August 20, 2009

Life is Beautiful

I love when a day begins as ordinary and ends extraordinarily.

Yesterday, I woke up a bit late due to exhaustion that has been taking me over lately. Still, I made it to breakfast and preheated the ovens for my first class of the morning: cooking. Cooking class is well liked by all the students at SEV; many claim that it is their favorite. Teaching an exciting class is always a nice way to start off the day, as it's quite easy to keep the attention of the kids. Still, I was a bit nervous as I knew what classes I would be teaching after lunch.

Last week, it was announced that blind students would be coming to SEV. The people assigned to teach them were a bit unsure of how to go about doing so for particular classes. So, I volunteered to switch, as I have always enjoyed working with people with disabilities and have some training, though limited, in the area. After having my schedule changed, I started to think about everything that could go wrong, including the possibility that these students would have little to no English skills. I started to research ideas for teaching ESL to blind students, but the Internet proved to be of no help. There were no resources available on such a subject.

The time came for me to bring my first team to talk show class. I was relieved to see that the students were teenagers and each had his or her own personal assistant. Usually, adults in the classroom make me very uneasy, but it was very comforting to me this time. I introduced myself to the students, and quickly learned that their English capabilities surpassed those of all other teams I had taught that day. They were also incredibly warm, personable, and very witty. Their assistants were just as kind. A sense of calmness soon replaced the nervousness and I was able to engage the students in a very entertaining class, if I might say so myself. After explaining that we were in a 'broadcasting studio', I told them in full detail what the room looked like. I had the students roleplay as their favorite celebrity. They were quite creative when answering my questions and they were very excited to be on television. I felt a sense of accomplishment and an overwhelming feeling of happiness as they aced my review questions.

I had the same team for hair salon class, so it was nice to have already developed a good rapport with them and their assistants. I explained different styles and lengths, letting them feel each wig which corresponded with the said description. While it can be difficult to get students to try on the wigs, these students were anxious to put them on as I was passing each from student to student. I was taken back when I let one of the girls feel the wig and she asked me, "Teacher, what color is this wig?" "It's rainbow colored: red, blue, green, yellow.." "Oh, wow, it's crazy hair!" I had completely omited color from my lesson plan, thinking that it would be pointless. It was surprising to learn that blind people can learn color through other senses, such as feeling.

I pulled out my iPod and speakers to engage their other senses and they started cheering when they heard 2NE1's newest hit "I Don't Care" play over the speakers. We played a version of hot potato as I explained to them that the wig was curly and long with bangs or wavy and short and gray. The person holding the wig when the music stopped had to put it on. By the end of the game, we all had funny wigs on our heads. One child, who was only partially blind, was eager to take pictures of everyone so he could see them enlarged on his computer when he went home.

After class, I helped the assistants guide the students to their next class. As I said my goodbyes, the students and their assistants clapped for me. I'm fully aware that they probably do this for all teachers, but my eyes filled with tears because it was truly an incredible experience, even if it was only a few hours. It's always so inspirational to see people overcome difficult situations and challenge themselves with difficult tasks, like learning English. I am so grateful to be working at Seould English Village, as I continue to get the opportunity to work with so many people of different backgrounds and nationalities.

After a trip into Suyu, I was walking home and as I approached SEV, I couldn't help but to take in what I saw. I saw the dark siluotte of the Buddhist temple, with mountains on either side. The endless sky was a light periwinkle and the clouds, looking like cotton candy, were a brillant pink. Cicadas chripped nearby and a light breeze blew. It was an absolutely breathtaking scene and it is these days that remind me how fortunate I really am. In all its glory, the world is truly stunning. But, it is not always through our eyes that we see why life is so beautiful.

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