Wednesday, March 5, 2008

First Day of School

Monday was the first day of school in Korea. The children had about a one week break before moving up a grade. When I arrived at school the first thing I saw was the principal standing in the middle of the street directing traffic. Not only was he doing this, he was wearing some kind of alien ears on his head. He said "hello" to every kid and parent who was going to school.

At 9:00 there was a general staff meeting, all of the teachers meet in the "teachers room." The room is like a big conference room, but also houses the vice-principal's office, some administrator's desk, and my desk. During the meeting, I got to sit at my big desk while all the other teachers crammed into the conference tables. It was nice to be comfortable at my seat, but at the same time a little odd. Everything here has a hierarchy, so for it to be my first day and have a better place than the other teachers was odd. It is understood though, as it is my permanent place. The other people who work in the office are about my age as well.

The principal opened the meeting by singing a song. Of course it was in Korean, but I understood that he's willing to go to great lengths to give everyone a chance to laugh. He introduced the new vice-principal and the new teachers, including me.

Something crossed my mind during all of this: If all the teachers are in a meeting, who's watching the students?

After the meeting was over, the new teachers had to follow the principal downstairs to the library. In the back of the room was a studio, an all out tv station for the school. Each classroom has a big screen (65"+) to watch tv, power points, and the morning announcements. The kids ran the sound and mixing boards, the cameras, and did the announcements. It was pretty cool, especially considering the oldest kids in the school are 12.

They sang the national anthem and did the pledge to the flag. After that the principal introduced all the new teachers. As the only foreigner in the school, I stand out, but now all the kids knew my name.

There weren't any English classes on the first day, so I played on the internet most of the day. Time I could have spent blogging I suppose. The first day of school is pretty much spent cleaning the classrooms and the school. The school has no janitorial staff, students are assigned to clean up certain sections. No wonder the restrooms always reek of urine.

What do the kids do while the teachers meet? They go insane. The go outside and play or they run up and down the stairs. There isn't a lot of supervision here. Between every class is a recess period and the kids are free to do whatever they please. Kind of wild.