Sunday, December 28, 2014

Fourth and final Christmas on the DMZ / Final posts ahead

Two posts in one day. The post about McCourt and storytelling had been sitting in the drafts folder and this is another one that should go out along with it. This one's more personal and that one's more professional...

Let's begin with two quotes. Here's one from John Lennon:
So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
"Happy Christmas (War is Over)"
Fellow Cheorwon Trooper DMZ Jazz recently wrote on his blog:
I guess it's been a minute.  The reason I haven't updated has been a series of immensely stressful, physically and emotionally painful, life-changing, but ultimately- positive changes. 
Same here. A quick look at the sidebar of Dispatches shows that a fraction of posts have gone up this year compared to 2012 and 2013. There are reasons for that.A major relationship has concluded and I've chosen to resign from EPIK at the end of this semester. These two things go together, and yet they don't.

I'm going to be leaving in February of 2015. The easiest explanation would be that I've been feeling homesick and especially out of place in the past month or two. Wait--that's not all of it. I've just been unhappy with being an EPIK teacher for a while. It's hard to figure out when it started, but it's been going for a year. Teaching English as a Foreign Language has been fun and challenging, but it's not where my passion lies. Joining NCTE in November and reading about unit plans for The Great Gatsby reminded me of how much I miss teaching literature and language arts. EFL has plenty of language arts in it, but it's not where EPIK (and my school) seems to care about now. Therefore, moving on would be best for all parties concerned. Making this choice wasn't easy, but I do feel better now.

Making this choice wasn't easy, but it's best thing for me to do. The past year has been fraught with stress at school over the direction of lessons, teaching philosophy, and administrative issues. No single person's to blame. It was my choice to renew for this fourth year and switch schools and it's not working out for anyone. This is not to contradict the Thanksgiving post below, for the coteachers have been helpful and have done things to the best of their abilities. We only played the cards we were dealt. I just don't think I'm the right man for this position anymore.

Why not?  This might further explain why: I finally got around to watching Dead Poets Society this September. The movie focuses on Mr. Keating, the magnetic, maverick English teacher who shakes things up at a prestigious prep school. His youthful and unorthodox style puts him immediately at odds with his colleagues because he teaches differently than the rest of the faculty does. I found the film heartbreaking on one hand and a moving portrait of inspired teaching on the other. It also made me consider my place as a teacher within EPIK. Was I like him? I certainly harbor different views on teaching and, let's face it, I'm a stranger in a strange land. Keating was a former student of the school; I'm an outsider in most every way.

No, I never set out to become a Mr. Keating and change the world. Far from it: I boarded that plane excited to learn about Korea and have a full-time teaching job. And that's what it was for a long time: Learning about Korea and transitioning from an English Language Arts teacher to an English as a Foreign Language teacher. And, let's not forget, working with a plethora of coteachers and all the attendant issues that that entailed.* What a time. Like the ZZ Top lyric, "I've been up/I've been down/Take my word, I've been 'round."

I found I couldn't reconcile who the teacher I'd like to be with the teacher my school wanted me to be. Combine that with a rampant strain of homesickness and equals "it's time to go." Korea's been great. No other word comes to mind. What a thrill, to get to spend some time here and have all of these experiences.

So...happy holidays, everyone. This is the first of the last Dispatches from Gangwon. We're caught in that No Man's Land between Christmas and New Year's Day. I'm still carrying on with a vacation to the States to visit family and friends. For a a while, I'd thought that the trip would provide the refresher necessary to charge through another semester here, but no, it won't. It's best to move on come the end February.

Enjoy some music:
Ah...J Rabbit. Cool duo. Here they are covering "Winter Wonderland" and having a fun time doing it. I should get some more posts out about Korean music; there are some good groups here.

Here's Chuck Berry doing "Merry Christmas Baby," a song I never knew about until this year.

The Beatles and their Let It Be gem "I've Got A Feeling," which may not be about Christmas, but it's about the peaks and valleys we experience in any given year.

My Morning Jacket - Moving Away. A good slow groover. I cannot thank a certain aunt enough for giving me this album.

*If memory serves, I've worked with around 25 coteachers in the past 3.5 years.

No comments:

Post a Comment