Thursday, October 22, 2009

Kindergarten Adeel

Teaching is not something I ever thought I would enjoy. In fact, I didn't really think anything about teaching until I started doing it. The guides to teaching overseas discuss just about everything, up to and including bedsheets and deodorant, but no one really discusses teaching itself. That's partly because people don't go overseas to teach so much as they go overseas to teach. So, on my first day, when someone handed me a math textbook, a sheaf of lesson plans and a sample craft, I was in for somewhat of a rude awakening.

I never really thought much about whether I liked teaching or not. The discussions were always about whether I liked Korea or not. It was after about 9 or 10 months teaching that I realized I actually enjoyed it. Teaching, after all, combines those three things I really love: talking, ideas that are only worth knowing in and of themselves, and the attempt to impart those ideas to the others.

Different things motivate different teachers. Many of my Korean coworkers were guided first and foremost by a genuine (and I stress this term) love of their students, to the point that my foreign coworkers often explained that hugging and kissing children that often would get us fired or arrested. I found my students hilarious sometimes and adorable other times, but always very interesting for their attempts to get a jump start in class: writing the date in their notebooks before I wrote it on the board, memorizing the words to Jingle Bells, writing short essays on a variety of innocent topics, and so on.

What motivates me as a teacher is what alienated so many of my friends in university. I have a burning passion to make sure that 6-year-olds understand that a bicycle is self-powered, a sailboat is wind-powered and a car is powered by fuel. I have a burning passion to ensure that 8-year-olds understand the various terms having to do with honeybees. I also have a burning passion to ensure that you know what a syllogism is, why Homer's Iliad is important and why Plato thought that the entire world is made up of triangles. It's a strange attribute, I concede, and I don't know how well it would be received teaching in Canada, but in Korea it's as popular as a relentless high school football coach in Texas.

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