Elwood 5566

Buk-il Boys’ High School. Mon. 17th Sept, 2007. (Korean Accounts 2)

Posted in Diary notes, Education, High school life, Korean Accounts 2 by 노강호 on September 17, 2007

Boys arriving at school: note the boys ‘on duty’ checking the uniforms of arriving students and also the boys saluting the school entrance.

I was up early in the morning and left the house at 7.15 to find my way to the school. Ted and Mr Chǒng had given me directions last night and they were fairly straight forward. From my apartment, which is in a row of one room apartments with its own separate glass door entrance, the school is up a hill. Ted had told me there was a short cut but that to save getting lost that in the morning I should take the long route. The first part of my walk took me past the small shop I had visited last night which I now noticed stood beside another dog soup restaurant. Then I passed a triangular shaped paddy field where Ted had told me to take a right turn. Then I simply had to walk straight up the hill passed a number of small shops and cross a main road to find the school entrance.

Across the paddy field towards my ‘house.’ The school can just be seen in the background

The hill up to Bukil (北一) isn’t that steep but in the heat and humidity I was soaking wet before I was even half way. There was a long string of boys behind me and I didn’t want to have to start conversations on the hill. I was so exhausted by the time I had walked only halfway up the hill that I turned off the road and caught my breath by the school’s baseball diamond. I had forgotten that Koreans, even youngsters, tend to plod up hills and don’t rush like westerners do but in my rush to get to school, and not knowing how long it would take me, I walked at a fair pace. I would have remained longer recuperating at the baseball diamond had I not seen another westerner in the distance and decided to carry on up the hill.

The boys’ gym, on the left, and adjacent girls’ high school

Further up the hill four boys stood ‘at ease’ across the road and as I passed them they stood to attention and bowed at me. A number of boys were doing press ups or burpees on the pavement. At the top of the hill, where the school entrance is situated, three teachers, all armed with sticks stood on duty. I noticed that as the boys passed this point they saluted the school.

The road up to the school, which at the time I didn’t pay much attention to, is lined with trees, cherry trees. At the bottom of the hill there are two enormous sets of iron gates, one for the boys’ school entrance and one for the girls’ school. Between the gates is a sort of guard room and to the side of this, on the boys side of the entrance is the most massive mirror. I have since noticed large mirrors in quite a few places in the school. Beside the road leading up to the school are two terraces, the first contains a number of tennis courts, the second contains the typical sandy parade cum sports which has a number of wisteria entwined arbours and drinking water fountains around its edge. Any British person, especially a teacher is tempted to call this area a play ground but one never sees youngsters playing in it and it is an arena employed more for physical training, assembling the entire school and used by the boys to play various sports. At the head of this arena and opposite the school façade, stands a large, covered podium. In between the back of this and the school façade is the most beautiful garden with pine trees cut and shaped in the traditional Korean manner. A large sculpture stands to the side of the entrance.

The boys’ dormitories

When I arrived at the front of the school Mr Kim was already waiting for me. I was absolutely exhausted and being soaked in sweat and wanting to compose myself before being introduced to anyone else, I asked to be shown the nearest restroom.

There is no time wasting with Korean employment procedures, no time for getting acquainted with systems or methods and neither are any individuals allocated to look after your needs. I don’t know whether or not this is because Koreans have tended to have very little experience of foreign travel or simply because they are ignorant or disinterested in your needs. I have always found that in Korea one has to discover aides and sympathetic helpers from among one’s colleagues. I think that after meeting Mr Kim on the entrance steps to the main building, and after exchanging a few pleasantries, I was taken straight to the humanities department where I was shown my desk and computer and then handed a class timetable. I was introduced to CM, my fellow English speaker. Next I was taken to the teachers meeting room for the typical Monday morning schools briefing. I met the school Principal and then had to give a five minute talk about myself. It was now 8.20 in the morning and I was due to start a class at 9.10am. Looking back on this I cannot belief that just after 10 hours of being in Korea and only after having been in a school for one hour forty minutes, I should then begin teaching.

the school’s facade was very attractive

 CM, whose name is Claude Montgomery Tidwell, is a rather distinguished looking American who is in his early sixties. Like so many older teachers in Korea, especially the ones who have taught in Universities, as CM has, he dresses in that stereotypical fashion reminiscent of Oxbridge; bow ties, tank tops, blazers and tweed jackets and silk ties are all part of his wardrobe. I recently meet a Professor from Ch’ǒnan Dangook University, who I automatically assumed was English; he was dressed entirely  in tweeds, had a silk bow tie, a carved walking stick, which wasn’t for show as he did have a lame leg. I quickly discovered he was from New England and I remember his name as it so suited his attire; it was Michael Huntingdon. Of course few of these ‘professors’ are professors in the British sense of the word. In the UK a professorship is not a teaching position but a position of prestige and status within a department. It is a title conferred on distinguished academics. I have not had experience around Korean English university teachers before but they do like to refer to themselves as ‘professor,’ using it as a prefix to their name. This is obviously a western affectation as Koreans use the title (교수) as a suffix in much the same manner as we use post-nominals. Further, the ‘title’ seems to be one that western teachers will use as a means of identity even after they have left university teaching in the same way it would be used in the UK. However, I would probably do the same if I was teaching in a university.

I had four classes on this day and they all went perfectly. Before each lesson, the class captain stands up and calls the class to attention. All the boys then sit up straight with their hands on their thighs. Next they are given an order to bow. It is possible to begin a class here the very second the bell is sounded which is amazing and so unlike degenerate schools back in the UK.

Sunrise from the school roof

My small apartment, in a complex called Roseville One Rooms, is about a ten minute walk from the school, and is situated in an area of Ch’ǒnan called Shin Bu Dong (신부동). My area consists of a number of ‘one room’ complexes and the nearest land mark is known as Tower Golf. Here there is a large golf range and also a sauna (목욕탕). There are also a number of dog soup restaurants in my vicinity. The daytime heat is very uncomfortable and initially I did not enjoy walking to and from school or even around the school as there are 6 floors and no lifts in the main building. In the first few weeks I didn’t really explore my immediate area though I quickly discovered where the nearest supermarket was – a Lotte Mart which is a short drive from my apartment. To be truthful, I was quite exhausted at the end of a day and didn’t relish going into town or walking around in the heat exploring.

©Amongst Other Things – 努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
Written September 2007

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