Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Wind in My Sails


I used to be very adamant about blogging regularly, but the past couple weeks I have been getting out of my groove. Today is Thursday and I have concluded another full four-day week of teaching. It is always hard getting back into the swing of things after exam week. Monday and Tuesday I was going over tests, telling people they needed to do better if they wanted to move up with the rest of the class, and eluding the normal curriculum because not everyone had new books; including me. Wednesday and today, however, I felt like a real teacher, hitting the subject matter with full force and pushing my students. Yesterday I had to interview like 5 people when I had a class to attend to. It was a bit annoying, but it wasn’t too big of a deal. All of them tested very high, but I felt bad because I placed all of them very low. There is a big difference between someone’s knowledge of the language and their speaking ability. You can listen to many Americans speak well enough to communicate, but if you see them write anything you will know they do not have very good knowledge of their mother tongue. The opposite is also true. I have seen people teach English, and teach it well, while not being able to have a full conversation with me. Language is a very mysterious thing that drives all of life. I love it.

Out of all the people I interviewed, there was only one man that I put in my class. I told him he could try out Level 2, so he joined us later that night. My level 2 is a very good group that I trust to work hard and so I push them hard. After sitting through my class, and listening to my assignments the man had a troubled look in his eyes. I took him aside after class and asked him what he thought. “I think this will be too difficult for me,” he said politely. I reassured him that it was ok and that there is no shame in going to Level 1 before Level 2. I realized that this week I had been pushing my students very hard. I have no problem telling them things like they are. I tell each of my students that I am their teacher and that means by the end of my classes they should be communicating like a native speaker. I tell them that they paid for these classes and it is my job to teach them English—therefore they will learn English. I have high expectations, but I am by no means unmerciful. I was thinking about this today and where this aspect of my personality comes from, but it didn’t take long to realize I am so much like my father.

It’s scary really. You hear all the young people saying that they are nothing like their parents as they try to shape their own identities and you hear all the middle-aged people talking about how much they are like their parents while they wrestle with life’s real demands. Personally, I think it would be an honor to be like my parents. I can’t think of two better role models. I got lucky. In my last blog I wrote about women and I told you how much I love my Mom, but in this blog I want to tell you about how much I love my Dad, because it was his birthday on Tuesday. My Dad is a funny man. He has a mysterious aspect of his personality that will always keep you guessing, but a kind heart that glows through any circumstance. He’s a bit compulsive, chaotically organized, but driven and a true intellectual. Although he would like to blame the chaotic part of his organization on his children and his wife (which may be partially true) I know his style better than he thinks. I know this because while coming to Kazakhstan I have taken another slice of my independence and I have gotten to see a bigger chunk of who I really am, or rather who I am becoming. I am a guy who thrives on organization, but it is a type of organization that may not look entirely orderly to other people. I am a guy who likes to wake up to a clean kitchen; something I used to think was so odd about my father. I am a guy who likes to complain. Basically, I am a guy who has taken after my father, but not to worry; it hasn’t turned out to be such a bad thing after all. I recently read a Narnia book about a sailing adventure at sea. I have been thinking of my life as a fanciful ship gliding across ever-changing waters of a vast ocean. My Parents have played a big part on this ship. I see my Mother as my anchor, firmly supporting me and always holding me where I need to be; my comfort, my peace. My Father is the mast—supporting my sails and guiding me to different routes. He has always been my inspiration to steer into the dangerous and uncharted parts of the sea; my inspiration to meet adventure head on. Of course, both my parents play both of these roles quite well and they both play the fountain of love that nourishes my soul and enriches my journey. So the point is—I’m lucky and extremely thankful to have the wonderful parents I have. Happy Birthday, Dad!

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