6 months & School Year Ending

I haven’t even begun to talk about my trip to Japan and China yet and I have no excuses except that so much happened on that amazing trip that I don’t even know where to begin on that journey of writing so I promise I will get to that later and that will be filled with funny stories and happy adventures and beautiful pictures!!!
This week is an emotional one for me. My 6th graders are graduating (their school year starts in March, not September like in the states) and moving onto middle school, the school year ends tomorrow, I will have all new co-teachers next semester and I do miss home and my family and friends.

Students:

First off, you may think it’s silly that I get emotional that my students are leaving. But unless you are a teacher and your heart loves these kids more than they know…it’s damn hard. (and yes I am a teacher and yes I swear a little too much but kids you can’t swear!) These kids were my comfort from day 1 here in Korea. They may not have spoken English well but they made me feel warm and welcome in the classroom. I didn’t have to worry about putting on a different face or being proper or saying the wrong thing with them. My impression shined and so did theirs. In a place where I feel uncomfortable a lot of the time…being in the classroom is a comfort. The students when they yell down the hallway Hi CAROLINE TEACHER or when you tell them great job in class and they smile proudly. Little things like that. or in lunch when they are all in line to get food and they push each other to move out of the way so they can wave to me and say hello!!! and yes my 6th graders and I had a special bond…well most of them. It’s hard to get to know hundreds of students but I did my best. I worry about these kids going to middle school since middle school they have to decide their career (no joke) and study their butts off every single day. They can’t be the same kids anymore and that’s tough. but I am thankful that our elementary schools here in Korea go until 6th grade. Although they are definitely on the edge of needing to be pushed into middle school they deserve one last long year of being goofy kids and the top of their class. Here are a just a couple of the 6th grader classes that I teach. I teach a total of 10 sixth grade classes between the two schools I teach at!

Co-teachers:

If you build a special bond with your co-teacher it can make all the difference in the world. Thankfully for me I did. After 6 months of living here I have felt like I have built special relationships with multiple co-teachers and it’s a very sad day when they won’t be teaching with you next year or are moving schools or moving out of the country. One of my co-teachers who I am closest with is moving to Vietnam to teach and bringing her two sons with her while her husband stays in Korea to work. She is a strong and indepedent woman and the best teacher I have ever known. We actually won an award together which only 5 “co-teaching pairs” won in Gwangju out of hundreds of applicants. I was really proud and it shows how strong of a bond we had. Her focus on teaching was on story telling, songs and games and making the activites fun and it showed in her classroom. Our six 5th grade classes are incredibly smart. Like some of the smartest English speaking children in Gwangju and I don’t say that lightly. I teach at two elementary schools but this school in particular has very high scores in all subjects and the kids are incredibly well behaved. I literally have not once had to ask these students to listen to me or to be quiet. They are that amazing. Those six 5th grade classes are my favorite and I owe a lot of how they are to her. It has shaped a lot of my teaching style and I can’t wait to forever use her tips and advice when I can. But not only being a great teacher she welcomed me to Korea more than I could have ever hoped for. She brought me on hikes, to museums, drove me home when it was raining or just because so I didn’t have to wait for the bus. She brought me to parks with flowers because she thought I would find them beautiful, helped teach me Korean and she always made sure I felt welcome and appreciated. Now this isn’t something that Korean subject teachers need to do – this was out of her own will and those kind of people shine in my world. The kindness that has been shown here is incredible and I truly hope one day I can be that kind of person to someone else when they are scared and alone. All of my six co-teachers have been incredibly kind and welcoming and they all have their own special stories to add to it but that would take me pages to write and I don’t need to bore anyone 🙂
I think when things come to an end there becomes a halo over the past and you forget about the struggles you went through to get to where you are. Only the happy memories flood your brain and that’s a beautiful thing but also very hard. Right when I feel adjusted and comfortable in this new life of mine things have to change again and I have to re-adjust. I know that’s life and it’s just how it works. So in 1 month I will have all new teachers to work with and new stories and hopefully new wonderful memories to add to the mix.

Family:

No one can tell you when you are going to feel homesickness and it hits you hard when you do. Maybe it’s a message you receive or a photo. Mine comes at random times like when you’ve been drinking too much in a norebong (karaoke room) with your friends and get a video of your 5 month old baby niece laughing and then you cry because you are drunk and miss your niece and nephew haha or a photo of my nephew at his hockey game or pictures of my family in general or missing milestones like birthdays and holidays. I am not very comfortable with crying…okay I am definitely not comfortable haha…and that’s something I work on myself. I am very good at holding back my emotions for a long time but then it can hit hard when it does. This past weekend my younger brother was able to come home for a 4 day weekend which was super exciting for everyone but I was definitely feeling homesick for a nice homemade cooked meal in front of the fire place laughing and telling stories with my family. I was able to skype with the whole family though and that meant a lot. All 8 of their faces popped into the screen waving and sending little Korean hearts my way (the hearts you do with your thumb and pointer finger that I taught them haha) I miss them a ton and it’s very hard not to see them as often and I think I really feel it this month more than others but I am thankful I am as close to them as I am! and I know they support me which means a lot just as I support their decisions in life too.
After a week of ups and downs I am thankful I have an amazing friend here to remind me of all the great reasons I am here when I am feeling down – “It’s exciting to know that we have gotten to know a new place and even though it’s still uncomfortable some (most) days, think of how much more comfortable and confident we are now compared to 6 months ago! We know how to get around the city, we know different types of food and different styles of restaurants, we can tell people where we’re from and what we do and most importantly we can order coffee and gimbap all in korean! It’s 100% the hardest time to be away, but we just have to remember how far we’ve come! and how much we’re going to continue to grow in confidence, in communication, in empathy, in love for our kids, and in understanding of different people and languages and cultures in the next year and a half! It’s hard as well but we are really freakign awesome for doing it and I know we both know that we’ll never regret and always remember this amazing time in our lives!”
Absolute truth. Could not ask for a better friend to remind me of all these things. That is a true soul-mate friend.
So take out your wine glasses and let’s make a toast “To 2016 with it’s ups and downs, our health and happiness and exciting new adventures coming our way. Cheers… GunBae… KanPai… Salud!!!”
Love from Korea,
Caroline

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