Friday, 7 September 2012

Cert.TESOL - Week 2 - When Delusions Come Knocking

So, I’m on my way home after a very long, very strenuous and very emotional week and as I’m standing in the crowded carriage dying to find my way home, I notice a fly buzzing about overhead. Now flies don’t bother me much (unless they’re hovering over food – or terrifying my friends) and how a fly managed to cycle safely through a carriage full of hot, sweaty workmen and women desperate to get home, I’ll never know. But ultimately, after swanning around, it settled onto the hand of a man standing in front of me. And rather than my first reaction being – how is it that this man cannot feel this beetle crawling all over him - I started to consider that maybe this was the part where it bit him and that tomorrow, he’d become England’s very own Spiderman.

Don’t worry. I haven’t lost my mind. I am, however, functioning on just three hours sleep and it is something that I have never done before. It does not compute how it is that I am functioning, but I assure you all that I am very close to nodding off as I write this.

TESOL has taught me a lot this week and it goes a lot deeper than lessons on grammar and lesson planning in general...


I believe the collocation* is delusions of grandeur.

For me, it would be ‘delusions of failure’. I’ve always had an issue with failing and it’s something that helps to define me as a person. Ultimately, however, I taught for the first time in my life this week and it was incredibly nerve-wracking. As part of the course, you need to teach six hours worth of lessons. I taught four lots of thirty minute lectures – so two hours ultimately. I thought that my first lesson went horribly. I taught prepositions and had been driving myself up the wall with worry as to how I would go about it. The lesson took me four days to plan, I criticised the hell out of myself and was awarded a merit**.

On my second teaching practice day, I hated my lesson and it showed. I was all over the place, dropping pens and constantly referring to my notes. In fact, I was so nervous that I kept thinking that the deodorant that I’ve been using for the past ten years – that has never failed me once – had actually stopped working. I was so disappointed in myself and reached an all time low. I criticised the hell out of my lesson and yet by some fluke, still managed to pass. For my third and fourth lessons, the same pattern emerged leading me to feel that truly I am my own worst enemy. I still say my lesson today was too easy for even pre-intermediate students – students who make you feel like you’re trying to draw blood out of a rock at times - but I managed to get through it and I’m so very grateful for the weekend even though I have a mountain of work to do.

Delusion Number One: I am a failure.


After teaching, we have a feedback session, where we all give each other positive and constructive criticism in order to help each other better ourselves. The tutor supervises and it’s all pretty well constructed. During my second lesson, however, I was so disappointed in myself that I broke down and made a fool of myself. Everyone was relatively sympathetic and as I mentioned earlier, the constant theme that rises during my feedback sessions is that I’m way too hard on myself. On the day of my third lesson, however, the printer broke down, meaning that the entire class was running around like headless chickens trying to find a way to print off work. I managed to print off most of what I needed and launched into my lesson, but a colleague of mine had a terrific breakdown and disappeared halfway through even though she was due to teach that day. On the same day, another colleague of mine received a low grade and went home feeling so down with herself that she emailed me expressing her desire to quit.

Now, I’m not the most sympathetic person. I tend to look at things logically at times and find it difficult to feel genuine sympathy at times even if I do identify. I mean, seriously, if a body fell from the sky and landed in front of me – after about two or three seconds of raw surprise, I’d probably phone an ambulance. A normal woman would probably have a seizure.

But both these colleagues felt completely at ease in confiding in me. And even though, it was strange for me, I held hands, hugged people in their time of need and offered encouraging words. Genuine as well. And I think, after this week, I’ve developed a few bonds in this place – people who I am genuinely grateful for and who I look forward to talking to, and who I don’t mind hugging even though two weeks ago we were perfect strangers. And even though, I don’t “awww” or twist my face into some method on console, I think I’ve discovered that in my own ‘logical’ way, I can identify with people on an emotional level and not just on the level of self-pity which I’m used to.

This therefore, brings me to this:

Delusion Number Two: I lack empathy


Now, I know for a fact that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But you do. I do. We all do. We look at someone and think we know them based on their manner or the way they dress. We stereotype and make assumptions and this’ll usually define the way we behave towards them. You’re not gonna introduce yourself to the scrappy little vagabond who’s sitting by himself downing a large bottle of whisky at the party, are you? You’re gonna try and steal a glance at (or, if you’re brave, chat to) the cute/handsome/strapping/tall/leggy/busty…etc little something in the centre of the room.

At my school, we get people from all walks of life. I hear Spanish and Italian floating along the halls mostly and just like people in general, some are very nice and others go about their business. During my teaching practice lessons, I was pretty convinced that I could identify where everyone was from just by looking at them. I immediately expected that most students were from Europe. There was a guy with long hair that resembled a Columbian guy I used to work with. I tagged him as Spanish. Then, there was a rocker guy that always wore a set of headphones - thin frame, long hair - I tagged him as Japanese. Well, Spanish guy was actually from Thailand. And the Japanese guy was Peruvian. And all those European students were indeed Spanish speakers – all of whom were from South America.

Mind was blown.

Delusion Number Three: I know everything.


Just being on this course has opened my eyes to different things because as I may have mentioned in the past. I am completely out of my comfort zone. I'm an introvert by nature. I don't mind spending time alone. I have only a handful of people who I consider to be 'friend' - and I mean, truly - and I'm not as close to my family as I could be. This course has pretty much forced me in reverse. I can't hide in the back row like I might have done if this course had been shorter and less work-orientated. In fact, I actually don't want to. I talk to people a lot more and speak up in class even if my answers are incorrect.

I'm still a little uneasy, however. Don't worry. My confidence hasn't just materialised out of thin air. Standing in front of a class trying to elicit language and facing silence is still a bit of a fear for me. And next week, I'm planning hour-long lessons for different classes, which equally makes mel feel a little out of sorts because of what I've heard about these groups. Nevertheless, I'm gonna try and persevere anyway. I've said it myself. I'm already halfway there. Can't quit now.


Delusion Number Four: I'm out of my depth

*a lexical term. Go TEFL.
**Can be fairly difficult to obtain. Obtaining a merit overall is by means of some unknown force for a newbie teacher.

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