A few days ago I was whiling away time I didn’t have (“As if you could kill time without injuring eternity,” says Thoreau), and I came across a post from several months back wherein I lauded the beauty of the first day of school. “The first day of school makes me improbably happy,” I wrote. “I love the first day of school because it’s school.”
Now, as a professor of English in Korea, I can affirm that this is still true. Admittedly, there were downsides. Finding mouse excrement suspiciously sitting where no mouse excrement had been sitting when I turned off the lights and went to sleep: these were unsettling happenstances. So was finding my office was still a trashed mess and yet to be cleaned/furnished. I will admit I wasn’t excited about not having any textbooks to teach from, nor knowing where I would be teaching, nor having any idea what to teach for six of my fourteen credit hours.
But the love of a first day dies hard. Even when I began my teaching with a class of 57 chattering girls (Okay, so eight of them were guys, but they were pretty chatty, too)—even then I enjoyed myself. I had a particularly good laugh over the group names of “Team Curry” and “Team Funfun” chosen by two of the clusters in said mob. “Team A+,” though not subtle, is also…endearing.
No one showed up for my next class. I asked the Minhee, our shy and only slightly fluent English Department secretary, if I had gotten the room wrong. “Oh, that crass? They are not coming. I got a call dis morning…*mumble mumble*…orientation…so…”
Flexibility, I remind myself hourly, is a virtue.
Perhaps my biggest challenge this semester will be the aspiring foreign divinity students. My job—me, a first-year fob with virtually no educational background—is to design a semester course that will bolster their English up to graduate-level. They are personable guys, the seven of them, but they are needy in an English way.
It is now—when my eyes are drooping shut and the lesson plans piling haphazardly on a hard-drive—that I remember my whiling of time earlier and feel just a little bit haunted by Thoreau.