Been back in Korea for about two weeks, and finally feel settled enough! Granted, my apartment is still in need of organization before I can make it truly "mine," but other things are starting to fall into place.
After a minor setback, the school year is in session at my elementary school. This year is my first time to take on the public school model, albeit at a private elementary school. A lot of things about it are much different from my prior experiences teaching at an academy (hagwon). Definitely the schedule is different (8:30 to 4:30 teaching hours), but it leaves me with the rest of the afternoon and evenings free. Plus, Fridays we are finished at 3:20, granting an even earlier start to the weekend.
It's weird to be finished with school when so many of my friends in Gwangju are busy at work, and will be for several more hours. And it does make coordinating plans a little difficult, but it will all be alright in the end.
The students are different than those I've taught before. Yes, there are the troublemakers--present at any school--but what's better are the students that participate. I've already been amazed at the number of students in my classes who are willing to participate and very capable of carrying on in a class discussion. I'm teaching one class of first-graders and two classes of fifth-graders during the week, which will be supplemented by three after-school classes starting next month. Each class meets four days a week for forty minutes each, which leads to a fairly balanced schedule. The rest of the time at school can be used for planning, and there is even free lunch offered in the school cafeteria every day.
So far making this change has been a good one for me. I hope that it continues to be this way!