Since Chris and I both teach a lot of sophomores, we like to remind them every year that the definition of sophomore is that they are “wise fools”. It always gets a laugh from the upperclassmen who have very proudly moved on from that foolish age and are now self-proclaimed sages of the school, possessing all knowledge necessary to make it in the “real world”. As we enter our second year here at Seoul Foreign School, we can’t help but identify with these poor limbo-bound sophomores.
Having humbly survived our first year, it is incredibly satisfying to no longer be whispering to the person next to us in a faculty meeting about what the alphabet soup pouring out of our principal’s mouth actually means. We have learned to speak in acronyms and can carry on a conversation about IB, HL’s, IGCSE, IA’s, EE’s, and SYP’s with relative fluency. When a meeting is called in the LC, we know not only what those letters stand for, we actually know where it is located. So, during orientation week, we were feeling pretty competent as we reminisced about how far we had come in a year. Watching some of the new faculty roam mindlessly about with that all-to-familiar deer in the headlights look had us smiling in commiseration as we remembered the “sink or swim” feeling we had a year ago. But, swim we did and here we are with a bit more wisdom about the place we live and work.
However, I learned our second year in Taiwan to be careful during the sophomore stage to not be too overconfident. We no longer have the excuse of saying, “I’m new, that’s why I have no idea what’s going on.” That distinct privilege has now been passed to a new crop of teachers still trying to figure out where the meeting in the LC is. It only takes a small reminder as we leave our school’s campus and venture out into the city to see how truly foolish we still are. While we learned to speak SFS last year, our Korean is still pretty meager. Getting around in a taxi in Korean, we’re not too shabby. Ordering in a restaurant, so-so, as long as we stay within the specific menu that we know. Counting and being able to understand prices, etc.? I’m still terrible. Everyday conversation beyond hello and goodbye? Forget about it. The same is true for knowing our surrounding areas. Our neighborhood, we know pretty well. The foreign district and a nearby artists’ area, not too bad. Pretty much anything beyond that, we are lost, literally and figuratively.
So, here we are in limbo. We have gained wisdom in some areas but still come face-to-face with our foolishness on a daily basis. However, despite our precarious position, we have to agree with my Grandma who used to say, “There are no bad days, just some better than others,”… or maybe that was wine…