It’s easy to think everything is all about you. When I came to Korea, I was terrified. On the final day of orientation, when we rode a bus three hours to Chuncheon, disembarked and waited for our new co-teachers to pick us up, I tried to keep a brave face. When a man came to pick me up, barely saying a word and ushering me to a waiting SUV, I glanced at Matt nervously, not sure when I would be seeing him again.
That was almost exactly one year ago. Then, I hadn’t even considered how the man driving me or the others at my school might be nervous as well. Today I thought back on that day at my final teachers dinner. “Alli, the new teacher is male! His name is Samuel. And he is 25! So young. … I’m nervous!” I reminded my co-teacher that last year’s native English teacher was even younger than that, and that they had all liked her. “And I am old in native teacher years! Thirty-two is ancient. Twenty-five is actually pretty good,” I reminded her.
Another co-teacher later told me that she had argued with the vice principal earlier that day. He wanted her to drive to Chuncheon next week to pick up the new teacher. However, she will be moving schools starting March 1. She has to be at her new school (a few hours away) on Monday and Thursday and our school on Tuesday and Wednesday, and she needs to pack her apartment and move. She doesn’t have time to pick up the native teacher for the school at which she will no longer be teaching.
“Sorry, Samuel. It’s nothing personal.”
Finally another teacher offered to pick up the native teacher. However, she’s not an English teacher, and she’s nervous. “Hi! I’m from the school!” she joked was all she could say. I told her that the native teacher would be even more worried than her. If she just said “hello” and “welcome” it would be enough to ease his mind. She isn’t buying it.
I’d like to tell the new me not to be so nervous. That he will find his niche at school; that people will be friendly. I’d like to tell him to not take himself too seriously, to enjoy the year. Seriously, a year goes so fast. But other than a few cheerful notes left for him at school, and at home, I won’t leave him with any great wisdom. He has his own road to walk, and I can’t pave the way for him, or it won’t be as special.