When the weather gets nice, they open this little door that leads directly from the cafeteria to the outside world. I always watch the kids run through it and off to recess, kind of jealously. Sometimes I’ll leave though it and then stand in the sun for a minute before going inside, just to get some fresh air.
I was doing this again today after eating lunch with my new co-teacher, Ms Jung. And she watches me, and asks, “…do you want to go for a walk through the park?”
"Yeah, that’d be awesome."
"You should go."
"Wait, we’re allowed to do that??"
My main co-teacher from last year had always made it seem like we weren’t allowed to leave school for ANYTHING. The few times I did over the last year, I’d be kind of in stealth mode. The only time I felt it was okay was when I had to go to the bank to pay the one bill that I can’t pay online, and even then, I felt weird about it (though I’d usually grab a coffee on the way back because caffeine).
BUT APPARENTLY it’s cool to leave during lunch. Which makes sense, obviously we have a lunch hour, but I’d always thought it would still somehow be frowned upon.
This has opened a whole new world for me. The park next to my school is really nice— there’s a playground area, a soccer field, and a few little paths, pagodas, and benches scattered about. It’s not fenced in or anything, it’s a public park where parents watch their kids run around, older woman hang out to chat and, late into the night, I cab drivers gather around to eat and drink soju.
The 6th graders, who I taught last year, were doing some kind of assignment sprawled out on these benches that circle trees, and they were, as always, shocked to see me and called out. One snipped a piece of his hair and showed it to me (“Teacher, I cut my hair.” ”Just now? Why??” “…I don’t know.”)
In the field, a group of older women were having soccer practice on one end while my 3rd graders ran around the other half, playing weird kid games. Some of them were crawling, and one girl ran off the field and across the sidewalk in front of me to squat down between some trees to dig in the dirt.
From now on, I plan to spend every possible second of lunch hour outside, watching the kids do weird shit and reading. This year is going to be awesome.