The hagwon I work at took the younger kids on a field trip to Seoul Grand Park. There is this wonderful zoo there so I was excited as I haven’t seen much being in South Korea for a month. But when we arrived we stood in front of the entrance to the zoo for only a moment. Then the group walked towards a flower garden where we spent the morning.
We did see some animals like tiny monkeys goats, sheep and very big rabbits. At least us teachers had the morning off.
For the first few days at school you observe other teachers and how they work with the students. Here’s an eye opener. Teachers find themselves teaching subjects they don’t know first hand. I don’t know about other hagwons, but the school I’m teaching at has teachers teaching science, debate, art. Yes, I am teaching all three of those subjects. I’m also teaching phonics, grammar, vocabulary, nursery rhymes, writing and mostly reading. The first few days of observing were tiring just by watching the other teachers. The days are incredibly long. Not to mention it’s humid and hot as hell. Oh, yeah. The school only puts the central air conditioner on a few times a day. So, kindergarteners are nearly passing out. One girl, in my first week teaching, puked in the garbage.
The mornings are a time the teachers mostly dread as we have to teach the pre-school, pre-kindergarteners and kindergarteners who are a very unruly bunch. The curriculum is not easily understood. There are many classes each day. I’ve been lucky to get a little help from the other native speaking teachers. I almost died after walking into the men’s bathroom on our floor. The smell of smoke is unbelievable! The bathroom is not smoky. The air is so full of smoke you can’t breathe. If you want to use toilet paper it’s kept next to the water cooler in the school lobby area. There is no toilet paper or paper towels to be found in the bathroom. I often go to the next floor’s bathroom below.
One strange thing I noticed during my first few days at school was that in many of the classrooms there are smoke detectors going off. Every minute or so there’s that familiar beep I know to be from a smoke detector. The funny thing is none of the teachers notice it. They’ve been there too long. They’re brainwashed to not recognize it. Weird.
I made it though Orientation Week somehow. Moniqa, one of the other teachers, helped me get some understanding of how the curriculum works. No one hands you a list of everything you need such as what textbooks or practice books are for what class. There are so many classes and it’s very tough to know everything for every class. The teachers have problems printing materials for their classes because the computers are very slow and ancient. Resources are not always available for the classes using the computer program that the school uses. I tried making a Mad Libs exercise on my home computer and made a PDF, but when I downloaded it at school the printer wouldn’t recognize it. UGH!