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Reflection: My Adventure Teaching English

I chose to be a teacher before I became a traveler. I expected to teach math in my hometown, but soon after graduation I found myself on the third floor of a business building outside Seoul, South Korea, teaching Canadian curriculum to one very special fourth grader. Her parents sent her to this international school because she wanted to travel to the UK. She was amazing--motivated, curious, respectful, responsible, and grateful. Despite years of educational training and practice, our greatest guide was that same deep drive that leads anyone to teach, study or travel. It was this natural, flowing exploration of curiosity and guidance, dotted with moments of frustration and realization. It was beautiful.

We had projects for every discipline; She wrote a mystery story in Language Arts; We built a castle to scale from milk cartons and gray felt in Social Studies; She made shiny replicas of plant cells and animal cells for Science. In our free time, we went to the piano and wrote songs together. It was a joy to go to work every school day, and I still feel like the luckiest teacher in the world for getting to begin my career one-on-one with this gifted young lady. Nonetheless, I cherish even more what followed.

Twins. Rambunctious twins with freckles and a great motivation to play at anything they could; and a thoughtful boy who tried hard, but the information just wouldn’t stick.

My days became long and exhausting, researching and applying all I had studied about classroom management, exceptionalities, and differentiation; learning the students’ interests and styles, and tying them into the curriculum; developing classroom management strategies to fit us; finding appropriate materials, and planning lessons to complement what each student brought.

Toward the end, I felt like we were starting to get it together. Our team of teachers made behavior books for the twins, and we got into a nice flow of group projects, guided work, and independent study. At the end of the year our little group put on a play for the school, where they performed the twins’ favorite episode of their favorite anime, using props and an English script we made in class. They were so well-disciplined up there and I was a proud teacher. As the year came to a close I wished for more time with them, and I cried hugging them goodbye on the last day.

I gave all I had to that class and never got it to where I first expected it to be. Sometimes I was frustrated with them and showed it. Sometimes my lessons didn’t work out and they knew it. Still the team of teachers supported and encouraged us, and the students respected me and treated me with love. I taught in Korea for a few more years, often emailing and messaging with my little group. A couple years ago while traveling I met an indigenous man in Borneo who made my life a magical beautiful adventure, and we got married last week! I am still teaching Korean kids online as I begin a new part of my life in the rainforest.

I think often of that precious little group and the lessons I learned with them - To find the daily signs of development and appreciate them; to believe in the process of growth through loving, thoughtful effort; to have faith in the strength of our relationships, through hard or happy times; to generously sacrifice my time and energy for those I care about; to freely love myself and those around me, even while trying to be better; to follow the adventure wherever it takes me; to live this life and make the best I can of every moment. I hope the same for you… I hope for you it will be even more lovely.

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