OVERCOMING RAINY DAYS

Looking out of a window at Bibong Elementary on a rainy day in Ochang, South Korea.

I waited until I heard the rain to go outside for a run tonight. As soon as it hit the roof I jumped up, threw on a pair of swim trunks, and dashed out the door. I needed a reminder that rain, and rainy days don’t have to be so bad.

It’s the start of jangma (rainy season) in South Korea. And what better way to kick it off than with a downpour? It rained all day.

With rain comes humidity. Today was miserably wet inside and out. Lunch was the worst. I’ll never get used to eating boiling soup on a hot summer day. I was sweating all over the place. My arms created pools of water on the table, and I left a butt streak on the chair when I stood up.

In an effort to conserve energy and save on costs, most rooms in Korean public schools aren’t regularly air-conditioned. No wonder a lack of motivation seems to be the trend. When students and teachers sit in stifling rooms all day, what else is to be expected?

On top of it being a rainy, gloomy day, I’m suffering from a major case of senioritis. Who knew teachers could also go through what usually affects seniors in high school? I simply don’t want to work anymore. I still love my job. I still love my students. I still love my co-teachers. I’m just finding it hard to focus. My heart remains here, although my mind is elsewhere. Anyone else relate?

The combination of rain, being hot and sweaty, and having a major case of senioritis must have contributed to my near breakdown earlier today. One thing that really gets to me as an educator is when students tease each other for making mistakes in class, especially when it’s the more advanced students mocking the lower-level learners.

I almost started crying when it happened in one of my fourth grade classes this morning. Right then and there. In front of the entire class I wanted to cry. I had to hold back the tears, and hide my face for a few moments after attempting to discipline.

Do you know how frustrating it is to speak but not be heard? Have you ever had an experience like this before?

It doesn’t really matter what I say. My students don’t fully understand. The textbook doesn’t teach them the English expressions I’m trying to use to explain why it’s wrong. All I can do is hope my co-teachers are saying something I agree with when these situations arise.

During the same lesson, when called upon to answer a question, a girl often ridiculed by her peers was booed by what seemed like half of the class. At that point I had had enough.

For the first time in nearly two years of teaching English in South Korea, I stopped teaching before the period ended. I immediately made all students put their heads on their desks. And my co-teacher talked to the class, as I comforted the crying girl while controlling my own emotions.

It was just a day. Another day to add to the many days I’ve had in Korea. Tomorrow is a new day, and a year from now I’ll hardly remember this rainy day. Storms will come and go in life, and so will the rain. Just as rainy days bring gloom, they can also heal. An evening run in the rain was all I needed to remember this.

It was real. It made me feel real. Alive. And it reminded me of all the other times I’ve run in the rain. Many times for the same reasons—after a particularly bad day—to be refreshed and made new. I remain thankful for this opportunity, and for everything it has taught me about being a teacher.

How do you overcome the rainy days in life? What do you do to stay positive? If you're a Guest English Teacher, do you have any advice on how to stop the sort of bad behavior I highlighted above?

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