisingly enough, I had no outside relationship with the co-teacher I worked well with. As for the co-teacher I didn’t work well with, we had a much closer relationship outside of school. That’s what confused me so much about the situation because outside of work, there was a lot of respect, counseling, and a genuine friendship there, but in the classroom I felt like a complete assistant (and “assistant” is putting it nicely). I no longer work with that co-teacher because she moved on to her new school (Korean teachers have to change schools every three to four years) so in came a new co-teacher whom I had already known since I first arrived at my main school. She was a homeroom teacher and had been wanting to be an English teacher for a while so I was excited to finally get to work with her.
Side note: This teacher used to pack me rice everyday for the first few months I was living here to make sure I had something to eat at home, which later coined her the name, “rice teacher”. Obviously I have since learned her REAL name. 😊
So at the start of this current school year, I finally got the chance to teach with “rice teacher” and honestly, it’s been so great getting to work with her. Because my co-teachers were drastically different last year, I was aware that the best way for me to do my job would be to shadow and follow the style of the co-teacher I would be working with that day. This year, I have three co-teachers: “rice teacher” (from my main school), a female teacher who’s two years younger me (same age as my younger sister…wassup Grace), and an older male teacher who sometimes feels more like a father figure than a co-teacher (which is a great thing). The latter two are from my second school. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that I got a second school this year? For those of you that have already seen my “First Day at my New School” episode on YouTube, then you know all about that whole situation.
Honestly, at first, I was very disappointed when I heard I got assigned to a second school. This year at my main school, my favorite group of kids will be graduating and my classes were cut down because the number of students have been decreasing each year. Last year when these students were fifth graders, I would teach them twice a week. But this year because of the cuts, I only see them once a week (which sucks). This meant I needed to fulfill the rest of my teaching hours at a second school. What started out as a very disappointing situation turned into a huge blessing. I truly believe in the saying, “When one door closes, another opens”. Time and time again I’ve felt like no matter what happens to me in Korea, God has always looked out for me even when I find myself stressing over things that are out of my control. He always seems to have my back and make things work to my benefit (even when I can’t always recognize it in the beginning). For this, I’m truly grateful.
The environment at my second school is that of complete freedom and genuine happiness. For the first time I was building relationships with teachers outside of the English department and this made such a difference in my school life. We all laugh together, talk together, work well together, and most importantly we can chill together (in our “cafe room” or wherever). There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re bothering someone or intruding on their solo time so it’s great to have that openness with people at my second school.
So what makes my main school so different? Rice teacher is great and our relationship is very good, but a lot of the teachers there are stressed about the strict administration they have to work under. Luckily, because I’m the “foreign teacher”, the administration basically have no reason to speak to me unless they’re saying “hello” and/or “goodbye”. When I see the principal and vice principal, we share a smile and go our separate ways. But I’ve heard on so many occasions that this sweet exchange isn’t share with my fellow co-workers. I’ve seen firsthand how serious the principal and vice principal can get so I pretty much just stay away and lend my ears and feelings of sympathy to anyone who needs it. It’s safe to say that several teachers are eagerly waiting for their three years to be over so they can move on to their next school.
For rice teacher, this is her last year at the school. I asked her if she was offered to stay another year would she stay or naw. She straight up told me without hesitation, “I’d leave”. She emphasized that she enjoys working with me but she definitely needs a change and I don’t blame her at all for feeling that way. She’s very sweet and tries very hard not to use her time to complain, but from what I’ve seen, she has every reason to complain about the work that she’s been given this year as well as how she’s been treated on various occasions by the administration. But I see an incredible strength in someone like her who doesn’t immediately voice their opinions and instead patiently battles through the storm; knowing that eventually the well-deserved and well-earned calm, peace, and joy will come. As sad as it is to know that our time is coming to an end, I’m happy that she’ll be able to move on and I’m wishing her nothing but the best at her new school. We both shared a laugh when I told her, “You’ll be moving on to a better place”. I totally made it sound like she was going to die. 😂
Fast Forward to December 22, 2017
So everything above was written a few months ago if you couldn’t already tell. I’m getting ready to publish this post, but I wanted to update you guys on the latest about my contract. As you read, back in October I submitted my application for renewal and just yesterday I officially received and signed my contract for the 2018-2019 school year. Although this final year is coming with it’s excitements and fears, I’m very much looking forward to seeing this journey through to its end. So the countdown to an EPIK end has begun! I can’t make any promises, but I hope to film as many memorable moments as possible since it’s my last chance to do so. If all goes well, you might be seeing more EPIK related stuff in the new season of Xuffed678 on YouTube so keep an eye out for it!