One of my biggest flaws (that I’ll admit to) is that I try very hard not to let people see me upset. I’ve countless smiles and laughs and fooled a lot of people. I hate giving off the impression that at any given moment, I’m anything less than happy and content. Any display of sadness was a sign of weakness and defeat. It’s always been a struggle for me to admit to anyone, even my close friends, when I’m having a rough time with something. Acknowledging that is half the battle. Dealing with it is the other half.

I was told a few days ago that SEV would have two teams of blind students this coming Thursday. Ten students on each team, as well as an aide accompanying each student. My schedule has me teaching them Grocery and Police classes. The former will be no problem; there are enough plastic fruits, vegetables and pastries to occupy an entire class period. The latter is proving to be much more difficult. The regular police lesson plan calls for playing a game in which students describe what their classmates look like. The game takes up the bulk of the class and also involves dialogue and role-playing. As awful a class as Police is, this game makes it bearable and is a great way to get the kids to speak English.

Of course, this game could never work with kids who can’t see how tall or short their classmates are and who don’t know what color shorts their classmates are wearing. When I explained this problem to our supervisor, she seemed to understand. She even suggested I teach Dance instead. I said Dance would be an awesome class to teach, and I’d be able to use simple moves and words such as “right foot” and “left hand.” My supervisor replied, “Oh, well…they probably won’t understand that. They’re very low-level.”

I feel for these kids, I really do. But I don’t see the point in visually-impaired students with virtually no English skills coming to an institution where classes are almost entirely based on describing the things you see. Situational learning is difficult enough with a language barrier, and now a sight barrier has been thrown in as well.

Equally frustrating is that there is no help being provided to the teachers who are stuck teaching these classes. Our supervisors say nothing more than, “You don’t need to stick to the lesson plan.” We have no idea what to do, and they don’t have any answers for us. Wouldn’t it make sense to give these kids classes from which they can take something? Why schedule the students for classes that are pointless to them? Why not assign a Korean teacher to those classes, opening at least one doorway of communication; or at the very least, why not stick a Korean staff person in the class with the foreign teacher to help translate?

After walking around all weekend with those questions bouncing around my head, I finally found an outlet for my thoughts. One of the programmers, who I’ve become close with since coming here, came up to me today and told me I looked tired. I’ve decided that to her, tired and upset are one and the same. Every time she’s told me I look tired, I’ve been upset over one thing or another. Usually I blow it off with some excuse: “Yeah, didn’t sleep much last night” or “I had some crazy classes this morning that wiped me out.” But today, for the first time, I let my thoughts tumble out of me, one on top of the other. All of my frustrations with school and my supervisors and my schedule came out at once, and June just listened to me. She agreed with what I had to say, that it was pointless for these kids to attend Talk Show, Hair Salon and Police class, among others; that there should be a Korean in the room to help translate; that more should have been done to prepare the teachers for these students.

Knowing the way the Korean hierarchal system works, even though June agrees with me, it’s unlikely any changes will be made to the schedule. Our bosses aren’t the ones teaching these classes and they don’t really care what goes on inside of them so long as the visiting students pay for their day here. Foreign teachers are so low on the totem pole here that I’m not sure we even qualify as being the bottom stump.

This is what I signed up for. There are always going to be days that get me down, situations that infuriate me and decisions involving me that I cannot control. And that’s just life, messy as it may be. But if the past eleven months have taught me anything, I’ve learned that it’s OK to show the world when I’m upset. Nobody’s going to look down on me or think less of me because I’ve shown a side of myself that is less than chipper. Vulnerability is part of what makes us human, and I’ve ignored that for a long time.

Venting to June may not change the situation at hand. But opening up to her lifted some of the weight off my shoulders. I’ll still have to teach these classes, and they’ll be difficult. I’m still frustrated with my school and my boss, but I’ve only got six weeks left. From all of the challenges that have presented themselves this year, I’ve taken something very important. I learned that I don’t have to keep all of my frustrations inside anymore, and that makes this all a little bit easier. Nobody is happy all the time, and we all have our bad days. It’s just a matter of remembering that the day will end and a fresh start will come in the morning.

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