A year ago today I boarded a plane at JFK Airport and met new EPIK friends in San Francisco before boarding our plane to Incheon International Airport in South Korea. Thinking back on the past year it is interesting to see how far I have come and how much my life has changed. A year ago, I went through orientation and upon completion was ushered by bus to a city in my province. I remember meeting my co-teacher the first day and the car ride back to where I was going to live was awkward but friendly. Fast forward to now and I can say that my co-teacher, 라미, has been my biggest supporter. She has been there every step of the way and has helped me with anything I had a question about. I’ve learned about cool new apps to make my life easier, she has helped coordinate camps so I can go on vacation when I wanted, she has given me many rides to places I needed to go, and countless other things. I’m truly going to miss working with her and though it was the first year teaching for both of us, I think we worked well as a team and I will be sad to say goodbye.
My kids. What can I say? I remember waiting to be told when my first class would be held. I felt nervous and uncertain the first day I walked in to see my kids. I felt nervous three different times, at three different schools. But I overcame that quickly and tried to teach to the best of my ability making mistakes along the way. My kids taught me a lot about myself, especially some of the rowdy ones. My patience wears thin quickly when I’m not being listened to; however, as the year went on I was able to control my patience better. My older apathetic to learning English kids reminded me of myself. They reminded of me of what I was like during classes I hated. They weren’t going to listen to me even if I told them ten times and you know what at the end of the day I came to terms with that. Outside of the classroom those kids were just as lovely as the students who paid attention.
Today we were supposed to have graduation at all of my schools. Because of the snow my main schools graduation was moved to Monday. My other two schools graduation ceremonies are on Tuesday, however, I will not be able to go to them. I already asked to go to the other middle school one , but was denied that request. In many ways, that breaks my heart that I can’t see all of my graduating students receive their diplomas. But, I am glad I took the time and foresight to say goodbye to my other schools in December when I knew classes were winding down.
For the last week I have been debating how to say goodbye to my main school. I love my students and I wondered should I just give them a hand shake, congrats and goodbye. Just wave goodbye to the kids? It didn’t sit well with me to be untrue to myself and my nature. I’m a very affectionate person and I like to say goodbye with a hug, if you are close family or a friend your receive a kiss on the cheek, unless you are one of the few who gets a kiss on the lips. Today while we were practicing congratulating the graduating class I hugged a student. The principal then said that we can shake the kids hands or give them hugs. When we sat back down I turned to two older female teachers and asked them if they thought it would be okay if I gave the kids a kiss on the cheek goodbye. Would it be strange? They smiled and said nowadays that isn’t seen badly in Korea and to go ahead. I feel glad to know that I can be my authentic self on Monday. The kids might be squeamish and some do not like hugs, like one of my sisters does not. But at least I will feel I have said goodbye to my students that have become like extended family to me the way I want.
A year ago today I would not have imagined that I would get so attached to the teaching staff at all of my schools, nor to all of my students. Especially my middle school students. I bonded with some elementary students, but not as many of them. Of course with all endings there are always new beginnings. I will be moving to a different part of the country to start teaching at a new school and to experience the process all over again. As always a year moves quicker than we think and we learn more about ourselves than we expect.
Now to ponder what the next year will hold. I will keep my eyes open and enjoy the journey.