We landed in Incheon on Thursday, March 26, after a 22 hour chase of the sun from Chicago, just as it began to set. After making it through customs, retrieving our collective 250 pounds of luggage, and changing our money, Scott and I emerged from the arrivals gate to see-- Dunkin Donuts.
So far, we're still very much American. After two full days of orientation, from 7:30 to 8 at night, where we're surrounded by another hundred English speakers, all we've been ready to do is collapse at the end of the day. We roam back and forth between the dormitory and a building for our classes across the courtyard at the Korean National Open University. There are American plugs in our bedroom. The lectures are great, though, and EPIK (English Program in Korea) has treated us very well. When we arrived, we were given a bag (EPIK loot!) of useful items including: an adaptor, various books about living and working as an EFL teacher, a pen, a calender, two customized EPIK towels, and a sandwich which was promptly devoured on arrival.
I'm still not sure if I should be terrified about making this decision. I don't feel terrified. I vowed never to teach two years ago when I removed myself from the Education program at Western. What was I thinking? Now, after about 9 hours of lecture, I think I can break down a simplified list of expectations about teaching at my school:
1) I will have a co-teacher that may or may not speak very good English
2) My students may be at significantly varying levels of English understanding (Some may have spent time abroad or at private lessons, while others may never have learned)
3) I will have no curriculum (unless I teach elementary-and then the textbooks are only pictures)
4) Therefore, I teach whatever I want
5) I will not be issuing tests or grades
In the face of these things, I am extremely glad that we went through all of the lectures. I am now equipped with ideas for lessons and activities. Scott and I have agreed that we're actually pretty excited about having no idea what we'll be doing. It all seems very laid back. We are there to be conversational, to motivate them to be excited about learning English (even if we teach them nothing) beyond our class, and to reinforce fluency over accuracy.
There's only one problem left: I don't know what grade level I'll be teaching.
We've been told that Korea is dynamic, ever changing. That is why we don't know in advance what we'll be doing, because it's possible that the schools also don't know yet and the decision won't be made until Monday before we get on the buses to leave. This is also why, we've been told, we may show up one day to an empty class and learn that it was moved. Or that rules have been changed (although they aren't big on policy like in America, they prefer personality or conversation to work things out).
It seems I'll never completely figure out this country, which makes it exactly my style.