Kindergarten Goodbye

Last weekend, my students graduated kindergarten–a two-hour ceremony that featured caps and gowns, song and dance acts, and a re-imagined version of The Blind Men and the Elephant, for which I constructed a miniature elephant from cardboard, felt, and packing tape–the same tape I used to seal up the three boxes I shipped home to Canada.

This week, while I begin my travels through India, my students will begin Grade 1 and the start of a long road through Korea’s education system: days in public school, afternoons in hagwons, and evenings spent studying, often until they sleep.

I want to give them backyards to run around in and afternoons off and free time with their friends.  I want to give them a school life that inspires them to form their own ideas about themselves and the world.  I want their little spirits to to thrive and grow and create.  Have fun, I told them, kneeling down to hug each one in our last moment together.  I will miss you.

They have graduated kindergarten, but in my mind they’ll be six years old forever, lined up in coats and boots, handing me colour-paper cards that say Goodbye Courtney Teacher.  I love you.  Please don’t forget me.

I won’t forget you.



ps–I am writing this from Delhi.

Up next: Post #100 on Coco Busan (last one!) with the link to my new blog…


Joe Teacher

A few weeks back, Joe had an extra day off from his teaching gig at Sindo Elementary. Instead of sleeping in while I schlepped to work, mentally preparing to face the noise of my kindie kids after a luxuriously peaceful four-day weekend, he came into school with me.  I tell him stories about my students frequently, brief vignettes from my day along the lines of: “Albert told me he got three points in Taekwondo class yesterday,” or “You’ve gotta meet Charley. He clung to me all the way down the hall during bathroom break today, dragging his little feet behind me and saying, ‘teachuh, you have-uh foh legs.'”

Joe teaches public school, grades 3-6, so his classes are much bigger than mine and he sees each of them just once a week.  My hagwon kindies fill three hours of my morning, five days a week.  I know what they eat for breakfast (rice and soup, mostly) and what they do each weekend (Playground, nintendo, trips to Lotte-mart). I know who wants to be a baseball player and who wants to be a lawyer. (After six-year old Cooper informed me he would follow in his lawyer-father’s footsteps, I asked him, “What do lawyers do?” “Make money,” he said.) And I know who’s got a crush on who: Christina likes Dustin, Sunny likes Ruby, and Louis and Monica have had a thing since day one.  If my Korea life was a book, these kids would be stamped on page one, in permanent, vivid ink.

So Joe’ s been hearing their names for months now.  A while back said he said he thought it would be fun to teach them with me one day.  The day came in September.  The kids played “Teacher Says” and a new version of “Telephone.” They got to pick their own team names (with only 10 seconds to choose) and had to make a line from shortest to tallest without speaking.  When they took their spelling test, which included the words “frog,” “weatherperson,” and “florist,” Joe sat down at one of the little desks and took it with them.

He was a major hit.

Starting the Telephone game...

Lining up for bathroom break...

Give me five, to the side...

Up high...

Down low... (you know the rest)

Have you given any ankle hugs lately?

Best friends after only 30 minutes...

Thanks Joe Teacher!