I’m sitting in a cold classroom waiting my turn to present my unit plan and two lesson plans to my teaching advisor. She’s a wonderful Russian woman with a huge heart who has taught, mentored, and cheered us through training. My lower back and rear-end are pinched into a tiny mint green chair that seems to be invented with torture and cruelty in mind, which frankly helps take my mind of my unit plan, which is a summary of five lesson plans for the five classes that I’m teaching next week.
The textbook that I am using would present an intense challenge for an English class in the United States, let alone non-English speakers. I am supposed to use this book to create a measurable, planned, sequential series of classes that build on each other to create a final intense production experience for the students. In other words, I’ve had to get very creative and strain my wacked-out brain simply to get something logical on paper. In the end though, I feel like I owe it to my students to have fun and interesting classes that teach them what they need to know, so most of the pressure is internal.
Oh, and I’m now teaching ten year-olds. Last week I switched out of my class of tenth graders, who I had become extremely close to, to jump into the fifth grade. To be honest, I was terrified before my first class and stayed up late that Sunday night working on posters, cards, and pictures. By the time I fell into bed, both of my hands and a good portion of my temples were stained with markers. On a side note though, it’s super impressive how my spider-man markers have been holding up. But anyways, it took me about ten seconds to realize how cool it is to teach fifth graders, and how much fun I have jumping around the class like a total clown. I mean how many times in your life is it a good thing if you think like a ten year-old, and building bridges and airplanes out of desks and chairs is a part of your job?
The textbooks are laughably more advanced than the students, but their teachers have been doing an awesome job teaching them, and they speak great for their age. Not to mention, all of the students are adorable and totally game for all of the ridiculous activities that I put them through, like diving under their desks every time I say the word ‘disappear’. Both the students and my team-teacher humored me on Wednesday in a strange reading comprehension game I thought of late Tuesday night. The students (and teacher) all put on badges and half the class saluted me as their starship commander as we tried to beat the other half of the class, led by the other teacher, on a race through the planets. I’m aware now what a complete nerd I am, I mean I spent five or ten minutes of precious teaching time explaining to my students how we needed to get as many star-blasting engines as possible, and trying to explain how sweet warp-speed is. Aaanyways, I swear I’m really teaching some English and valuable life-skills.
Teaching has been the highlight for me so far, but I could use more time to prepare, relax, and enjoy time with my friends before we get blasted off to the far corners of this enormous country. Site announcement, when we find out where our two-year site placement will be, is in less than a week. It ‘s given me and many other volunteers that I’m friends with a lot of anxiety. This country is so huge that it almost feels like I still don’t know what my Peace Corps country is, and although I am undeniably excited to hear where my site will be, I’m also worried about possible disappointment.
Of course there’s no way of knowing what will make me happy or not, so logically I shouldn’t feel too strongly either way when I receive my site, but emotions run much higher when you’re abroad and about to commit two years of your life to something. When Peace Corps staff ask me “What’s the big deal? You’ll make what you will out of it no matter what,” I understand the reasoning and appreciate the thought, but cannot help laughing at the ridiculousness of those words of wisdom. But I did sign up for this, and I know that I’m always making a choice to be here.
However, regulating my thoughts and feelings takes way more emotional discipline than I have, and probably ever will have, so I’m trying to keep my thoughts light, focus on my job, and have a good time. And anyways, on a lighter note, I’ve been noticing lately that I feel a much more consistent
satisfaction with life than I remember feeling when I was back home. Besides being with family, being with friends, and being in love, there was always something missing about spending time getting a paid-for education. I wouldn’t trade that crazy college experience for the world. But being here in the world, doing something real, and being somewhere else, activates my senses, makes me feel raw and alive, and is like a cool breath of fresh air.
Peace and Love,