Monday, May 3, 2010


When I told people I would be teaching English in Chile, they always asked, "Have you ever taught before?". I'd say, "No. I might suck! We'll see."

Yesterday, I realized that I said that, but wasn't actually letting myself believe it. I've been holding myself to a standard of what kind of teacher I think I should be, how I think the class should run, what kinds of lessons I think I should be able to plan, what I think I should be able to do with the kids.

Notice the word "think" in there? That's a sign that whatever you're talking about is crap, pure mental fantasy that has no right interfering in your direct experience of moment-by-moment reality. Normally we don't even get that far. We concretize (or, in wankier language, "reify") our thoughts to the point where we think they're real. We don't say "the kinds of lessons I think I should be able to plan." We just say "I should be," and we don't notice that it's just an idea we're holding onto in our minds.

So last night I started lowering my standards, reducing my expectations, for myself as a teacher. My class will suck sometimes. I'll have awkward pauses. Some number of kids won't get it and I won't sufficiently check their understanding, or I won't have some brilliant creative flash that makes it happen for them. And that is genuinely and truly okay, in a way I didn't accept 48 hours ago. I'm letting go.

Letting go is how we end our suffering. And it's coming in handy right now, as I was just told today that in fact my classes are going to be 90 minutes, not 45. Not only that, but without damaging relationships, there's no way to change it for tomorrow. So I have, at least, two 90-minute classes. With a 45-minute lesson plan that's already difficult enough for me to create and execute.

No wonder I'm doing this now. Ten years ago I didn't have the training to keep calm when my world is kinda nuts and pushing all my buttons.

1 comment:

  1. One of the things I struggle with as a teacher is how to balance the plan I have in my mind with what the students need from me in the moment. I think of it as a randori where I have a set of ideas I want to convey that give me a shape to work with, but the details have to come from what I'm getting from the students. And sometimes the lesson plan just goes out the window in the first five minutes of class, and I have to make it all up as I go.