Day 2 of being The Korean Kindergarten Cop.
I get to the school a half-hour early every day, and then I drink some nokcha (green tea) in the front office while I am told to "relax relax." This beaming girl was one of the first students to arrive and she sat by the office smiling and waving at me for about twenty minutes. We shared a rudimentary introduction she had learned and then she showed me her collection of stickers for being a good student. "Good job!" I told her. She smiled so hard I thought her face was going to crack. Later in the day, after I took her picture in one of her classes, she gave me a thumbs up sign like she had seen me do many times before and said "good job!"
I went back to my nokcha, but she came over and gave me one of her stickers. It didn't really stick well, but I figured that it was one of her good student stickers and she had removed it from her sticker page to give to me. I was touched, so I balanced it on my watch so that she could see how much I liked it. Smiles do not know what language barriers are.
My four year olds were learning about things you do in the morning. The children cut out letters and pictures and placed them on larger images that depicted scenes of "brushing teeth," "washing face," and "combing hair." I'm not sure what the letters had to do with anything, but at this age pretty much all they can do in English is sing their ABCs.
The cute girl in the pig tails was really smart and could list some colours and also pick up a basic understanding of constructing sentences. In this assignment she had the motor skills to cut her A out in the shape of an A. Contrast that with the boy to her right who decided to cut out everything, including the pictures to which the pictures were supposed to be glued.
The five year olds were working on naming the parts of a house. This boy had the World's best house, complete with flying sharks guarding his lawn. Mail carriers, you've been warned.
I had told all the children on the first day that I was from Canada, so on my second day I decided to bring something Canadian to show them. I had a small key chain with a Canadian flag on it and the children kept wanting to see it. They would point at my pocket and say "Canada" while they hopped up and down or vibrated wildly with anticipation. Louis was very fond of The Canada and didn't want to share it. There was a bit of a fight between these two boys when Louis wouldn't let him hold it, but they were back to being best friends and hugging only moments later. That's how boys settle arguments; pay attention girls.
Speaking of fights... the girl with the pink hair band is as much of a camera hog as Louis, and she didn't take it lightly when the boy in the silver coat tried to jump in front of one of her pictures. Check out her left hand. Are those claws? She's definitely going for blood here.
The six year olds were working on a picture of a map of Korea. In the corner of the sheet with the map outline was a satellite image of the Korean peninsula. The objective was to rip up coloured pieces of paper and glue them to the map so that it looked like the satellite image, and all whilst learning words associated with basic geography.
Tiger-claw Fight Girl (from above, and seated at the bottom right) would teach me proper Korean pronunciation, while Sticker Girl (beside Fight Girl in both pictures) spent a good chunk of the class giving me gifts like paper hats and pine-cones, and writing my name on strips of paper with hearts surrounding them. She made sure I stuck all the gifts and papers with my name on them in my pocket, and would make sure to periodically check that they were still there throughout the class.
After work I went over to meet with Mr. Kim. He wanted to talk to me about the next day's lesson plan, which had changed a bit. He gave me some special teaching materials his company had made and wanted me to see if I could use them in the lesson. Mr. Kim also needed my help editing a book his company was making for teaching grade-two English. One of the assignments contained directions that were really quite tricky to put into words, even for a native English speaker, but after a lot of humming and hawing I finally came up with what I thought was the best compromise of brevity and accuracy. DFM, international educator and editor.
Mr. Kim also told me that the children all thought I was their old teacher, Seth. Never mind that Seth had much longer hair, "us white people all look the same."
The most important reason for bringing me over though, was that Mr. Kim wanted to extend to me the offer of a four month contract with the school starting in May. As much as I love teaching at Mr. Kim's school, I had to tell him that I already had prior arrangements for the summer months back in Canada. Mr. Kim said that in Korea a man's word is his most important possession, so there was no way he could ask me to renege on a contract I had made (even verbally) with my current employer. I asked him if I could come back at a later date to teach for him. "Any time," was his response. Oh, and a four month contract with Mr. Kim also includes a "mandatory" paid week in Japan for a "cultural trip."
Mr. Kim next asked me to continue teaching three days a week for him for the remainder of my stay in Korea. He even opened the bank to me and told me that I was free to negotiate with "Mr. Lee" (Young San) regarding my wage. I wasn't sure what he meant, so he said "you just tell Mr. Lee what you need. You might say 'Mr. Lee' I need more money for traveling and he will give it to you." For a guy who lives off of rice and kimchi and has spent most of his life working for less than $10/hr, I had trouble grasping how I could ever need more than $100 a day (what he was currently paying me). I told Mr. Kim that our previous arrangement would be just fine. If I do come back after teaching in Canada I will think more seriously about what I ask for as a wage. Mr. Kim finished by saying he would write me a letter of recommendation on official company stationary after my month working for him (I had only been working for him two days at this point). I tried to stay away from teaching while I was hear, but I love it too much. I think I'm going to accept.