The Hen House

About a month and a half ago, my co-teacher approached me desk with concern. My heart thudded with dread… What had I done wrong? Was this the end?

She informed me with worry in her eye that I would be traveling to a second school a few days out of the week. Just as well I thought. She mentioned that I would be at an all-girls middle school. Perfect.

As I scooted up the wooded drive, I left gasps and excited exclamations in my wake as the girls hiked their way up to school. Once in the teachers room, I was immediately introduced to the Vice Principle – a relatively tall, roughcast, yet amiable man. In short order, I was introduced to the head honcho. While he appeared older than the VP, he had a trendy look. Short spiked hair, green slacks paired with a light colored polo covered by a sport coat. Our interaction was brief, but my impression was that of a kindhearted man.

Back in the teachers room, some played it cool, while the majority of the teachers were eager to meet me. At one point I was stood in the middle of the room  while the staff clapped me on. Deflecting attention, I passed on the sweet breads that I had brought to share and headed to my new desk.

After brief school tours by both the VP and my new co-teacher, I was off to teach my first class of mademoiselles. While chatty and excitable, the girls were quick to quiet down when I called attention. I tried my best to follow the structure of my predecessor, (a Canadian gal who had been here for 3 years) but apologetically stumbled about. The girls were patient and helpful.The rest of my classes followed in a similar fashion.

Passing times were filled with girls excitedly popping in and talking over one another “teacher do you like KPOP?” “teacher my name is Ji Won” “ooo teacher, your eyes are blue” “teacher, Min Su loves you”. While I did my best to spread out my attention, zero names were remembered, and zero proposals accepted.

In true Korean form, the school campus is built into a hillside. Unlike the boys middle school that is nestled within an old neighborhood, this school neighbors only a few orchards and a small temple that I found on my afternoon wandering. Despite the inherent institution-ness of the compound it is tranquil and calm, with a familiar feel. It didn’t take me long to draw a parallel to the myriad of dated environmental education centers that dot my home state of Wisconsin. Like those, the school hails from the 60’s yet its clean and harbors that camp-retreat type atmosphere.

The peacefulness of the school was only compounded by the ideal blue-skied balmy spring day. If I could get paid to relive this day, I think I would harbor no other life aspirations. Smart (excitable) diligent students and kind coworkers are going to make upcoming Tuesdays and Wednesdays optimal.

The day ended with the Vice Principle making plans to take me hiking and an invitation to join the girls on a island trek next month. Just as I was headed out, the student welfare teacher handed me a steamy container of dukbokki (a slurry of soft rice cake, fish cake, and spicy red chili sauce called gochujang). While I have little love for spicy fish cakes, I have no reservation in saying “life is good”.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Barbara baumgartner on April 28, 2016 at 2:11 am

    You will be a hit with the girls!


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