Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Teaching--a real possibility

Yes, most of you have heard me swear up and down that I will never become a teacher. Mostly, I make this proclamation as a retort to the, "What are you going to do with that English degree, teach?" jab, but honestly, I never did think I would seriously consider teaching for two primary reasons:

  1. I have very little patience for children. In fact, I don't even really like children very much. I discovered this “lack of like” fairly early on, during the various babysitting stints I undertook in my adolescence. I don't dislike kids, per se, but I do not have that "oh my goodness, how wonderful, how precious, how joyful to be in their presence" feeling that so many people seem to get from being around a child. This, of course, becomes even more problematic when said child is being troublesome or obstinate, because reasoning with a child--as we all know--can be somewhat difficult, and I like to treat problems with nothing if not reason and rationality.
  2. I like to receive credit for my own work. Call this selfish, call is egotistical, but I like my own congratulations. Teachers are never congratulated for how well their students do. The teachers actually are the ones who are expected to offer the congratulations; they are the ones who compliment their students for doing so well. Meanwhile, the students should be the ones offering congratulations and thanks to their teachers for doing such a tremendous job forming them into the talented, smart human beings they have become. But no, few--if any—students come out grateful. So the occupation of teaching, on the whole, does not seem very appealing.

However. What is and always has been true is that I love to fix writing: my writing, my friends' writing, my peers' writing, any writing. I love to improve it, to play with the language until it says precisely what I want it to say (or, alternatively, until it says what I think the author wants it to say). My love for this has never wavered, and I have had the chance to practice it in multiple ways: editing my friends' and family members' letters/essays/etc., working as a writing tutor in college, and even looking over correspondences for my current bosses, on occasion.

Moreover, I have had a recent experience that makes me think that perhaps--just perhaps--the whole teaching thing might not be so bad. Granted, this experience involved teaching a physical skill (swimming) to an adult (the student is older than me) who wanted to learn the subject very badly (he practiced obsessively, asked loads of questions, and would have taken lessons every day if I had had the time to give them). Consequently, watching him progress and improve was so immensely gratifying, I didn't even need the reassurances that eventually came from my friends and family. (e.g. "He's already learning flip turns?! That's amazing! You must be an great teacher!") This experience also reminds me of swimming lessons I gave many summers ago: I taught a pair of twins all four strokes, helped a five-year-old learn how to float, and got a ten-year old girl who started out petrified of water to eventually jump off of the diving board . . . every day for the rest of the summer.

This brings me to an event that occurred two nights ago. I was lying in bed falling asleep when my roommate L___ knocked at my door. Usually, she and my other roommate B___ stick together and leave me out of the loop, but this time B___ wasn't home, so I got up and went to see what L___ needed. She was writing a letter asking her boss to apply for a FY 2010 work visa (she's Chinese), and wanted my help making sure everything sounded okay.

For whatever reason, although I was nearly asleep, with my hair askew and my eyes swollen half-shut, I felt invigorated by the task and sat down to help her with great gusto. As I went through each sentence, I asked her to explain the situation and all of its intricacies so that they could be made clear in the letter. Along the way, I taught her various English tips and tricks (e.g. "less" is for things that comes in amounts and cannot be counted, like water, "fewer" is for things which can be counted, like grains of rice). By the end, she had a clearer, more professional letter, she felt more confident, and I felt both proud and accomplished.

This is the sort of experience I want to have every day. Or, rather, this is the feeling I want to have every day: I want to feel accomplished. I want to feel that I improved something, that I helped someone, and that I got to work with language. Is this what will happen in teaching? Maybe. Every day? Doubtful. But teaching may be a gateway into other things I want to do, like travel, or learn another language, or interact with another culture. So if anyone knows of any outstanding ESL programs. . . .


Rome said...

go for it, girly!!!

Kim said...

hmmm...I'm delightfully amused by your latest entry. However, I can say having talked to many teachers in the last couple of months (those who have worked with adults as well as children and teens), it is very unlikely that you will find a place (or perhaps any profession) that will give you that sense of satisfaction every day. So perhaps that's not applicable to the decision making process. On the other hand, teaching engages the analytical, problem-solving skills, demands strong interpersonal skills, and generally always brings some kind of new adventure.

and, yeah, I agree. You really should learn another language :) However, I'd recommend Spanish over Arabic.

but we'll have plenty of time to hash this out in a couple of weeks. looking forward to being roomies for Turkey Day festivities

Mike S said...

Lately at my job, I've done a lot of proofing with different pieces of literature or communication that have come from the company. I tell everyone in my department how much I love proofing and how I'm always here to look things over. So I know how you feel. But with kids, you not only can help with their work, but shape their overall values and work ethic.

You would be a great teacher. Definitely consider it.

agoldste said...

Rome: "Girly?"

Kim: I can't wait to talk to you at Thanksgiving time, either!!! I wish those Spanish speaking countries didn't demand I already knew spanish before I got there... :(

Mike: Thank you for your encouragement!

Anonymous said...

I've always said that teaching on the collegiate level would offer you more of what you'd like to experience. Plus, you'd be challenged by your peers.