Whoopee Cushions and Heart

Ihad another class fizzle out on me, last Thursday.

The class had wrapped up a bit early, and I was left sitting at my desk puzzled about how I could better keep the attention and interest of the students, while making the course interesting, AND also trying to cover all of the material I need to cover in a short 7 week span.   AND maybe try to save the world at the same time.  I joke.  I was, however, eagerly piling up my plate with tasks and pressures which is my go-to when I am trying to make everything perfect.

I left the college at 9 pm to walk home after class, following an interesting conversation with another second language teacher who was able to give me some good tips. He also clearly read my desperate need to be the perfect teacher, as he kindly told me not to take the job on too much.  He encouraged me to be aware of the limitations of the job: very short semester, LOADS of material to teach, and a curriculum which doesn’t tie in with a 5 hour/week schedule.  He told me to do the best that I could, without killing myself for perfection.  Apparently I wear my perfectionist badge all over my face.

I got home and against my better judgement which, on the walk home had told me to wait, engaged in what ended up being another rant of frustration with Ian through texts.  I told him that I hadn’t been able to find a nice niche where I was able to teach all of the technical stuff like verbs, while still making the class interesting.  The students weren’t jumping onto my bandwagon of the English language, like I had hoped they would.  I was pouring my effort out in hours of lesson planning as I tried to find interesting material to keep them engaged.  It wasn’t working.

Ian had suggested to me that perhaps I wasn’t teaching with my whole heart-that I hadn’t fully committed to it.  My being the sensitive and hormonal soul I was last week, took this as a failure on my part.  I had thought I was investing everything into this job-I was lesson planning for ages, I was coming into the class enthusiastic and excited about the material I was going to be teaching.  And then I would watch the energy of the class slowly and painfully exit the room, like the air exiting a whoopee cushion.  Clearly, as I thought Ian was implying, I was just failing at this, and my lack of heart in the job was really a sign that teaching is not my jam, as I have so often thought it to be.

I cried hot tears of frustration and failure, feeling more lost than I have felt in months, and went to bed.  Ian had tried to explain his thinking further, but again I wasn’t up for hearing it.  I had misinterpreted what he had said, and as the misinterpretation fell in line with my own self-destructive thoughts that have been with me forever, I was more open to hearing that I had failed and was a failure than I was open to hearing what Ian was really saying.

At the college with the language courses, there is no entry point assessment for people looking to take a class.  They simply go online, and through their own skills of deduction, they place themselves in the level they believe themselves to be at: beginner, intermediate or advanced.  As there is no assessment at the start, the range of learners within one level can be quite large.  When students finish the course after 8 weeks comprised of two 2.5 hour evenings each week, there is no exam or assessment either, to determine how much they have absorbed.  It’s a very relaxed system, and while it leaves the door wide open for the teacher to make the class what they want it to be, it also provides the challenge of effectively teaching material to a slew of different abilities and levels.  One perspective, which has been brought to my attention a few times now, is that the course doesn’t have any major expectations-on the students or the teacher.  All of that being said, the students do fill out an evaluation at the end of the course where they can provide feedback to the college.

It is this last detail that I have had a death grip on for the last several weeks.  I have managed to skew this evaluation on the course into an evaluation on ME as a person.   I have convinced myself that this evaluation will heavily influence my future.  I believe this evaluation will present a true reflection on the type of person I am.  I have given my power away to this evaluation, and the students.

Ian and I got together on the Friday morning following my fizzled-out Thursday class.  By the time we had met up, I had cried a great deal, and had had the realization dawn on me, of what Ian was trying to get at through our text conversation from Thursday night.

I wasn’t teaching with my whole heart, nor had I fully committed to the job.  I was definitely excited about the job, and was trying to make my part of it perfect, but I wasn’t giving all of myself.

Over the last 3 weeks, I have been painfully aware of the end of term evaluations, and I have been scrambling to put a course together for the class, and for the feedback they may or may not supply the college of me.  I’ve been teaching for the evaluations, and as such have not been teaching for me, or putting all of my energy and what I know I am capable of into the position.

It’s another situation where I have been doing something for someone else, and not for myself.

A few days out, and some really good conversations with Ian later, I know now that had I prepared lessons thus far that came from me and weren’t concerned with what others may or may not have thought of me, they would have been engaging and inspiring.  I know to a certain extent if the students of the class are lacking in motivation, there really is only so much I can do, but if I teach from my source, without fear, I know I will have done a really great job.  I know I will have provided the students with the best course possible.

It’s challenging to let go of the fear of others and their thoughts of me.  It’s been a fear I’ve carried with me for a long time, and as such getting into the habit of deliberately and consciously letting go is going to take time and practice.  And patience with myself.

Over the last several days, I have really begun to appreciate what happens when I do or engage in something out of fear, versus what happens when I do or engage in something out of love.  It’s interesting, because from an intellectual perspective, I know the results of both.  I know when I act out of fear the results aren’t great, and there is little to no growth for me.  Likewise I know when I act out of love, the results are often amazing and unlike anything I could have predicted.

I grow so much when I act out of love.

With Love,

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Olivia Shaw

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