Tuesday, March 31, 2009

a dizzy pigeon

I'm growing up. I am losing some illusions perhaps to acquire others.
(Orlando, Virginia Wolf)

It's been quite a month. It's been 70 hours a week pouring my heart into the CELTA teaching course and still coming up with standard marks half the time. It's been a month of learning a lot and questioning everything I thought I knew. It was a month were I started off with confidence and enthusiasm and three quarters through started to loose all confidence in my ability to learn, to teach, to interact appropriately with anyone. It was a month where my best efforts often weren't good enough. It was a month where almost everyone in the course broke down in tears at one point or another. Including me. more than once.

It was a month of crazy making. Twelve 20 to 30 somethings were the CELTA candidates. trying to learn as much as possible and put it into practice immediately was overwhelming. overwhelming for some because they'd never taught before. overwhelming for others like me because first we had to unlearn everything we once thought we knew to be "true." at least one, if not two, of the twelve of us failed out. it was a tough month.

It's been a long long time since I tried as hard as I could and didn't ace it. It is perhaps the first time in my life that I haven't been sick/crazy, tried as hard as I could and didn't ace it. The ego took a slap across the face.

a boy I've been seeing a lot of commented that if this is the first time I'm being graded as average it means it's just the first time I've really been challenged. I called him cheeky and tried not to pout. I think he might have been right though.

the classes we taught were evaluated by our peers and a CELTA trainer. There are three possible grades: "not to standard," "to standard," and "above standard." Each week the criteria of what constituted a high mark was raised. An "above standard" class for week two became a "to standard" class week three. They kept us on our toes. On average, I would spend at least 4 hours preparing a 40 minute class. Working a real job back in Japan was so much easier.

Week one went well. Week two and three were tough. I would teach and afterwards think, that was a great class by previous Japanese standards, and then the trainer and my peers would systematically pick apart and explain why my class was ok, but "to standard" as the grading system went. I would stammer and try to defend myself but really, they were right. Soon my confidence, arrogance, insistence on defending my views was crushed. It hurt a lot. But out of it came a greater desire to listen and question everything I had once though I "knew".

Sometime in week three I was beat and finally ready to learn all I could. I realized that I wasn't going to be able to get the top mark in the course and ironically relaxed. I started asking all the stupid questions I could think of. At some point the trainer, after a series of these mostly stupid questions, looked straight into my eyes and asked accusingly, "You have a science background, don't you?" Umm, yeah.

"Well there's no right or wrong. Teaching isn't black or white. It's not the same formula every time."

Rather than snap back that of course I knew that, I was filled with a massive lack of confidence and wondered what the fuck this course was doing to me.

It was a rough month. The last class I taught went well. I know I passed the course as a whole though I don't know my mark. I'm a bit scared to go back to the school and see if I got a "pass," "Pass B," or "Pass A." Well, "Pass A" I think is out of the question. Even with 5 out of 9 "above standards." Dear god did I work my ass off.

The course finished last Friday and since I've done almost nothing other than sleep ridiculous hours a day, drink, laze about and plan a week (starting on Saturday) riding old bikes through the vineyards of Mendoza with this boy I quite like but very soon will likely never see again.

It's been quite a month. Every day I've changed my mind about what my future looks like. Yesterday the Brazilian embassy effectively forced my hand and made me nail down some dates with plane tickets. I've bought a ticket that has me arriving back in LA on June 26th. It's changeable but it's a plan to start with. I'm very seriously (ha! at least in comparison to everything else!) ahem. I'm very seriously moving to Eastern Europe/Central Asia in the fall and teaching English somewhere like Kazakhstan. It's an idea I'm falling in love with, like most of my best ideas that sound ridiculous to everyone else at first. Like going to Japan both times. Or coming to South America.

Moving somewhere like Kazakhstan makes a lot of sense in the current state of my brain. Most days I think of myself as a very dizzy homing pigeon. However, lacking grounding and direction is fantastic for feeling open to the possibilities of the world and life. Questioning everything I once knew has made me feel off center and lacking in previous confidence but also very capable of adapting and learning and growing.

It's been quite a month. and I've taken almost no pictures. the journey has been mostly within. much learning has happened.

and the adventures continue....