In Korea, winter/spring vacation is similar to summer vacation in America. Two blissful months off from school (though Korean students and some teachers are often required to come in anyway!). In the middle of the vacation, usually the second week of February, all the students and teachers return to school for the final few days of classes and graduation. Today was Su Bin’s graduation from high school and the end of my first semester as an ETA.
We had a half-day of school for closing ceremonies and graduation. Monica, the previous ETA at my school, came from Busan to visit her former students and watch the ceremony. Some of the students looked a little confused when they saw the two of us together in the hallway (“Oh no–there’s two English teachers! What do I do?!”). But the English teachers were glad to see her, and we spent the time before the ceremony chatting about what we did during the first half of vacation.
Mid-morning, everyone went to the gynasium for the graduation ceremony. Most of the ceremony was composed of speeches from the principal, students, and representatives from the parent-teacher association. The students who won academic awards went to the stage to receive their awards and bow to the principal. Interestingly, graduation honors were conferred upon the students en masse. No one, aside from the award winners, walked across the stage or bowed to the principal. I was surprised that the students were not individually honored and did not receive a diploma during the ceremony. I suppose the students received their diplomas afterward in their homerooms.
After the ceremony, which lasted about an hour, the students took pictures with each other and their teachers. They slowly trickled out of the school, and the teachers prepared to leave for an end-of-year lunch.
It was also Mr. Hong’s last day at Gimhae Jeil. He looked depressed as he cleaned out his desk after the ceremony. He kept giving extra school supplies and snacks to Monica and me. He had been the Fulbright co-teacher for all the ETAs (including Monica and me) that our school has hosted so far, so this will mark quite a few changes for him, for me, and for future ETAs. I wish him all the best at his new position in a Gimhae middle school.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, graduation is in the middle of winter/spring vacation. That means I have another two weeks off from school! No travel plans this time–just relaxation and preparation for my second semester as an English teacher.