Welcome, one and all to the blogstravaganza. While writing this blog I find that the part that I have the most difficulty with is coming up with the intro and the outro paragraphs. Since I stepped off the airplane some seven months prior I have been writing down little notes about my mental state and the state of events that I think would be somewhat fascinating for people to hear about. Every week when it comes time to pry myself away from idle pursuits and start tap tap tapping a post out, I reach into the metaphorical hat and fish out a few juicy thoughts that I feel I can verbally meander into a thousand words. This means that the meaty word substance that comprises the middle sections is somewhat preplanned. At the least there has been some prior thought expended over what will be said. Unfortunately a random jumble of thinly strung together concepts drawn from notes taken months apart does not always lead itself to the cohesive narrative that I am pretending connects events. So, what do I do? What would be the smoothest way for me to transition gradually and naturally from last week’s post into the topic of today? It is a good question, one that I gladly ignore. Instead, my dear reader, I give you a two hundred and thirty three word non sequitur before cold opening into…
The first week of school had flashed by in a notebook scribbling haze. For my efforts I had gained four days of observational experience. This meant that I now had some idea of how I would be spending my time at school. After having witnessed how each teacher handled their job day to day, I didn’t believe that my higher ups would expect more of me than from their actual accomplished teachers. I now had a baseline understanding of what the expectations were for me. Back in the flat, we were still living the life sans internet. An appointment had been made that guaranteed us a speedy reunion with the great information cloud in the sky. My free time went towards exploring the city and spending time with my new improved and not quite sick girlfriend. I had a positive outlook for the future. This whole teaching deal seemed to be really easy from what I saw the professionals do. Surely it would be as easy for me and I would have no unforeseen hardships cropping up in the future. None. At. All. Entirely easy. A can do and a positive attitude were definitely all that stood between me and that sweet government distributed Hungarian currency.
Towards the end of that first week, I had many a discussion with my fellow English teachers. They would very thoughtfully ask me if I knew what I was going to do when the classes were entirely my responsibility. Somewhere along the way I had somehow developed an unwarranted overconfidence in myself. This would lead me to respond in the affirmative that I did indeed have a plan. Fortunately for foolish me, my teachers saw through my foolish foolish claims that I had a handle on the situation. They imparted me with as many tips and tricks as they could condense into the limited time before my tenure as teacher began. I am immensely grateful to them for all of the help they have given me in the process of tricking the students into believing that I am actually a teacher. In the next week of work the difficulty was to take a slight upwards tilt. It was set to be a reverse of the first. I would teach the entire class as my co teachers would sit back and take notes on my teaching style.
My first week at my new profession drew to a close. As those lovely days of rest at week’s end worked their way towards Monday morning, I had some homework that had to be completed. Now that I was going to be the driving force for these classes, there would need to be a lesson plan in place before work came back around. So I aped the actions of others, with slight variations on the formula accounting for the new materials students were learning from week to week. This seems like it would be a simple process. Ha, ha. How hilarious that joke is to future me. I likely need not mention that there are worlds of difference between practice and experience. It was most certainly not the simple thing of which I had anticipated. Even with reams of notes and a solid skeleton for me to hang each lesson’s delicious meaty knowledge on, it took me an inordinate amount of time to create that heinous lesson plan. So on Sunday night I, with great vigor, wasted equal hours on cobbling a lesson plan together and watching videos on youtube to procrastinate that very action. The great beast was slain though and I sat hunched over a chair in victory.
With my notebook filled with ingenious means of instructing the pupils, I was ready to take the reins of this classroom and plunge headlong into my time as a English as a second language teacher. The classes went well. The students were excited to be taught by their brand new foreigner. They were responsive and actually quite intelligent, maintaining a rather firm grasp on the English language. If any confusions were to become an issue, my co teacher was ready to lend a word of Hungarian to keep the class moving along. My daily stint ran its course and then the other instructors would come to me, and discuss the minutia of the day. They told me what they appreciated about my methods, and they told me what could be improved in the future. Then I would ask how they wished for me to proceed over the coming days. Day to day, much was the same I absorbed a little more about how a school runs. Each class had its own individual challenges that I would in turn deal with as they arose. I created a set of class rules with every group with basic ideas like speaking in English during class and raising your hand to speak. The students were all receptive to the transfer of control to this new entity. Then, upon retiring for the day back to my humble residence, I would on average spend eight hours alternating between writing the lesson plan for the next day and trying very hard to find reasons to not write the lesson plan.
It quickly became a source of misery in my life. For reasons unbeknownst to me, I had erected a mental barricade to stop myself from just doing the work and making my life easier. If you have ever put things off to your detriment you will understand the feelings that flow through you when there is a deadline imminently approaching. There’s the fear of not meeting the time limit. There is the self reprobation that you put upon yourself because you know every moment you waste only makes the inevitable struggle for accomplishment that more difficult. You know that you are doing it to yourself. The emotions permeate your mind with stress which only makes you want to retreat further inwards and seek refuge in those same comforts that delay you. This was the point at which I realized that procrastination had become a strong instinct in my life. It was my method of coping with external pressures, and it needed to be addressed.
I know I keep referring to my lack of experience when talking about my problems but in a job like this lack of experience is almost your biggest problem. I didn’t understand how to roll with the momentum of a class or to restart progress when a lesson stalled. I couldn’t just improvise what to do without having backup plans for my backup plans. The thoroughness of your lesson plan is inversely proportional to your experience as a teacher. A more comfortable teacher doesn’t need to necessarily write out a detailed description of moment to moment action in the classroom. You learn what works and for how long, and you can draw from memory. I was so afraid of the empty void of not knowing what to do or how to proceed. The lull of a class with nothing to do was like a physical pain reminding me that I had no idea what I was doing. This led to me writing out actions on top of actions, trying to prepare for every eventuality. This was the only way that I could attain a level of comfort in the classroom. It was highly neurotic, which was a trait that I never associated with myself. It was also the reason that I was spending hour after hour banging my head against these lesson plans every day.
Whereas that first week rolled on by like a jet piercing the sound barrier, this second week was an uphill slough through the mires of uncertainty, procrastination, and self induced suffering. All I could do was tough it out with the help of those close to me. I continued to meet the problems head on until they began to abate. Unfortunately for me, this process took me months of continual work. Eventually I did start getting accustomed to the demands upon me. I gained comfort in lessons and lesson plans, and if you want a good indication of just how much my process of preparing for a class has changed in these seven months, here is an example of the lesson plans for my very first day versus the lesson plan I wrote for yesterday.
That’s how it went, my first two weeks of school done and chronicled. That got a little personal in there; but seeing as how I am using this blog as more of a diary than anything else, I hope no one will begrudge me too much for the self indulgence. For those of you who have been reading along with my little adventures I do appreciate it, and I hope you have been able to derive some benefit from what I have been writing. To you I say, good day, good night, and good reading.