Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Dog-Paddling In the Deep End

I like the CELTA philosophy of "You want to teach ESOL? Go do it!  (And then we'll tell you what you did that you should keep doing and what did that you should never do again...)", but I admit it is more than a little like tales I've heard of military basic training. You either must rise to the occasion and earn the right to be a member of the corps, or slink away, never to be seen in the company again. I've not been sent to wash the metaphorical latrines quite yet, but my face is in the mud and my boots are in a bad need of a spit-shine.

This morning, I was so keyed up about the possibility of oversleeping my alarms (I have a succession of three) that I didn't pause to consider the time when I woke up naturally at dawn and stumbled into the kitchen to fix myself a cup of strong tea. Not until I'd brewed a cuppa so dark that the teabag was invisible below the surface did I glance up at the microwave clock and register that it wasn't 7AM, but 5AM. A wee bit early, as my Irish classmate would say.  By that time, my brain was churning about all the things I had left to do before my first observed teaching session (9:15-10AM), and there was no more rest to be had.

It's not that I was expecting this course to be easy, but I think all of us nurse a secret hope that we'll find we're really untrained savants in our chosen vocations (or avocations)--all we'll have to do is to show up on stage, begin to sing, and Simon Cowell will bow down and worship. Like the indomitable Lady Catherine in Pride and Prejudice, even if we don't say it aloud as she did, our subconscious whispers, "If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient"--except in our modern sloth, we omit the element of education, and presume that were we only given the opportunity to show off, we'd be recognized for the geniuses we are. Well, this week, I have been offered the chance, and I have not been so identified, by myself or by others. Reviews were kinder than I expected today, so there is hope I can improve, but considerable training will be required for me to reach a reasonable level of competency. Thanks to all those who prayed on my behalf. 

The Irish guy in my class spent the last 3 years in Korea working 9AM to 9PM daily. He went on the EPIK program, which is supposed to be no more than 25 hours a week... But they did pay him extra. The two Russian girls in my class taught English in Thailand. There's an American missionary, and a retired Foreign Service officer (who's an adjunct professor of Italian), plus a girl from Turkey and a young lady from the UK who had trained to be a croupier.  It's an eclectic, well-traveled and multi-lingual group, all bright, curious and friendly.  The British roulette and I are the only two without in-class TESOL experience.  We're all trying our best to imitate desiccated sponges and absorb all the considerable vitamin-rich moisture that's being poured on us--the tutors are awe-inspiring, and that they've been so patient with my uninformed questions and my awkward phrasing is to their unending credit.

In addition to the seven more lessons I've got to prepare to be judged upon during the next three weeks, there are four written assignments, and the 9AM-6PM class schedules to be followed. I'm glad the days are long this time of year, so I don't have to hike to and from the metro in the dark!  At lunch, Robert, the (extremely cute, 26-year-old) Irish guy, threw up his hands in joyful anticipation of Friday, and we girls asked him if he had special weekend plans. "Yes!" he said with a smile. "Sleep!"

Czechs are very polite on the metro--people let others get off without shoving their way on, and I've seen several men yield their seats to little old ladies. As with every big city, one must keep aware of one's purse in case of pickpockets, but the transport system is easy to figure out and runs with great efficiency--I've never had to wait more than 4 minutes for a train. There are lots of nice little food/goods vendors in and around the metro stops, including one bakery/butcher shop, where I have traded handfuls of crowns for poppyseed-centered pastries (any idea why I am not losing weight, despite all the walking?). And the cafe at the school serves quad-A food for single-A prices.

Frederica and I see one another when our hectic schedules permit, and both of us hope for rest and quiet in our off-hours.  Though I bent her ear for three hours over pizza and a bottle of wine this evening, she still seems to enjoy my company, and I love having a kindred spirit with whom to share the stories accumulated during (or triggered by association with events of) the day.  I hope I don't drive her crazy.  

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