Friday, June 3, 2011


I've been having a bit of a hard time teaching these past couple of days. The kids have just been out of control. But in all honesty, that's not something I can't figure out how to handle. What's been especially difficult is that several teachers at my school/others around town (including a taxi driver...a freakin' taxi driver!) have planted in my head the notion that the teacher I replaced was an absolute saint. Its like, no matter how hard I work to make things just right, and no matter how enthusiastic I try to be -- I'm just constantly reminded that I still fall short of the one who came before me. The thing is, I know her and she is wonderful. But it doesn't change the fact that it sucks to hear about how "...she did things this way," and "...oh that's what you're doing today? She did that once. But she did it this way and she did this and this..." Ok, I may be over-exaggerating just a bit (actually, not really), but it's just been tough.

Anyway, Wednesday and Thursday were especially rough. I don't feel like going into full detail of what happened -- mainly because I feel like going to bed more (I just need to get this all off my chest first and onto my screen before I hit the pillow. Therapeutic reasons.) But I was on the verge of tears after my third and fourth graders left. I was having trouble getting myself to snap out of it when my fifth grader, Logan, walked in. 
"Teacher, not so good today?" His first words to me. He hadn't even seen my eyes. What the heck.
"No, Logan, I'm not so good today," I said. I looked up at him and I knew he noticed the tear in my eye. He instantly broke off some of the red bean-filled pastry he'd been bringing into class each day for the past week and handed me a piece. 
"Why?" He took a seat on the desk.
My own little fifth-grade shrink. I didn't even know he knew the word "why." Apparently, he likes to play dumb. I know his secret now. Anyway, the fifth and sixth graders cheered me up a little after that. I went to Andong afterward and got ice cream from the convenient store with Alex. Then we blew maybe $2 each at the batting cage in the middle of the bar area (It's only fifty cents, or KRW500, per game, but those guys seriously bank between midnight and 2 a.m. when the drunks come stumbling out). Afterward we stopped in at a bar that Alex let me pick out. My only criterion: Must be on the second story at least and have lights hanging in the window. Give me that and I'm sold. No sooner had we stepped into our pub of choice than I heard it. "BAI-KAH!"

A Korean man -- 54 years old, he told us -- started going crazy because he recognized Alex, the biker. Alex bikes around town a lot... The man just kept yelling "BAI-KAH" and ended up buying us two ginormous bottles of beer, which was exactly what I needed. The only thing that sucked was that when we went to sit with them and share some of the beer, I got trapped between two of the men and they smelled like dirty beer belches. Not cool. But they were really cool, so we'll just let that factor cancel out the whole belch thing. Korean men just don't hold back when it comes to belching, no matter who's in front of them or where they are. I could go off on a tangent about this, but I'll stay on track... Here we go.

Today was great. I worked alone and was able to manage everyone just fine by myself. And I made sure to wear my students out with physical activity and games outside (in the heat, mwahaha!) before we started our lesson. They were so ready to come inside and focus after that. Thank you, Alex for the golden advice. I also thought about this video as I walked to school. Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple and Pixar, is a cool guy. And this talk on TED is really great. I first heard it when I started at D Mag, and the advice he shares about living each day as it's your last got me through some nerve-wracking days back then. It got me past my nerves today, as well. Check it out. I just have to remember that comparing will only and always lead to destruction. It's true. We are all our own individuals. We have to do things our way; we're unique. We can't let self-consciousness and inferiority get in the way of that.

Most importantly, we must remember to live life in the present. Appreciate each and every moment -- feel the gentle breeze against our skin. Really feel the temperature of it. Clench our fists and really feel our bodies and ourselves. We're here. We're alive. Breathe in the sweet aromas of the flowers and trees; really hear the birds. It's a form of meditation. It keeps you in the present. Make every moment the best moment it can possibly be and you'll be living -- really living, and not just getting by. 

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