In Over My Head

I started feeling stressed today, because MONDAY IS THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL.

Tomorrow is a national holiday (HALLELUJAH), so today was teacher training day and prepare your classrooms day. And I just felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. It didn’t help that I was exhausted from this sickness I’m getting over, but when we were told to go prepare our rooms, I felt overwhelmed by the certainty that there were a million things I should be doing that I was completely unaware of.

I never thought I was cut out to be a classroom teacher, and I’m remembering why. There is a LOT to think about when you teach in the classroom. It takes time to get a handle on everything: The curriculum. The schedule. The students. Classroom control. Pleasing parents. Being enthusiastic. Arbitrating arguments. Earning respect. Explaining brand new concepts. Making kids want to sit at their desks and study.

But if you’re thinking that I regret signing up for this job, you’re wrong.

When I peel back all the little things that stressed me out today, all the details that have yet to be figured out, I remember the students. I remember how I almost started crying at our school’s graduation yesterday.

I didn’t even know the graduating students that well (is it possible to fall in love in four days?), but while watching them sing in their adorable graduation outfits, while watching them interact with their adoring parents, I realized what an amazing thing we’re doing at this kindergarten. We get to help turn these kids into people. In a culture where spoiling children is common, where discipline can be harsh, and the pressure to achieve intense, we have the opportunity to teach these kids how to be responsible and kind, how to have fun while learning, and how to believe in themselves.

What could be more precious than that?

These next few weeks are going to be challenging. I’m going to have to establish order while orienting myself to the new schedule. I’m going to have to figure out how to not only get through all the curriculum, but how to teach it well. I’m going to have to call kids out at every turn as they try to push the limits of my patience. I’m going to have to learn how to work effectively with my Korean co-teacher and how to have healthy expectations of myself. But I just have to remember that it’s all worth it.

On the way home from school today, having left the piles of unfamiliar textbooks and the stack of un-laminated classroom rules behind, I started thinking about Monday morning and greeting my students (who know me, but not that I’m their new teacher). I imagined the huge grins and surprised exclamations. I saw my favorite (little troublemaking) boy rushing into my arms. I heard one particular girl’s high-pitched, “Elizabeth Teacher!” And I realized that I couldn’t wait.

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Elizabeth is an American living in South Korea who believes in destiny, miracles, and living life intentionally. She holds to simple faith in a complex world, values the beauty of the everyday, and strives for vulnerability with other imperfect humans. She is always learning, laughing, and finding herself in awe of grace.

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