What do you get when you cross screaming children, rainbow colored everything, stressed out adults, with dinosaurs, pretending to be cats, and snack time?
If you said “Kindergarten!” you’re right! If you said “A nightmare.” You’re probably a kindergarten teacher.
Just kidding, it’s been a blast working at Maple Bear so far. English kindergarten here in Korea is… intriguing. Korean private education institutions, or Hagwons, face a lot of scrutiny for their abysmal hours, dodgy business practices, and aggressively steep learning expectations. All that being said, I love my kids.
The best I can do is acknowledge all the layers to working here. I get to love on some outrageously cute kids, and what more could I ask for? (A vacation?) My team is burnt out by Wednesday, but we’re making it through together. And all of this is happening in a vastly different education system that I’m yet to get a grasp of. It’s hard to take the time and energy to process and observe what I’m taking in from the world around me, but the exhaustion is all part of it.
In my sixth month here, I’m in a routine. I have local hotspots. I ride the Seoul Metro as my main mode of transportation (if you’re from a small town, you’d understand). At the same time, I’m dodging Covid19 like it’s fifth grade dodgeball. I miss my family. I miss my dogs. I miss the Mississippi. I miss a lot.
It’s wild times, but here are some things I learn everyday as a kindergarten teacher – brought to you by the letter “P”.
Curiosity is underrated, under-taught, and underutilized.
What would happen if our tests were scored by what kinds of questions we asked instead of the kind of answers we wrote?
Rather than starting with something vague or blurry and narrowing into an exact, specific pinpoint, we’d ask questions, discover, and find out that by gaining a wider perspective, that blurry indefinite view is something beautiful and bigger than what we first started with.
The ability to learn and display proficiency is inherent in children. Not determined or decided by adults.
I have so much power as an educator to determine what is and what isn’t for these kids. As my students learn, I remember that they already have what they need to learn. That special stuff called curiosity and joy light up everyday and I need to create an environment that doesn’t snuff them out.
If I used my perspective to say “Joe is bad/Joe is good at English.” then I fail to open any doors for Joe. Instead, I’m only observing Joe through a window without prompting his curiosity or joy to unlock what English is to him.
I love giving hugs.
Having a consistent schedule and structure is tiring, but important.
Millennials, would you please stand up.
Children smiling can melt even the hardest of hearts.
Please refer to pictures to have your heart turn into goo.
My inner child is starved of creativity, comfort, and sheer goofball-ness.
This has been the most significant aspect that I’ve been digging into for myself.
I am a feeler and a thinker. My emotions have always called louder than logic has. Expression and reflection have always benefited me more than execution and getting things done. In times of stress and hair-pulling, the first thing I need is a big bear hug (my cousin Calvin gives the best, no cap)… and THEN I can get to solving the problem.
Kids are the same! Kids liiiive for hugs and positive touch. Physical safety is Maslow’s first layer for a reason. Being in and creating such a childlike, soft, and guiding environment helps me align with the simple and ever-important task that – children (everyone) have a huge need to be comforted. It’s not until after that’s attained, that we can get to building, expanding, learning, and growing.
And let me tell you… when kids go, kids go. So many days, I plop into my chair post-school day and think “I cannot keep up with my kids!” My ten children produce as many drawings, crafts, worksheets, and projects as Leonardo’s Workshop. I love it. Today, we mixed essential oils with paints and painted some scented pictures. I got to sit down and paint some beautiful flowers on a card for my co-teacher and felt so satisfied afterwards. Then, I remembered that I’m the teacher.
But creativity, colors, and energy runs in me just as much as it does them! I absolutely love getting to create, learn, think, and act like a kid sometimes. It’s probably the only job besides a clown where I can be a loud goofball and get paid for it. Any counter-productive idea and non-adult thing I could be only helps me in creating an environment of joy, curiosity, and fun for my kids.
Thanks for reading, as always. Ginormous shoutout to all my teacher friends for all the amazing, and mostly unrecognized work you do.
Much Love and Peace,