I've officially moved to the dark side, or the light side depending on how you view working in the preschool. Last year, when I was asked to substitute I was extremely hesitant. Cleaning up messes, wiping faces, dealing with "he hit me" all day long and not having interactions with the other teachers throughout the day didn't seem very appealing. However all of that changed once I began my temporary service. The children with their hugs, smiles, enthusiasm and love boggled my mind. I loved walking into a classroom where the students were thrilled to see me, and weren't afraid to express their enthusiasm in the form of a full body hug. Seeing the daily growth in their language abilities was incredibly encouraging as an educator. At the end of my time with my class, I was terribly sad to say our fretful good-byes. We'd become attached. I told the preschool director that when I returned I would consider a position in preschool depending on the class size, and prep time alloted. Last year I taught the (korean age) 7 year class, children who had been learning English already for at least one year. This year, however, I was placed (by choice) with the (korean age) 5 year old class. Mind you these children have had minuscule to zero exposure to English. Some of my students, although officially in the five year old class, in western age have not even reached 3 years of age.
I had been warned about the fitful crying tantrums of the first two weeks of school. Luckily however, we did not have the track record of the previous year, but we did not escape the crying episodes. Jerom was the first to break "Oma, Oma, Oma" he wailed, "mommy, mommy, mommy." Try as I might to console his tears, my round eyes and unfamiliar features only served to frighten him further. The art teacher, an older woman seemed to be the only cure for his blues. She cradled him like a baby and cooed him into a limboed state somewhere between wails and zombie-like acceptance (as long as she was nearby). The next child to follow in the steps of his mommy-missing predecessors was Richard. But instead of yelping for his mother, he screamed in a hot tempered fashion breathing at the rate of a fire-breathing dragon in a marathon race. His red-rimmed eyes illuminated the image of his uncontrollable temper. He pointed his finger at me, and told me, in not such a kind voice, to go away when I attempted to distract him with toys. He stomped the ground, and threw himself down at the mercy of the floor. He was plain and simply furious with us. How could we keep him here against his will away from his mom, toys and home. His tempered raged for hours, once again only consoled by teacher Sunny, the art teacher, who he eventually referred to as grandmother.
We are now finishing our first week together, and the kids and I are slowly getting used to one another. But it has been difficult and will continue to challenge all of us. For one thing, we do not understand one another. They constantly walk up to me and ask me questions. I try to pick out familiar words, but even their Korean is baby talk, and the Korean teacher, in order to understand, has to ask them to repeat often. Most of the time, I just follow them and see where they take me. Sometimes they take me to the bathroom, and sometimes to the water fountain. Other times they take me to the slide and explain something to me that I cannot understand. "Cindy?" (my Korean co-teacher) I look around lost for what to do.
When they begin to cry, I have no idea what they need or want. They try as hard as they can to get me to understand, but I never do. This afternoon, little Elise grabbed my hand and tried to explain something about the slide. She pointed at Ester. Ester walked up to her and yelled something in her face. This was then followed by open mouthed crying and flailing on the floor on Esters behalf. I pat Esters back and then went in search of Cindy.
I have been video taping some moments of our first week together, and although I am significantly slower this year in editing video footage, I am looking forward to sharing some of our moments together and the adorable children I will spend the next year teaching English.