Thursday, September 24, 2009

In life there are never enough small t-shirts and turkey sandwiches

I don’t know if I will ever be good at this, I mean I would even be satisfied with “ok” (which, if you know me well, is a-typical)…”ok” might even be stretching it a bit; maybe I’ll just shoot for “not too horrible.”

It, as you probably know, is teaching. I might be over-exaggerating a bit, but after both of my whole two lessons this week I’ve either felt like I bored the children to death or didn’t get through to them at all, maybe a combination of both. Even more encouraging, one of the more experienced teachers offered these words of wisdom after I confided in her about my frustrations: “Oh, it isn’t uncommon to feel like that at all, I still do quite often lah.”

What!? And you haven’t given up yet!? Are you insane!? She must have noticed my expression, a sort of combination of horror, worry, and exasperation that I was obviously unsuccessful in masking despite a “valiant” effort to look totally calm, because she followed up with, “But then there are these really great moments when your students just ‘get it’, you see a light bulb go on and their eyes clear lah. You are no longer boring or confusing, but you’re teaching them something. These moments make teaching all worth it lah.”

You know the song in the Disney movie “Finding Nemo?” It goes something like “just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…” It has been stuck in my head all week, although my version is more like “just don’t drown, drown, drown.” I think it is my subconscious self’s way of offering encouragement. Personally, I think my subconscious self could have found a less annoying/less repetitive way of encouraging me, but, alas, at least it’s something. And so, even though I have bored 1.3 to death with my summarizing lesson and thoroughly confused 2.1 with my news article writing lesson, I will keep trying my hardest in hopes of even glimpsing one of those “ah-ha” moments in my students’ eyes.

On a more encouraging note as far as teaching goes, I have had some success teaching the teachers. Friday is the graduation day ceremony for the secondary four and five students (at my school they have graduation ceremonies and parties before the end-of-the-year tests so students can concentrate on studying). The teachers are preparing a song and dance performance, and I’ve been helping with choreography and teaching the dance. Maybe it is because I have a lot of experience teaching dance or maybe it is because I’m teaching teachers or maybe just maybe I am good at this, but I’m so proud of my “students.” They’ve all caught onto the movements quite well, and I have no doubt they are ready for their big debut on Friday. However, despite my confidence in them, they’ve requested that Stephanie, a co-worker/choreographer, and I perform with them and stand at the front so they can follow at the actual graduation ceremony. What an interesting way for me to be introduced to the student body and many of their parents: dancing like a fool in the front row at a graduation day ceremony! Such is life.

Speaking of life; When Lisa, Liz, Jenny (all PiA teachers in Singapore), Eliza (a PiA teacher visiting from Vietnam) and I met for wine, cheese, grapes, bruschetta, an escape from the boys, and girl talk at Leslie’s temporary apartment Tuesday evening, life was the conversation topic of choice. We talked about difficult past experiences, current world crisis, recent lessons learned in Asia, future goals and of course, after a couple glasses of wine, we discussed more the serious topics of boys, food, travel plans and shopping. My favorite life philosophy of the evening, though, was shared by Lisa.

“In life there are never enough small t-shirts and turkey sandwiches.” Really, how profound and true if you think about it. I mean how many times have you wanted a small t-shirt at a concert, gathering, leadership training etc. and all they have left are larges and XLs? And aren’t the turkey sandwiches always the first to go at catered lunches? But you learn to make do with what you have. What would you sleep in if not for all those XL t-shirts? And aren’t veggie and ham sandwiches just as good as turkey if you give them a chance? In life, maybe there isn’t always enough of what you want, but if you make do with what you have then, in fact, what you have may be better than what you wanted in the first place anyways. Yes, in life there are never enough small t-shirts and turkey sandwiches, but can’t our lives be even better because of it?

On Wednesday evening I slowed down a bit, because Tuesday was so busy with school, the gym, errands, and girls night. I spent Wednesday evening cooking dinner, doing laundry, reading, and smothering my face with a “red wine” face mask. The highlight of Thursday’s day at school, was invigilating oral exams for secondary one students. For three and a half hours, I listened to students one-by-one read a passage and discuss a picture. Then I prompted them with conversation questions, and gave them a grade. This is the method for checking students for oral skills in Singapore. In lue of public speaking class, the students have an oral exams throughout the term (like I said, exam oriented society). It seems to be quite effective though, and is an incentive for the students to practice their English outside of the classroom as many of them live in non-English speaking homes. I think I was just as nervous as the students, although they did seem pretty scared. Imagine being 13 years old and speaking your second language to a teacher you barely know for 10 whole minutes. I mean, I used to get nervous speaking for three minutes with my college French professor at 20 years old.

A long day at school, though, was followed by a very nice evening out. Steph and I met Jacob, Hannah, and their friend (and mine now too) Dr. Dan at a place called Chijmes in downtown Singapore. (It was Dr. Dan’s birthday. Dr. Dan is called Dr. Dan because he just recently got his PhD in some obscure, ridiculously amazing sciencey thing. We find this nickname incredibly amusing but he doesn’t always agree.) Chijmes is an area near the business district composed primarily of swanky bars and restaurants all offering Mediterranean style décor and outdoor seating. Enjoying a cool, fruity glass of white wine was a perfect contrast to the warm caressing breeze swirling around the patio of the tapas bar at which we chose our mosaiced table. Salsa music played quietly in the background. But, the softness of the music didn’t dissuade Jacob from convincing me to try “just one dance.” My three whole salsa lessons were no match for Jacob’s Costa Rican talents, but I did manage to keep up…barely and thanks to his leading. Maybe we’ll try again sometime soon at Bellini Grand, a club at Clark Quay. Their dance genre?...I think swing.

But no need to get too excited about possible weekend festivities yet. It is Friday at noon right now, and I’m blogging at my desk at school and snaking on some random fruit. I finished my summary lesson with 1.3 this morning and observed a comprehension lesson with 1.4. I’ve officially stuffed myself full of homemade Thai food that the P.E. department brought to the teacher’s room today, and while the gym is calling, my bed might be more persuasive in whispering about a nap. Wish me luck with the graduation day song and dance…t-minus 2 hours 15 minutes.

TIA, Cheers, and don’t worry if they’re out of small t-shirts or turkey sandwiches this weekend, it’s probably for the best,

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