It turns out room 2-1 is on the third floor. I learned this, after combing every inch of the second. Up a flight of stairs I turned a corner. Through a mess of flailing hands, and flapping bowl cuts, I saw the sign. 2-1 it read, at the very end of the hall. Through a mob of rough housing middle school boys, I weaved my way through the halls, paying close attention not to drop my laptop. Pushing and shoving, and laughing, and running, the students ruled the halls with no authority figure in sight. With two minutes to spare, I slipped into the room, only to find more rough housing ensue. "Teacher!"Teacher!" They yelled at me in excitement, as I stood there with a nervous smile, waiting for help to arrive.
You see, at the grace of my main co-teacher, I had been scheduled to shadow for the first week. No responsibility, no stress, just observation. But as the clock struck 9:55, and the jingle signaled that 2nd period had just begun, there I was, standing at the head of the class, with 25 pairs of dark black eyes staring straight at me. As the first words of nonsense began to form on my quivering lips, the door slid back open, and a frazzled co-teacher stumbled into the room. Out of breath and clearly unprepared, Ms. Park set her things down, and joined in on the stare.
Unsure of what would occur next, I whispered to Ms. Park "I'm only scheduled to observe today", but still, she just stared. A few moments of awkward silence passed and I tried again. "I have nothing prepared for this class, I was told I'd observe". "It's okay", she said, and again, nothing happened. In the midst of my nightmare, the one where I show up on exam day, entirely unprepared, I turned to the board, and began writing an introduction. "Hello, my name is Tyler." I wrote, and then read aloud to the class. "It's very nice to meet you!". "Hello Tyler Teacher!", the students replied, and then it hit me. This wasn't some college presentation, or an impromptu speech, it wasn't for a grade, and it wasn't for pride. In this room filled with fascinated Korean students, simply being there was enough. With that in mind, I took a deep breath, and let the class flow. I took the pressure off myself, by having the students introduce themselves, and before I knew it, that friendly jingle rang out again.
Through nine days of orientation, and a week thereafter of anticipation, I had almost entirely lost sight of the very reason I'd come here. Surrounded by the stresses of my peers, a list of expectations, and of course the unknown, I'd hyped this thing up to epic proportions. Now, as I sit here on Friday, just moments before another class, I'm feeling much lighter. Before coming here, I told myself that this wasn't about the job, it wasn't about money, it was about experience. I've been given the opportunity to learn and explore for a whole year. To immerse myself in an entirely new culture, to challenge myself, and to document the journey along the way. I'm certainly not the first person to say it, but for the first time in my life, I feel as if I now truly mean it. No matter what "it" is, it's only ever as stressful as you make it. Perspective is everything. It's time to go research.