April 6

Today was chaos. 5-6 was frustrating and my notes from the last month show that they have always been frustrating, namely because of three loud boys who don’t stay on task.

I don’t mind loud boys, but I cannot tolerate rude boys. I might just send them out of class next time, since their peers and my class time suffer because of their poor behavior.

5-5 was, to my absolute shock, on time today! The homeroom teacher stayed until 10AM to ensure all the students were seated with books out before he took off presumably for the teacher’s lounge. I commended their preparedness and felt my heart shed the gloom from the previous class. Students eagerly raised their hand to participate in our small loosening up game where two race to write a given sentence.

But chaos persisted– the round was two girls, one of whom kept forgetting capital letters and the other who forgot words of our long sentence. The class started shouting at the second girl to help her and she ultimately won.

I patted her on the shoulder and declared her the winner while the other girl sheepishly grinned and fixed “saturday”.

The second girl was frozen in place, chalk still in her hand resting where she had drawn the period.

When I looked closer, between her baseball cap and mask, her face was wet. For a bizarre moment I thought she may have had a terribly runny nose. It wasn’t— she was silently sobbing against the blackboard.

Oh boy.

I patted her gently and guided her back to her seat while redirecting the next pair of students to the board to take eyes off of her. We moved on to our script writing activity and she was still head down on her desk while her peers flitted around making such scripts as “Let’s go to the park this weekend. Sorry but I go to the cooking club on Saturdays.”

I crouched down next to her and told her she could use the bathroom. I’m sure that taking a moment to wash her face and step outside of class would have helped her calm down, but I didn’t have enough Korean to explain that. The scene of Ralphie’s mom laying a cold cloth against his neck from A Christmas Story came to mind.

Instead I told her she did a great job spelling and gave her a sticker, although finding a dry, tearless spot on her open textbook was hard. I let her chill the rest of class.

Sometime in my elementary days, I participated in a class spelling bee. I was nearing the final rounds when I misspelled “cities” as “citys” and got booted out. Guess who cried in front of the class? Me. So I feel for that girl, and I don’t want it to be a negative memory or dissuade her from participating in the future.

Sixth grade was great and two boys made a play about going bald. 6-1 was very proud of themselves for beating all other classes in the timed reading activity. “And we have the most students of any class in this grade!” They made sure to point out to me.

In the sixth grade teacher’s lounge, I was offered a macaron from GJ but declined. We both agree that macarons are too sweet.

Other teachers came in and started to talk about the previous native speaker teachers. I eavesdropped while taking notes about class behavior in my planner and gleaned that one was a black man from South Africa and another had gotten married and moved to Masan.

“Whenever we talk on the phone she tells me, ‘Unnie, please speak Korean slowly!'” One said of the Masan foreign teacher.

I suppose that means one of the sixth grade homeroom teachers was once an English teacher.

My Korean learning still seems to be moving at a snail’s pace. To be fair, studying four hours a day will obviously yield different results than four hours a week…

Life still seems a bit up in the air, somehow stagnant yet unpredictable. I miss travelling, I miss seeing my kids’ faces, I miss the feeling of possibility that somehow lost magic once this pandemic begun.

When I feel stressed about the future, I make a “possibility” map and like the 4D person I am, map out every opportunity and every result.

It’s too early to think about the next contract and yet…

The school will ask around November/December if I plan to renew so I need to put those thoughts out of mind until then.

I think having a car will give me a sense of freedom in this otherwise limited pandemic life. I live so close to so many interesting countries and yet I haven’t traveled for fun in almost two years…

Helen and I talked in the morning about women’s checkups and periods, and then in the afternoon when Jack had disappeared and Helen had left for her appointment, the floating teacher and I talked for two hours in a mix of Korean and English about cars, local schools, and the macarena.

Still, though, the last few weeks have put me through a meat grinder. How did I ever work full time before? And more importantly, how can I make make money and not work full time ever again?

My body is not equipped for 9 to 5, or rather, contractually obligated hours regardless of workload.

Something to think about as I reconstruct my future.

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