Monday, August 30, 2010

Your Life Is Hard

An important lesson.

I’ve been thinking about Italy a lot lately. It’s partly the weather, partly the timing.. I went to Italy in 2007, in the fall, and it was a wonderful, important experience for me.

Allow me to share a moment from that semester abroad.

We lived in a converted nunnery, the 30-odd students from various US colleges and universities. Every Tuesday we had all-day field trips to some site visit or other, where we’d receive on-site lectures about whatever monument or event we were traversing that day. Other classes included Latin, Greek, Italian, and art history.

I was standing in a friend’s room, going on at length about some thing or other. I suspect it was complaining about Italian homework, and how unreasonable it was that we were expected to learn so many verbs before the next class, and how I was tired, and I maybe hadn’t had time to do this or that, and Greek, and friends back home, and…

My friend looked up at me and said solemnly, “Yeah, EmLem, your life is hard.”

I stopped, and burst out laughing. Good God, she was right! What did I have to complain about? What have I ever had to complain about?

I get reminders of this lesson all the time, but the latest one is delivered to my work desk as I eat lunch today. I’ve been reading about the experiences of one of my friends and former co-workers as he essays into the teaching world. Unlike my job, his is hard. Even my short spell as a Latin teacher was a blissful cakewalk in a lot of ways. Now, I’m just an assistant, and I deal neither with major lesson plan arcs (well, not above elementary level), testing, nor discipline. Basically I get to skip all the crappy sides of teaching and stick with either just the fun part, or ‘whatever I want.’ I can make lessons easy. I can make them only games. Basically, I am horribly spoiled and coming down from this into a ‘real job’ will suck very hard. Unless I find a way to never have a hard job, that is.

Summer vacation is hard in its own way. Mostly, JETs have to engage in whatever personal pursuit will most effectively fill their days and curb ennui. Some spend all their time playing various sports with their students.. I wanted to be that guy, tried to be that guy, but it wasn’t easy, with different teams all over the place at different times. I only Friday found the sannen (cats' class) dance party in the gym and joined in. They aren’t there today, though. I had many different ideas as to how I would do this, but in the end I’ve mostly studied kanji. I’ve “learned” 508 of those freaking things, some easy and others ridiculously complicated-looking. My plan is to try to nail that set flat before I try to pick up the other 1500 or so.

My thoughts turn over and I read about what real life classrooms are like stateside, especially in the higher-risk lower-motivation areas and schools. It’s not especially encouraging to someone considering teaching as a career move… although that does continue to be heavy on my radar as a post-JET option. I am thinking I would like to teach Latin, English, ESL, or Japanese. (After getting certified, of course)

Other options which I thought I would spend summer break researching (but have not) include: The Foreign Service (liiike being an ambassador or somesuch), Therapy (like, for your mind, yo), and as always, Editing Written Materials.

Well. I’m thinking about them, even if I’m not researching them. So there.

Another reason I have thought of Italy recently is that one of my centro companions, Ice, has recently contacted me to let me know she’s matriculated as a graduate student at Vanderbilt. Despite never having done that particular thing myself, it makes me feel nostalgic. I was a special undergrad, and I hung around the department office far more than your average kid.

One other notable summer-vacation thing is that I rarely use my computer at home, to the point that stuff I can’t do at work (consume youtube videos posted by my peers, for example… that doesn’t work here) online just doesn’t even get done, most of the time. When I get home, I just want to get out, or socialize, or clean up, or lie around… none of which are computer-screen friendly. I don’t even really watch movies. I guess that’s a good thing. I often end up feeling, though, like nothing ever actually gets done!

I guess, until summer vacation ends, I can kind of be okay with that.

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