Saying goodbye – Korean style

Thursday was 6th grade graduation.  The 6th graders had been rehearsing in the days leading up to this event, and the school was decorated with pictures drawn by the 5th graders (some were very cute).  Unlike in the U.S. (at least when I was in elementary school), 6th grade graduation is a big deal here. 

I was planning on attending the ceremony, but it just wasn’t going to happen.  The room used for the ceremony is indeed the school’s “gym,” but it is so small.  There wasn’t even enough room for all the 6th graders to sit down, let alone the THRONGS of parents trying to force their way in to get a view of their son/daughter on this very special day.  Most parents stood in the back of the room, not even being able to see over the person in front of him/her.  And a good number of parents just overflowed into the hallway, trying desperately to sneak a peak through the windows.  Hmm…not well planned, but I have a feeling that it’s always been this way, and will stay this way.

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In addition to graduation, at the end of each school year (Korea’s school year ending in February and starting in March), any teacher who’s been at the school for four years MUST move to a new school.  It’s just the way it is.  This includes principals, vice-principals (although I think they move every two or three years), school nurses, and even the head cafeteria workers.  My school had 11 total teachers/staff saying goodbye to Jincheon Elementary.  It’s hard to believe, but not a single one of them knows yet where they will be moving…and the new school year starts in two weeks!  They should be finding out “soon.”

I attended an evening farewell party to say goodbye to these teachers.  It was interesting.  It was part gameshow, part karaoke contest.  Each grade was pitted up against each other to earn the most points and win the first place prize.  To win points, we had to answer questions about other teachers, play charades, and sing karaoke.  I hardly knew what was going on (as they certainly aren’t going to cater to the ONE english-speaker), but I managed to have a fun time.  I was seated with the 4th grade teachers…and WE WON!  (You think I’m ruthless in games, try playing with some Korean elementary teachers).  Our prize: 50,000 won (about $43 US) and generic Pringles.

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