The team, myself included, initially picked this project largely due to its teaching emphasis. Therefore, we were incredibly excited come Monday morning as it marked the beginning of our time at Jiguchon, our first school. We all met in the lobby of our guest house at 7:30am and headed off towards the start of why we flew across the world in the first place.
As I walked into the classroom and plopped my high school backpack down in the corner, I couldn’t help but notice the excitement that vibrated throughout the classroom. The students could hardly contain their interest and anticipation. Just being in that atmosphere situated a goofy smile across my face. Their energy level was obviously infectious as I could see my other colleagues making the same stupid face as mine. Additionally, a wave of happiness and emotion slowly built inside of me as I looked out on all of these kids, clustered in little desk arrangements that I knew from years of practice. I started to think of a couple of my teachers from over the years and how they must have felt the first time they looked at a group of students. Next, perspective set in; I was standing in a classroom half way around the world about to investigate a deep passion of mine for the very first time. There are very few more poignant moments of excitement that I can think of in my life. Suddenly, the school bell chimed, and class actually began.
The next few days were filled with teaching, but more so connecting. I started to learn about the students individually: some were naturally quiet, some danced every day to K-POP, some loved art, and some lived for sports. After the first day, we started staying past our work hours to play soccer with Our group became so invested in these kids that we would often find ourselves talking about them at dinner each evening. The culmination of our relationship was when a couple of us started playing video games with them in our free time. They were our little buddies.
When Friday rolled around, although we would still be working in the school and seeing the kids, an air of sadness filled our last period in the room. All the kids asked to take photos with us and to exchange information. In the last minutes, we decided to stop teaching and instead take the class to their recreation area where we just played around and enjoyed being with them. We left Jiguchon that day feeling fulfilled and confident with our first week of purposeful work.
Tomorrow starts a week of being with a new class. Although last week set the bar pretty high, I am confident that I will grow to care for these kids the same way I did last week.