My Convent in Korea
'You shall be teaching at Geunhwa Girls Catholic High school, the second most prestigious school in Gyeongju", stated the EPIK co-ordinator. "Gulp", my first reaction. They have placed the foundation phase teacher in a high school, not ideal. "How am I going to do this? "was my second reaction. So many thoughts were running through my head. "I’m not qualified to teach high school " I don't know how to control high school students" and the most terrifying thought ,"What If I let the students down and don't do a good enough job? " These are all questions which have yet to be answered but after arriving here yesterday I was overcome with a sense of relief and a feeling that everything is going to be ok. With a school motto such as " Love , purity and diligence" it’s difficult to not find comfort and relief.
|Geunhwa High school|
Is it coincidence that I have been placed here? No, I don't think so . I truly believe this was the work of God. Being a Catholic and coming from a Catholic school which shares the same ethos and values as this school means that adapting to school life in Korea may just be that much easier. The school reminds me so much of my old school , Springfield. Beautiful statues of Mary and paintings can be found all over the school.
We have a chapel which is situated inside the school.I am hoping to attend a mass there soon.
I had my first official day of school yesterday. What an experience. The staff are so kind and welcoming and willing to go to the ends of the earth to help me settle in. A quality that I feel many people lack in South Africa. I was overcome with a sense of happiness yesterday when we started off our day with a morning prayer , although I didn't understand the prayer as it was in Korean , it didn't matter. The mere fact that we were praying together brought tears to my eyes.
I was then shown my classroom. Never had I ever imagined I would be working in such a wonderful and high tech in environment. "This is your classroom" and "this is your office" My OWN classroom and my OWN office. I’m still trying to comprehend it all. I feel like Paris Hilton ( total brat) and I haven't even mentioned my apartment yet! Being in a school in Korea makes you realize how teachers should be treated, South Africa has a lot to learn. My classroom is huge , with an unlimited supply of books , resources and DVD’s and the most amazing flat screen TV I have ever seen. PowerPoint presentations here we come! The environment I’m working in , is any teachers dream.
|My amazing classroom|
We had an opening ceremony yesterday , I don’t think words can even describe the atmosphere and how I felt when I went up on stage to introduce myself. 800 girls staring at me in the neat rows and all shouting and cheering . I literally felt like Julia Roberts , then my whole 2 seconds of fame were over , but I have not been forgotten about. I felt like the Pide Piper of Hamlin today at break time with a bunch of giggling girls following me around "Teacher your hair its orange , red , yellow" The ginger struggles are real.
Culture in Korean schools:
- All staff members and students are required to wear indoor shoes. Simply put the shoes you wear outside cannot be worn inside . Having said that apparently walking around the school doesn't count as outside so we allowed to wear our indoor shoes outside , bizarre , love it!
-You will often find students streaming into the staff room having long chats with the teachers, something that would never happen in South Africa.
-Our school doesn’t have cleaning staff , instead , every student at 3 pm is required to tidy a classroom or a staff room. We just had a mass entrance of girls coming in to clean the staff room.
-Girls do not have to wear their hair tied back.
- Ping pong playing girls all cut their hair very short ( They are not boys walking around the school , as I had previously thought)
- All staff eat lunch in a cafeteria and lunch is provided by the school.
- All students eat lunch in a cafeteria
- Every staff member has their own desk and computer in the staff room.
But the biggest shock in the Korean schooling system are the hours that the high school students have to tolerate. School officially starts at 9 am , however almost every student will have extra lessons before school , anytime from 7 am onward. When do they leave school ? Get ready , anytime from 10pm - 12am. Breakfast , lunch and dinner are all served at school for those who arrive early and those who stay till late. Who enforces this ? Parents and some teachers. It should come as no surprise as to why Korea is one of the fastest growing countries in all areas of life. Hard work is what Korea is all about.
|student cleaning in staff room|
If you thought you had a bad time studying in your school days I hope this makes you realise just how lazy we all are. If I had been sent to school in Korea , I can ensure you I would not have won any of the diligence awards that I so easily won at school.
So this is school life in Korea , I have no doubt that my time at Geunhwa High is going to a memorable one.Am I ready for the challenges ahead , not really , but I know that with my faith and the support from the wonderful staff everything will be ok.