Yesterday I didn't go hiking. I had had this plan that I was going to go into Gwangju and meet a friend, but that fell through, too.
So I ended up having a really blah, dull Saturday. I intended to try to get into Gwangju later in the afternoon, because a fellow foreigner-in-Yeonggwang is in a band in Gwangju, and he'd invited me to come see his band play. But somehow, as the rain started and I looked out my window, feeling a bit melancholy, I lost my motivation.
It was an exhausting week, last week. A lot of ups and downs, with the sixth grade and my afterschool classes and my positivity at the beginning of the week.
And on Thursday, there was that demo class event. I don't think I told about that, here. School was released early on Thursday, so the teachers could go to workshops and demonstration (open) classes at Yeonggwang Elementary School. Normally, it seems like a lot of the foreign teachers don't get brought along to such events, but there was going to be a demo English class, too, and my coteacher asked if I wanted to go along.
Some coteachers are more inclusive of their foreign teachers than others. I would rank mine as somewhere in the middle. There are foreigners here in Yeonggwang County who get included in absolutely nothing that goes on in their school. There are others who get included in everything. To a certain extent, I find that I have to pay really close attention, and ask "what's going on?" on a regular basis, to get included in things. I wonder if it works the same for the Korean teachers. I keep coming back to my epiphanic realization, some months back, that being informed, in a Korean workplace, is 100% the responsibility of the underlings, not the managers, as we tend to paradigmatize it in the West.
Anyway, this little demo class represents a huge milestone, for me. The demo class itself wasn't perfect, but it provided a lot of good teaching ideas which I wrote down for later thought. But after the demo class there was a meeting to discuss it. A bunch of Korean teachers, talking in Korean, about thoughts and impressions. The American coteacher who'd been part of the presentation was there, but I know his level of Korean is so low that he was just zoning out. But I had the truly amazing experience of actually following, and trying to follow, parts of the meeting.
I don't want to give the impression I understood even half. I have been telling people that my ability to understand the spoken Korean around me hovers at around 10%. But that's not bad. And if I really concentrate, and the topic of conversation is known ahead of time (as it was in this meeting), I can sometimes get up to understanding 20~30%. That's not enough to actively participate in a conversation. But it's enough to not get bored.
In fact, it's downright exhausting, trying to stay alert. The meeting was like an hour-long listening test. And, when it came my turn to talk, I stubbornly decided to try to say something in Korean, despite the fact that them all being English teachers meant that I could have spoken in English, like the other foreign teacher there. Was I showing off a little bit? I'm not sure that was the motivation… more like, trying it out. I only said two sentences. I said the class was interesting. And that there had been a lot of good ideas. At least, that's what I hope I said.
I see the meeting as a milestone, because of that effort to use Korean in a meeting with Korean coworkers. It was mentally challenging. And maybe I embarrassed myself. But I felt like it was a good thing.
But so… just to explain, yesterday, I just felt tired out. Not depressed and burned out. Just tired out, from a mentally challenging week. So I ended up doing basically nothing. Reading. Surfing the web. Watching TV. We'll see …