Last spring, when I began the whole process of securing a job overseas, I met with my advisor/professor/mentor/friend for advice on my UK pursuit. She’s young, cool, intelligent, and also lived and taught in Ireland for five years, so she seemed like the ideal person to get a second opinion on what it would be like to undergo this different career route.
She told me it would great for me because I have such an eclectic personality, I’m young, and my teacher program would well-prepare me for this. She also slipped in this bit that it would be “uncomfortable” at first. At the time, I thought, “Me? Uncomfortable?? We’ll see!!”
That discomfort finally hit me last Sunday.
It began very quickly after I was formally observed/reviewed by another teacher the week prior. The review was not super flattering, it was more of brutally honest. The review was all things I knew I should have been doing all along, but haven’t really had the time to consider and employ in my teaching and classroom. Regardless, it’s always a bit rough having your shortcomings and aspects that need improving thrown in your face all at once, even if I definitely needed to hear it.
I’ve reached a point in my life where I can healthily nod along when someone tells me all that I’m doing wrong. My ego may whimper as it takes the hit, but my mind considers all that is being dumped on it and actively tries to incorporate the advice going forward. I can accept the challenge that I need to improve, but it’s a bit of a bummer not receiving good news after an exhausting, draining five weeks of teaching.
This incident set off a lot of doubt (e.g. Do I really want to pursue this career, even though it is so time-consuming and taxing?) and self-doubt seems to spread almost as fast as a virus if you don’t stop it in time, because after this I started questioning me being here.
I miss my best friend, I miss my family, I miss my friends, I miss being able to drive, I wish I could find the pickles I like, I wish my comic books would come on time, I’m upset that I can’t go home for Christmas, I’m upset I’m still in debt from moving here, I just miss home.
All these thoughts came to a crash Sunday night and I just started sobbing because I had reached an uncomfortable apex, every homesick thought, from serious to petty, hit a converging point.
But honestly, do not feel too bad for me, I have been trying to cry for the past seven weeks because:
- I have undergone such a drastic shift in my life, I have felt for the past few weeks that a physical/emotional response should have happened already and would be beneficial to my mental health.
- I’m a cancer and love a good cry
I finally understood what my advisor/role model was talking about in her advice: that this is going to be a big adjustment, that even though I am getting used to the social and cultural differences here, I still have to find comfort in me being here.
As soon as I started crying though, I thought THANK GOD because I really do believe that I needed a bit of mourning for my life before coming here. I bought my ticket for England on a Friday, was in the school by Tuesday, and began teaching full-time the following Monday and have been since; there was no moment to catch my breath.
Pretty funny though because the Monday after my Cancer Episode, I was telling a few friends/co-workers about it and one of them invited me over to Christmas at her house with her family out of maybe pity, but also the goodness of her heart.
The co-worker, Rina, is this Scottish, confident, and warm woman who knows how to handle business. I find her incredibly cool and admirable because on top of being vaguely new to the teaching game, but seeming like a pro, she also had a career as an engineer before all this.
Also, the week before my crying bout she goes, “Max, you’re good, you have a lot of potential. I don’t say that to everybody,” in relation to me teaching. I did a high-pitched wail because poignant flattery always melts my heart.
Speaking of quotes that made my heart stop, last week, one of my students said to another student, about me, “Aw, he has a life.”
You may be asking yourself, “What is the significance of that…” but you have no idea how frequently students do not see me as an actual person. A lot of students lack the empathy (or maybe maturity?) to acknowledge that yes, I am in fact a person outside of the role I play in their lives.
Although, it does takes two to tango because I, as well as other teachers, are completely guilty of forgetting that students are people also that they have things going on in their lives as well.
The student that said that though is one of my favorites because they’re really good at impersonations and their impersonation of me is so funny. They do it a little high-pitched, which is pretty fair, but they capture my various, little adages pretty well.
The student told me that I shouldn’t take offense to the impersonations because they love my accent, which is always a bit trippy; what even is my accent outside of gay American?
After the Sunday night tears, things picked up a bit. I did some behavioral interventions with a lot of my students to realign expectations going forward and it has had some effect in just this last week alone.
But by the end of the week nothing really mattered because Friday marked the end of half-term. The school year here is broken up into three semesters, in the middle of each semester, we get at least a week off, and if you can’t do the math, that means there are six half-terms. Surviving the first seven weeks of the school year as a new teacher (in a new country) is a huge milestone. All the turmoil before that melted away because hey, I made it this far and I can continue to keep going.
But also: NINE DAY VACATION.
After telling Fahmara about my teary Sunday earlier this week, she invited me to go to Scotland with her and I jumped on that opportunity because #Girl’sTrip. She was originally just going to go by herself, but again, from the goodness of her heart/pity invited me to tag along; I told you crying is very beneficial.
Not much to blog about for the past two weeks due to all the emotions and workload, but next post should be chock-full of stories.
A final note to go out on is that I learned something interesting about myself: apparently, I won’t be one of those parents who lets their kids win at things.
Last week, the school had an open house-like event to show prospective students/parents the school. So our department busted out so many math games to showcase our subject and make it appear flashy.
That night I played several 10 year old kids in games and I didn’t let a single one win; any kid that beat me did it on their own. Partially, it is a whole ‘if you want to win, do it yourself’ mentality, but more importantly, I just love winning against little kids, highly recommend it.
At this open house I crashed so many photos that were being taken by a photographer for the school, can’t wait to see those turn out because my last school-funded photo was a 6 out of 10. The quality of the actual photo is too low to share, so this is the best I can do:
Until next time…