Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

South Korean Journal -- Final Entries & Closing Reflections

August 9, 2010

Well, my final day in Korea has come. Since my hotel room had not been cleaned and the female manager insisted on tidying it up a bit (and never bothered to tell me when she was done), I ended up on the hotel lobby computer until very late and not asleep until after 2 a.m. Whoops!

After I finally woke up and felt somewhat rested after 10 a.m., I confirmed I could receive a later check-out and headed out for my run, which turned out to be more like a torturous walk in extreme heat for over 1.5 hours. Today I brought along my camera to capture some of the beautiful countryside on film, including the nearby pebble beach. I didn't want to leave!

Back at the hotel, I showered, ate a bit, caught some of Dreamgirls on TV, checked my email one last time, and was then shuttled to Incheon Airport only to discover my flight had been delayed by 6.5 hours to San Francisco. I now have to take another connecting flight to Las Vegas and then finally to DC, where I will supposedly arrive at 7:09 a.m. Tuesday morning EST. Oiy! Luckily, I have plenty of books, food, and interesting airport people to entertain me. I also took advantage of my complimentary United meal voucher with a delicious chicken curry and mango smoothie. Yum!

This time also affords me the opportunity to more critically reflect on my time here in Korea. With that, I have some other things about Korea attitudes and etiquette to add to my first list:

1. Never tip in a restaurant. They will find it offensive. If only this were true in the USA! Haha.
2. Koreans are often kinder to foreigners than to their own people. Worrying about their national identity and image, they want you to have a favorable impression of their country.
3. Walking around with a stern, unsmiling face and ignoring strangers are part of the Korean custom.
4. Be open-minded and non-judgmental as a tourist here!
5. There is very little crime here. I never felt uncomfortable walking alone at night, even in Seoul.
6. The main problem you will encounter in Korea is the scarcity of English speakers.
7. Get into a Confucian state of mind and show outward respect and generosity toward all of your elders!
8. Dress casually but neatly here, as you will always be judged by your appearance.
9. Wearing socks is more polite than bare feet.
10. Receive gifts using both hands.
11. Always bring a small gift with you when visiting someone's home. They will probably refuse it at first as to not look greedy, but it will be appreciated and opened later.
12. Koreans are fanatical and take everything seriously.
13. Life is competitive and stressful here, as there is no safety net provided by a welfare state.
14. Many Koreans are very fit and healthy/nutrition conscious.
15. Families are becoming much more Westernized and nuclear, with divorces and abortions being much more commonplace.
16. Koreans are some of the nicest and most generous people you will ever meet.

I could go on and on about what I have learned to do -- and NOT do -- here, but I think I have given you a solid glimpse into the daily life, customs, and values here in South Korea. I can genuinely say that Korea is one of my favorite countries I have ever visited. I am grateful for the unique opportunity to volunteer and teach the children of Jeju Island. That unique, unforgettable experience provided me with a much more authentic and comprehensive snapshot into Korean life and culture. I will always feel indebted to my time here and in awe at the smiles, generosity, kindness, and warmth the children -- and adults!! -- afforded to me each and every day here. A Koreans say all too well, "Gamsahamnida" (Thank you).

We will have to see whether next summer's adventure can match up to this once-in-a-lifetime experience....

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