Sunday, August 8, 2010

Lesson Learned

We've been in Alaska for ten days. We've done a lot of eating, reading, talking and sleeping. Also paid numerous visits to the local fishing river, searching in vain for the pink salmon that didn't get there until half an hour after our Kenai flight took off for Anchorage!

I worked for a few hours on my ESL class. It's a scary project, learning something entirely new. Each assignment, I read with unease and mild panic. I procrastinate for a few days, then give the assignment my best shot.

I realized in this slow Alaska time that my expectations for myself are way too high. I see myself thrown into a full ESL class, with all levels of students, having no idea what I'm doing. I had a similar experience 35 years ago. My first husband and I had moved to Columbus, Georgia, where he was going to the Army Officer Candidate school. I'd done some substitute teaching the prior year at the elementary school level. Each time, the teacher had left a lesson plan. Even so, I had taken no education classes and had no classroom experience. I met with some success, but I was never comfortable when the principal called, early in the morning, asking me whether I could come in and "help us out".

In Georgia, I went to the school district office to see if I could get on the sub list. They asked me if I had a degree and, when I said yes, they offered me a job teaching high school! We needed the money, so I said yes.

The district had just integrated its schools the prior year. I was assigned to a formerly all-black high school. All the athletes attending that school had been bussed to the formerly all white schools. So my school was left with little to be proud of. When I met with the principal, he said, "I don't care what you teach them. Just keep them out of the halls."

I braved the situation for six weeks and then quit. I was simply unprepared for the job. And that was the last teaching I did. 1972 is a long time ago.

Now I'm willing to learn how to teach ESL, but I realize some of that old fear was coming up. So then I looked up volunteer opportunities to work with ESL and I found several for classroom aide. Perfect! I don't have to start out knowing how to do it all! I get to learn and practice first.

I feel much better now. I can take it slow. I'm retired, after all. Jeez.




10 comments:

Teresa Evangeline said...

How great that you reached a point where you realized you could do it differently, that retirement should make life less stressful. I was a HS teacher many years ago and did some subbing. Even with experience, I did not like subbing, not the short-term, one day at a time kind, anyway. Not-so-glorified baby-sitting. My husband at the time finally told me to quit. Whenever the phone rang in the early morning, I swore. I might have used the F word.

Anything Fits A Naked Man said...

Oh, you're so funny! I think I may be like you when I retire. I think maybe you should hire someone to intermittently remind you to slow down, relax, and enjoy!!

DJan said...

Now this sounds like fun! You get to watch and learn and don't have to be "in charge" of everything! Cool! I look forward to hearing how it plays out.

#1Nana said...

"Jeez" is right. Give yourself some time. It's taken me a year to get into the slow lane and I like the view from here. LAst week I was doing some consultant work, writing a grant for the school district, and I pulled two all nighters getting the damm thing done. What was I thinking? I'm retired, Jeez!

Linda Myers said...

Teresa, I laughed out loud when I read your post. Thanks.

You are all so supportive. I love this blogging community!

The Bag Lady, Slowing Down

Ms Sparrow said...

I could really identify with your anxieties about study and taking over an ESL class. I went to college for the first time when I was in my 40's. It was a great experience and I'm sure you will have a wonderful time with your future as a teacher. Enjoy Alaska, while you can!

Deb Shucka said...

I admire your courage and your honesty. You're going to be a great ESL teacher.

septembermom said...

I know you'll be a great ESL teacher. Glad to hear that your enjoying the time in Alaska.

CherylK said...

You'll do great...no worries. I would like to say that that principal had no business in a school environment. Poor kids and poor you...no wonder you quit.

sallylwess said...

I love hearing about the way you are presenting yourself with new challenges. Teaching ESL is like teaching your own children to talk. You want to communicate with them, so you establish a safe and supportive environment first. Your welcoming nature will come through. Start out simple and before you know it, they are speaking and writing in English. You will feel like the miracle worker. It is amazing.