Monday, March 2, 2009

Way the hell and gone

I would entitle this post "Training: Day 1" or something equally obvious, but I'll let the reason for this name play out on its own.

Firstly, let me say that after a half-day of training, I know that this week is going to kick most of our asses. It's not overly intensive, at least in terms of the actual workload, but it is going to be filled with very long days of lectures and other things that may prove challenging for the jet-lagged among us, which is really most if not all of us teachers.

That being said, I am truly impressed. I'm sure that there will be some aspects that are lacking, but for the most part, it is very clear that SMOE has put a lot of thought into what will go on for us this week. When we first arrived on Saturday, we were told that there would be an "opening ceremony" to kick-off orientation week. I couldn't really begin to understand what that might look like. I even thought it might be some sort of mistranslation. Well, no - it was an opening cermeony all right - complete with traditional Korean music performances, standing for the flag, and a series of presentations about Korean culture, school philosophy, and Korean art.

I'm sure that this all sounds horrifically boring to most, but I admit to being a bit of a geek when it comes to this kind of stuff. Mostly, I was just glad to be in an environment where it is clear that some thought has been put into the teacher's situation. Though our transistion to our Hagwon last year was a relatively pain-free one, I did not feel prepared to teach last year until about a month into my contract. I get the feeling that after this week, we may err on the side of being oover-prepared. I think I'm okay with that. If anything, I appreciate the care that has gone into things so far.

While today was mostly ice-breaker/introduction kind of stuff, we were also handed nametags that told us in somewhat cryptic fashion some key information about our jobs. Here's what I know. I'd say I'll be giving the good news and then the bad news, but I'm trying to remain positive about it all. Here's hoping that I have good reason for my approach.

1. I know that I will be teaching Secondary school. That means Junior or Senior High, though I'm betting on Junior High as I was told that there were few Senior High School positions available. Though I would have enjoyed working with Elementary kids again, I am very happy about my placement in regards to the age. Being that I plan on teaching at the Junior High level when I return to Canada, this assignment makes sense. I'm sure I'll be dealing with a lot of sass from my students, but I kind of look forward to it. I'm a sadist in that way.

2. I know that I will be living in Bukbu. Where is that, you ask? I wish I could give you a better answer. All I know is that when the map of the various Seoul districts flashed on the screen, Bukbu was the northern-most one. For those that know Seoul, they would know that the city spreads for great distances - through valleys and round the other side of fairly large mountains. Basically, I will be as North-East as one can get while still remaining in the Seoul city limits. So, what does this mean - I really don't know yet. We won't get our school names until Thursday night. If I were to venture a guess, I would say though that I will be about as far from central Seoul as I was last year living in Suwon - only this time I'd be approaching the city from the North-East instead of the South East.

Though the age group pleases me, the location has me a bit disappointed. To be fair, I don't know exactly where I'll be yet and for all I know, the location could be just fine. The shabby part is that I'll be far from friends. It'll take me hours to get to Ian and Bonnie, and potentially more to visit my friends in Suwon. I suppose it's unwise to think too much about it at this point - I don't even know which subway stop would be closest to me - but it's enough to say that I'm a little bit bummed that I'm not closer to the centre of the city. Though I would like to think of myself as someone who worled hard enough last year to "earn" a more desireable spot, I'm not any more special or deserving than the people sitting next to me at lunch. Perhaps Bukbu has better things in store than what I'm thinking of right now.

Day two of training tomorrow, and hopefully I'll know more as the week goes on.

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