Thursday, April 18, 2013

Field Trip Fun

Coming back from the field trip with my students, I was on a high. I love my kids and the teachers and the school and had only positive feelings coming back. The trip was three days, two night starting on Monday morning and ending on Wednesday evening. On Monday, we got on the bus went to 부여 and 공주 for some historical site visits before getting to the 양지 ski resort where we would be staying for both nights. On Tuesday, we went to Everland for the day. On Wednesday, we went to visit Seoul National University (if it can even be considered a visit--explanation to come later), and Job World right outside of Seoul, before driving back to Mokpo.

At first, I was really nervous about going with my kids because I wasn't sure if I'd be alone the entire time. The other teachers don't really speak English and most kids aren't trying to hang out with their teachers at an amusement park. I was also the only female teacher on the trip. There were a total of 14 adults: the seven third year homeroom teachers, the Principal, the school career counselor, a morality teacher (who also doubles as the PC guy at our school), a new gym teacher (who, as I found out on this trip, was on the Water Polo Olympic team for Korea), me, and two hired non-teachers (one photographer and one trip planner/guide who was in charge of all the details of the trip). It was pretty much 12 ajusshis, 1 young man (the gym teacher), and 1 young female (me). I know the third year homeroom teachers love me though so I wasn't too worried about them. The problem was the language barrier, which actually wasn't too bad. There was a lot of broken Korean, broken English, and hand gestures but it worked out. In relation to my kids, these are my new third years who were my second years last year. I didn't have the best relationship with a lot of them last year. In fact, all my favorite classes were the third years who have now graduated. The second years gave me headaches last year. Granted, they were going through puberty and now as third years, they've kind of chilled out and their hormones have kind of balanced out now so they're a lot better. Honestly, I just wasn't sure what it would be like to go on this trip with them because I think the indifference was mutual. Luckily for me, I realized on this trip that a lot of them really like me and I also have a bunch of students added to my favorites list. The funny thing is, of my third year classes now, the boys' classes are significantly better. I think because of that, I expected to hang out with my boys a lot more. Plus, my fave second years last year were all boys and they were in my club classes. The way it worked out though, I spent a LOT, if not all my time with the girls.

So on Monday morning, the 3-6 homeroom teacher, Park Yeong Jae invited me to join his class on his bus so I was on the 3-6 girls' bus the entire trip. I didn't really interact with the students on the bus because I sat in the front row, but I did get a chance to get to know Mr. Park pretty well. He's a really sweet older man. He kinda is like a really young and cool grandpa. At 부여, we went to this mountain/park/temple/etc place. It's a historical site where a kingdom was once centered around and also where it fell to the next dynasty. It was where we stopped for lunch and also walked around. Funny cultural difference of Korea and America is that during lunch (the teachers had kimbap), I was given plum wine to drink. I'M A TEACHER ON A FIELD TRIP WITH STUDENTS AND I WAS GIVEN ALCOHOL TO DRINK FROM OTHER TEACHERS DURING LUNCH. THE HECK. Anyway, I found it pretty amusing. After lunch, I started walking around with the teachers but given the differences pace and picture taking, I ended strolling alone for some time. I did stop and talk to some students here and there but I was just enjoying the scenario. As I neared a pagoda thing, two of my girls called me over and I ended up hanging out with them for the rest of the 부여 visit. I found out as we were walking back to the bus that their teacher had told them to make sure I was okay. That kind of killed the thought that they were hanging out with me cause they wanted to (don't worry, the story is better later). I assured them I was fine and that they really didn't have to find me/hang out with me. I think that gave them some comfort. From there, the buses drop to 공주, which wasn't that far away. It's the tombs of kings and stuff. It was a much smaller version of what I saw in Gyeongju. The students weren't into the first day. They kept saying, "힘들어" (tired) over and over again. When we got to the 양지 ski resort, they were so excited, especially the girls. The rooms were HUGE. They fit one homeroom class in two rooms. It was about 14-15 girls per room. Within each room, there are separate rooms, living room, kitchen, etc. It was a nice setup. I felt really bad though because I had my own room and I could tell it was pricey. I told them later that day that I didn't mind spending the night with students so that's what I ended up doing on Tuesday night.

After dinner, I went to the basement where a lot of my kids were playing. There was an arcade game room, a 노래방, a bowling/billards room, etc. I ended up playing some arcade games and even played a game of billiards with three other boys. One of them invited me to play with them (that made me happy). Around 8:30pm or so, I headed back to where the rooms where. My room was way off away from everyone else on the 7th floor but all the students and teachers were on the 3rd and 4th floors. I didn't want to just be alone in my room because the purpose of going on this trip was to spend time with my students and the other teachers. I went to the 4th floor where all the girls' rooms were located. I didn't think it would be appropriate if I, the only young female teacher on the trip, went into fifteen 16 year-old boys' rooms. I visited all the rooms and they all seemed really happy to see me. I jumped from room to room, visiting all the girls and making sure they knew I was around. I ended up settling in one room in particular because everyone in the room was in the living room playing Mafia. The other rooms were more spread out in the sense that different groups of girls were doing different things. I liked the unity in this one room. All the girls who were staying in that room were hanging out together playing games together. When I was visiting the rooms, I would chit chat for a little bit but unless there's something to do, it gets boring real quick. The fact that they were all together and were playing games collectively was awesome. I ended up hanging out in their room for like 2-3 hours playing Mafia and other random games. I even showed them two American games and we played those. There were just some really great moments with those girls. I could hear them telling each other to speak in English because I was there and they were really trying to explain instructions in English or speak in English during the games. They were using English for numbers; it was just really cute. They even shared ice cream and candy with me. I know they respect me too because during a game where you have to direct the person after you, I didn't realize it was my turn because the girl before me didn't point to me, she used her entire hand to direct it to me. I'm not sure if that makes sense but instead of using just her pointer finger, she was using her entire hand. When I said I didn't see her direct to me, the girls in the circle were telling me it was because I'm a teacher. They said they point to everyone else and I could point to everyone else but they were hand gesture to me. IT'S CAUSE I'M A TEACHER AND THEY RESPECT ME. I almost melted. Anyway, it was such a great time. The BEST part, which seemed to be a theme throughout the field trip, was that these girls never really stick out in my class. With maybe two exceptions, most of the girls in the room that I was having such a great time with were either really shy and quiet in my class or chatty and a bit misbehaved in my class. None of these girls were a part of my "favorite students" list.

Around 11:30pm or so, the girls said I must be tired and so I walked around one last time to all the rooms to bid my farewell and goodnight. Little did I realize the night was still young. One of the homeroom teachers was doing a round and he ushered me towards the teachers' room. It was strange because I was fully aware I would be going into an all ajusshis' room. I ended up drinking more plum wine and chatting with them in broken Korean. A few of the teachers were sleeping in the room but there were five of us in the living room. I definitely got to know them so much better and I built a lot of 정. So the reason I know that the third year homeroom teachers love me, besides the fact that they've told me how much they like me and they feed me every time I go to their office, is very specific to the conversation that took place on Monday night. One of the teachers asked me when I was going back to America. I told them that I would be leaving in July because my parents really wanted me to go home and whatnot. I also told them I have a job but I wish I had more time with the students and that I wish I could stay another year. I told them that once I left, another native English teacher would come in August. I said that they were probably really used to it since Fulbright has been at my school for so long (over 10 years). I told them it was like how I came in after Daniel, the previous ETA, left. There would be a new native English teacher who would essentially replace me. When I mentioned Daniel, they had no idea who I was talking about. They even looked around at each other and I could hear them asking each other if the ETA last year was male or female. None of them remembered Daniel, or any other past native English teacher for that matter. I was SHOCKED. I then proceeded to ask them if they would remember me when I leave. They said they would because we were trekking friends. Two of the four teachers in the living room with me were teachers that I went trekking with the first semester. I was SO touched when they said that. They said they would of course remember me because I have been so good to them. See, this is why nostalgia is kicking in and it's making me wish I could renew an extra year and at my school. After drinking for an hour or two, I went back to my lonely 7th floor room. I think Monday night was my favorite part of the entire field trip because I got to spend so much time with the teachers and students. It wasn't even just the time spent but it was the memorable moments.

On Tuesday, we headed to Everland in the morning. I was going to hang out with two girls in particular when I got into the park but I couldn't find them so I figured I could walk around and get my bearings first. After 20 minutes in, I saw a group of my girls standing and waiting for a ride that hadn't opened yet. They told me they wanted to hang out with me for the entire day. I was so happy to hear that. Again, of this group of nine girls, none of them ever really stuck out in my mind because they're not super memorable in class. It was really great though. I did end up spending all day with them, with the exception of lunch.
Around noon, I broke up to meet up the other teachers at a restaurant. The biggest ride at Everland called the Teacup ride, was shut down so that was a little bit of a bummer. After lunch, I remet up with the group of girls and then went on more rides. I did indeed end up spending most of the day hanging out with this group. I even bought them ice cream, which they seemed really appreciative of. I was exhausted by the end of the day but of course, it wasn't over. At night, since I was spending the night with students, I had to keep my game face on. A lot of my students were exhausted too; a lot of them took long naps when we got back to the ski resort and didn't even go to dinner. The group of 9 girls I hung out with all day happened to be sleeping in the same room and so I planned to sleep in their room. I was actually kicking it with the teachers in their room after dinner and I told them if they were planning on drinking, to come get me. One teacher told me they were tired today so there wouldn't be drinking. To be honest, I was pretty relieved because I was exhausted. It also meant that I could shower and relax/lounge about with my students before passing out early. However, right after I got out of the shower, around 11pm, I heard a knock on the door and one of the teachers was looking for me. They were drinking -_-'. So I was already showered, in my pajamas, and had removed all my makeup (I have to wear makeup when I'm around my teachers/students). At this point, I was just tired and didn't care enough to try to make too much of an effort so I just went over to their room as I was. Low and behold, as luck would have it, the principal was there this time. SHOOT ME IN THE FACE. I sat around and drank with them for about an hour or so. One of the teachers told the principal that I drink really well and told him that I drank a ton of soju when I went hiking with them. I also found out during this time that the gym teacher was on the Korean water polo Olympic team. He's JACKED; I Googled him on the spot when they told me. Yes, it was necessary. Around midnight or so, I was really pushing my limits. I was already on low sleep and had been running around with my kids all day so I told the group I was really sorry but was extremely exhausted and was going to sleep. Honestly, at this point, I've kind of gone back to the direct American Ammy instead of conforming to the extremely polite, timid, indirect Koreanized Ammy. I think winter vacation kind of reset me to the person I generally am. I've stopped using "maybes" in everything pretty much. I'm really direct with my coteachers about what I want. It's kind of bad but to be honest, it doesn't seem to have hurt me that much. I'm not sure if they appreciate the directness and honesty or not but they haven't said anything about it. Plus, I'm not renewing so I'm not even sure if it makes a difference this far in the game. I'm still representing Fulbright well and whatnot but I'm just not as indirect as we were told to be. This is not to say that I'm impolite by any means; I buy the teachers gifts all the time and always insa, etc, but I'm definitely more direct about requests.

Anyway, on Wednesday, after a very restless night (girl on my left and right moved in their sleep and left me with very little room to sleep), we packed up and drove to Seoul National University. So, I thought the plan was to get a tour, of any kind: a walking tour, bus driving tour, something. I guess we were low on time or there was some cancellation or something but we ended up driving through campus, stopping at the front gate, taking class pictures, and then leaving. We didn't even really step foot onto campus. It was pretty much a waste of time. The students didn't get much from it and to be honest, I was sleeping on the bus when we drove through campus so I don't even remember the drive around. Afterwards, we drove to get lunch at a restaurant and then out of Seoul to Job World. So... how do I explain Job World? Essentially, it's this huge building complex where kids and students get to explore different career and job positions. There were careers in different fields ranging from art to fashion to business to science. Within each industry, there were tons of jobs. So, the kids pick a specific job, for example, flight crew, and then they go to that station. Each career path or whatnot has a room/station. The students spend the next hour or so in that station learning about that career path, what it entails, the work they do, etc. Then they role play.
The teachers sat around outside waiting about 10 minutes after the students went into the simulation/exploration area. Then we were allowed to go in, see the groups at their stations, etc. It was actually really cool, I thought. I wish I was given the opportunity to go to something like this when I was a kid. My aspirations today might be completely different had I did. After Job World, we headed back to Mokpo. The students all left and the teachers (most of them) gathered for a teachers dinner. It was hosted by two students' mothers.

All in all, it as a heck of a good time. It was probably the best experience I've had with the teachers and students at my school. I mean, this goes back to the "feeling of having to leave hitting me so I feel like I wanna stay" mentality so that didn't help things. I mean, I really do love my school. Granted, there are rough days and problems with administration, etc but on the whole, I think I get along really well with the teachers and students. I know I will be very sad when I have to leave them.

So, today is Friday and I guess reality has set in some, due to some happenings today. I have to be at school at 8am Monday-Thursday and I don't have to teach until second period on Fridays so I tend to sleep an extra hour on Fridays. Today, that was a rookie mistake. As I approached the school, I heard someone on a loudspeaker on the field yelling at students. I thought it was the high school because I didn't know of any event going on today. I was mistaken. As I walked up the stairs toward my school, I saw the teachers and my students on the field. Apparently today is Health and Fitness day where students are getting tested for their overall health and ability. I had NO idea because no one had told me. The best part about all of this is that I decided to wear a skirt today for the first time since like October. So, I walked into the empty and quiet school to put down my stuff and then headed out towards the field. I could tell I was being judged by the teachers (and probably the students) as I approached in my skirt. The principal saw me and looked at me and said, "Oh, skirt? Style?" Instead of telling him I didn't know it was Health Day, I just told him it was hot outside and that was why I was wearing a skirt. Yep. To the other teachers, I just told them I had no idea it was Health Day. I find out through asking around that there are no classes today because it will take all day to record and test all the students. Again, no one told me this. The kids are being recorded on running time, number of push-ups, jumping distance, etc. I walked around among my students to say hi. I stopped at the push-up station where my boys were struggle busing so I did push-ups alongside one kid. I think the boys were kinda impressed, especially as I was in my skirt. I heard a few kids say, "Teacher, good, healthy." It was pretty funny. As I was walking around, a student came up to me and said, "Teacher, miniskirt?" I told him no, it wasn't (the skirt goes up to my knee), and he responded with, "I think so." The kid who said it has a mental disability though and he's a good student so I know he means no harm. Still, it definitely made me feel even more self conscious about wearing it. So today kind of reminds me of how the rest of my grant year has been and how it will probably continue to be,that is, how I don't know a lot of what is going on until the moment it is happening. I know things slip through the cracks and it's definitely not the end of the world, but I just wish my co-teacher or someone would have mentioned this to me. At least it's Friday.

Today I'm heading to Daegu so I can go to Cheongdo for the Bullfighting Festival on Saturday. Tracey, Katelyn, Maggie, Amy T and I are hitting it up together but we'll be meeting up with the Daegu people when we're there. I'm pretty interested in seeing what it's like since it's... a different kind of festival.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that field trip sounds like tons of fun! It's great that you had this opportunity to interact with your students outside of class, since it seems like they are, for the most part, absolute terrors in your classroom. Of course they respect you as their teacher, though. They're Korean students.

    Also, is Everland worth visiting? Haha. I kind of want to go, just for the experience, but if a Teacup ride is the biggest attraction they have, then...