1 p.m. After four straight days of successfully getting up – YES! IT’S TRUE! – at 8 or 8:30 a.m. to make it to my Global TESOL class on 32nd street I loll in bed on Friday, when we don’t have class. I could be catching up on sleep. Or I could just be doing as i do – avoiding and lollygagging when I don’t have any set engagements. The sleep is good, but as I discovered with delight, I was able to function quite well on 6 or even 4 hours of sleep. The apartment is dingy – there are clothes and books on my bed, which only goes on because the bed is so large that I can have a pile o’ junk on there and not be bothered by it as I always sleep in my stingy little corner on the left side. There is a bag of clothes near my door that has been there for months – clothes I want to give to the salvation army. I ought to fill the bag further before my move – get rid of as much fetter as possible. No ties! Sell as much as possible. Thankfully, so little in this apartment is mine. I wonder if – and this is a big if – I might be able to stay here at Jean and Frank’s place when I come back to the States for a few weeks or however long between teaching gigs. They said they don’t plan to rent it out after I leave … mebbe?
The other night, at work, a surprise: as I hunched over my computer, editing, there came a tap on my shoulder. It was Pepper – one of our writers.
“Are you taking the International Teachers’ course at Global TESOL?” she asked.
Inside, I panicked. I barely knew Pepper – how had she heard about this? I tried to think of who I had told and then who could have told her. And then – why was I panicking? Of course, I don’t want my higher ups to know I am planning on looking for new work but as far as I know, Pepper is not friendly with any of them. And honestly, why would she tell any of them? I was being silly. Silly!
“Yes.” I said. “Who, uh, told you I was …?”
“I don’t remember,” she said loftily. “But that’s really cool! I’m taking it, too. I started the other day ….”
Pepper is a friendly and intelligent bespectacled young lady, just finishing college. She is the age most people are when they contemplate a move abroad. I am 26 and already cranky, my once-youthful gleam dulled once I realized my degree at NYU and internships at TV Guide and such did not, in fact, entitle me to a fantastic job as a New York City journalist. Rent-paying jobs, including nannying, freelance transcription, waitressing and TV trivia writing have been more like it. So has writing countless articles and reviews for websites and magazines for exposure but no pay. These days I am an editor for a television advertising company’s website as well as a theater critic on the side for a free magazine. I can’t complain, really – the absence of a more glamorous career has less to do with bad luck or timing than it has to do with a crippling lack of confidence. Or maybe I’m just not cut out to be a journalist – cramming my square self into a round hole. Facts, figures, conciseness, deadlines … these all make me pale and each piece I churn out almost always falls short of what I believe to be my potential. But if all I’ve ever wanted to do since I was a child was write and I’m not a filmmaker or a playwright and have zero inspiration in the way of fiction … what else will it be?
“The course,” said Pepper. “is awesome! I’ve been feeling really nervous about what to do after graduation but now, after the first class I feel totally pumped. Like I can do anything!”
Pumped. That sounds … wonderful, even as I wonder if, at 26, I’ll be a dinosaur in the world of teaching English abroad.
That was a few days ago. My own stint in the Global TESOL course is half over; the first is week down with one more to go and, to my delight, much of it has lent itself to narrative. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. – each day has seen me arriving at class (somewhat disheveled yet always freshly bathed) at around 9:03, always one of the first ones there. The first day of class saw me running late and I grabbed a cab, spending the money I had planned to use for lunch.
There was the aforementioned rushing to class. There was the payment for the course – a large chunk of money (smaller after the deposit but large, still, and took my bank balance down lower than it has been for months). There was the timid entering and quiet surveying of the other members in the class. There was just a handful of us, seated by twos at long tables in the classroom. Quiet, polite chatter; pleasant faces aside. I sat next to a tall, pleasant-looking fellow with a fade and surveyed the instructor – tall, laughing, in what one might call a “business casual” ensemble – a button down and tie underneath a sweatshirt paired with jeans. Said instructor told us that he had taught all over Europe – most recently in Poland. I thought of what Pepper at work had said about feeling “totally pumped” after her first class and sat back in my seat, preparing to get “pumped.”
I was not pumped. The first day was filled with ice breakers – which the instructor deemed of the utmost importance – and reading aloud from the 600-page text book we were all given. We discussed making lesson plans, teaching methods, teaching techniques and our final presentation to be given at the end of the course, where we will all be teaching the class for 20 minutes in a foreign language. The idea, said the instructor, is to give us not just a chance to practice making a lesson plan and applying teaching methods and techniques to our lesson, but to give us the experience of teaching people who don’t understand what we’re saying. A great idea, I thought, though I panicked at the idea of speaking in front of a group for 20 minutes and felt badly for the minority of people in the class who didn’t speak another language – according to the instructor, they will have to “make one up.”
Panic – rather than “pumped,” I felt panicked. One of our “ice breaker” exercises was to come up with a lesson plan with our table partner. My partner and I crafted a lesson plan for teaching greetings – formal, informal, and the like, yet my panic grew. The instructor asked me to speak first and it was a complete flashback to my senior year of high school in my American Government course – I turned red, stammered, couldn’t get words out. My partner came to my aid and I was able to calm down enough to interject at points but this left me … again, panicked. How am I supposed to be a teacher when I can’t talk in front of people and can barely string together a coherent thought? I wondered. I lugged my text book home and fretted. lesson plans? organization? how am i supposed to do that? who was I kidding? what was i thinking? i can’t be a teacher!! I angrily messed around on my computer, taking a brief nap before work, and after I woke, groggily began to compile a CD of songs I thought might be helpful in learning English – such as “Oh, Sherrie” by Journey which uses the conditional; should have been gone, must have been dreaming, “Friday, I’m in Love” by The Cure which discusses days of the week – and slowly began to feel a little better … perhaps a little more “pumped.”