The first day is just newness and chaos. Korea is all about last minute everything. Even on the first day of school there was no schedule prepared for teachers nor was there even a class roster. Wow.
I’m used to last minute things. But last year we had this stuff ready. That’s actually going to be the theme of this post: “But last year…” “Last year we…!”
I’m like that kid from Magic School Bus “At my old school…”
Basically what has happened is the school was turned and rearranged like a rubics cube. Things that were on the left are now on the right and the grades are all mixed up everywhere.
I noticed walking into the building on the first day that something was up – the boys [used to] drop off their shoes on the north side of the building. However, now the girls were on this side. When I went inside I realized they had switched sides completely. Last year the girls classes were on the right side of the school and boys on the left. Now it’s completely opposite. I’m told it’s to try to make it harder for the boys to sneak out. (I wasn’t even aware this was a problem.)
Last year the school was organized with the administration on the first floor, then 3rd grade, 2nd grade, and the first graders at the top. Well now it’s all wonky with 2nd grade on the top story. The floor I’m on has the first graders as well as one 3rd grade class, and then the 3rd grade is the same.
In the spirit of topsy-turvey nonsense, I put my rice on the “wrong” side of the tray by accident on the first day. Sounds petty but it blew everyone’s mind and people gave me many side-eyed-looks. The rice always goes on the left at my school. Amateur mistake but I didn’t even know what was right or left anymore.
Just because I know what I’m doing more than last year doesn’t mean I’m not making mistakes. I mean, obviously, I cant even put rice onto a tray correctly.
The first day when I walked in to my new office everyone shouted out hellos enthusiastically including one small voice in the corner that said hello in English. I ignored the voice because I was mid bow trying to make my office happy. Also, I have the 3rd in command in my office (the guy directly below the vice principal) so I have to show a lot of respect. Sumin later pointed over to the corner where the small hello was squeaked out. “That’s the new English teacher” she said, pointing at the woman on the right. I bowed. The woman on the left waved but the smile faded from her face. That was twice now that I’ve ignored her. Does no one know their left from their right anymore!?
Fortunately, I joined her for lunch and we tried to make conversation some.
On the second day as I walked into the building a woman joined me and kind of blinked at me expectantly. She didn’t look familiar at all but I wanted to be friendly. “You’re the new English teacher?” I asked. “No I’m [whatever her name is, I still don’t know it]” Whoops – she was the person I ate lunch with yesterday.
There was some guy roaming around outside of our office. I got up to throw something away and as we caught eyes [essentially a cue to bow] I don’t know why but I just kinda head-nodded at him. Not a bow at all. That was a really pitiful bow. I thought to myself. Like just awful. I hope that wasn’t a parent. He walked into the room and my new minder grabbed my arm to introduce me “This is the new vice principal” she said. Well shit.
Everyone says he’s really nice and laid back, though. I wouldn’t know because I totally missed the whole-school dinner. Again I say “oops!” No one told me.
Fate sure made up for it though. My English department also had a dinner a few days later. For a full three hours. I got to sit and have no one talk to me for a full hour and a half. They talked business about the English department and didn’t choose to include me. I will say that last year that kind of BS never happened. English dinners lasted maybe an hour and a half at most.
To top it all off I completely tripped and fell in front of about 300 students. One minute I was walking and the next my shoe was off and I was on my hands and knees. Besides royally messing up my fingers, everything was okay. Except my pride.
Interestingly enough: No one laughed. At all.
I would have expected middle schoolers in America to either nervously or cruelly laugh at my plight. Not here. Two male students asked if I was okay in English.
It was a hell of a first week. Like I said to many of you before we left – we just can’t wait for everything to become routine again. If left is going to be right and up is going to be down, then so be it. I just have to endure a few more weeks of this before it will feel normal.