Monday, September 15, 2008

A Better Me

Sometimes I sit in lessons and think about nothing but the clock. I struggle not to dart my eyes over at it every 3 minutes to see how much time has passed and I hate it for showing that the last "10 minutes" was actually only 5. After a few stolen glimpses, I start to wonder if the student's know when I'm looking (I think they do) and I feel bad about the fact that I may be sending them the message that they're boring or I don't enjoy the time with them.

The truth is that sometimes they are boring and sometimes I don't enjoy the time with them, but it has nothing to do with the students. It has everything to do with what happens to be going on inside of me. There are times when I just don't feel like teaching or talking. There are also occasions when I don't feel especially well, am tired, or have to pee and just want the lesson over with so I can go lie down, veg out, or empty my increasingly weak and shrinking bladder. And frankly, controlling a conversation by asking all the questions, keeping it rolling, and focusing mainly on what the student wants is something I don't always look forward to. On the occasions when I'm not in the mood, I sit around hoping that the students will be appreciably late or suddenly have to cancel the lesson (because then I get paid for doing nothing).

When I feel like this, I have to push very hard to be what I call "the better me." That's the me that has to keep repeating that the person I'd like to be wouldn't want the students to lose their money without getting anything back for it because of an unfortunate situation which causes them to have to cancel. That's the me which issues reminders that I'm being paid to do everything I'm struggling to do and that all adults have to do their job whether they enjoy it or not because the whole point behind "work" is that it's something you'd generally prefer not to do with your free time. After all, if people loved such things, they probably wouldn't need to be bribed to do them with a salary. The real imperfect, flawed me feels guilty for watching the clock and wishing the hour would just end when I'm being paid to sit there, teach, and talk to nice people while others are doing back-breaking labor or repetitive work for half my wages or less.

One thing I realized a long time ago is that the road between the personality I want to have and the one I really have isn't as long a one as I might think. If I work consistently at taking the necessary baby steps to get from who I am to who I want to be, the change will happen slowly but surely. It's all about mental impulse control. The hardest part is getting started and working yourself into a pattern where you don't allow the impulses to have free reign over your emotions or personality. For instance, when you want to become a more patient person, silently fuming at the old lady who takes 5 minutes to pay for her purchases by only opening her purse after the transaction is complete and then digging around for change for an eternity isn't going to contribute to making you more patient.

It's the little experiences which are where you start laying the foundation for becoming a better you. If you keep at it, one of these days, you'll find that you aren't fighting the impulses as often or as hard, and one day in the distant future, the impulses won't be there at all.


Emsk said...

I understand what you mean about clock-watching and I too felt bad about it. There were times in Japan when I'd be teaching a lovely person, but whose level meant we couldn't have a great conversation. It still happens back here as well, but I guess we have to remember that we would be the same in such classes. Hopefully, I'm going to enrol in a class or two while I'm in London. I'd like to go to a Japanese class - I checked my level and was impressed to see that it was elementary, but was a bit annoyed to see my Italian had slipped to intermediate.

Orchid64 said...

I've never known how one actually checks their level in languages aside from taking standardized tests (and there's no way I'd pay for one of those).

One of my friends just started studying Italian. Based on what he's told me, it seems like it's not all that hard compared to languages like Chinese and Japanese, especially if you already know some Spanish.