The first day of school always held a piece of magic. The smell of fresh notebooks and shaved pencils mixed with Dr. Pepper Lipsmackers created something unequivocally beautiful. Everything was color coded to perfection, the ruler and protractor snuggled with the dictionary and homemade lunch that my mother so carefully packed—peanut butter and jelly, one apple, seven carrots, and a love note.
Last year, I strutted into Centum High School cradled by naïveté and wide-eyed wonder. I had left everyone who loved me, and came to a place where I knew no one, and I was terrified. I made up for it in needless vibrato and a desperate need to fit into this society.
Conversely, today I ambled up the mountainside to Kyung Hae Girl’s High School wrapped in thoughts and fleece. I turned when students cried, “Seon Saeng Nim!” (Teacher!). I smiled, gave a half wave, and continued my journey. I sat down at my desk, void of color coding or the pretention that chased me in my formative years. This past year, I have lost all sense of trying to be someone or something I am not to fit into another person’s mold of who they think I should be.
This morning, I relished in the First Day of School Ceremony. It is incredible to see hundreds of young women standing in ridiculously straight lines singing their national anthem. Their voices rang with pride and shyness, excitement and nerves all at one time.
I am so excited to teach these young women. I loved my boys at Centum, and there are so many of them whom I will never forget. However, I am thrilled to teach women. I cannot wait to help them grow into themselves. Perhaps, I am overreaching. Perhaps I have unreasonably high expectations. But, I know that I can teach these young women more about life than English.
I want to teach them independence. I want to teach them critical thinking. I want to teach them that they do not have to adhere to stereotypes set for them. Don’t worry, Mom and Dad, I will do so in subtle ways. I am not going to go in there willy nilly with complete disregard to their culture. But, I will teach by example. I will teach them to ask me, why. Ask me, how? Ask me, when? Ask me.
Today is the first day of school. I am wearing last year’s clothes. My bag holds Bananagrams and games rather than binders. My desk is barren. But, there is still crackles of magic popping everywhere I go, resounding with everything I do. I know that very good things are going to happen here at Kyung Hae, and I cannot wait to be a part of them.