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(Coffee) Shop Talk

Welcome to the shop where I talk about things that go well with coffee, which is almost everything.

I’m currently a full time graduate student and also teaching ESL about 30 hours per week. Sometimes I finish teaching/lesson planning at 2:00 and start studenting/note-taking at 3:30. When I started this…routine? lifestyle? I thought it would be interesting and enlightening to be constantly switching from one side of the story to the other, and to some extent it has. In some ways the experiences aren’t comparable because the level of student and teacher performance in my graduate classes is very different from my ESL classes. My professors clearly do a lot more work per class than I do, but then again, I assume they are paid accordingly. On the other hand, my students don’t have as many studently responsibilities as I do, but then again, most of them are just looking for a language immersion/study abroad experience rather than a Master’s degree.

I haven’t actually picked up that much pedagogy from my own professors (except for the concept that the instructions a teacher thinks are clear are not necessarily actually clear to the students), but I do think that teaching has made me a better student. I’ve realized that it means a lot to instructors when their students take notes and otherwise show signs of genuine interest. I’ve also realized that most teachers really do like it when you ask questions, even if your question demonstrates that you have zero grasp of what they just said. Most instructors would rather go over a point again than find out when they (or their graduate assistants) are grading the exam that that point obviously flew over most people’s heads.

I understand that this post is not super relevant to most people who are probably reading it, as they have finished their student experiences and are either professional teachers with their own insights or never plan on teaching. However, there is one little nugget of truth and human nature that sort of motivated this whole post, and that’s what I’m about to get to.

When you move from one stage in life to another, say from college to graduate school or from “studenting” to working, it’s tempting to look back on the previous stage and think about how easy it was compared to where you are now. When I got my first office job I used to fantasize about being back in a bookstore and shelving sports photography books for hours on end, interrupted only by cranky middle aged women who apparently could neither read section signs nor find authors who were in alphabetical order. Of course when I was working at the bookstore I used to dream about how peaceful and uninterrupted life was when I was sitting in my college library, plugging away at my senior thesis on dualism as interpreted from the Tao Te Ching by a novel about a planet where gender is totally fluid.

Yeah. None of those stages in life were actually easy or calm or pleasant when I was in them. I mean, they all gave me a certain satisfaction and had non-work or -study related fun stuff going on, but the tasks themselves were all pretty much the same once you average out the overall difficulty, frustration, and/or boredom involved with each.

But NOW…now I am forced to recognize that teaching and learning are also pretty much the same when all factors are taken into account. They both have different but roughly equal frustrations, difficulties, and boring parts. (At least, they do if you care about and are trying hard at both of them. I know that’s not always the case, on both sides.)

Basically, the whole experience is a constant reminder to appreciate where I am in life at any given point and stop trying to wish myself into a future or past stage.

…also, I just came from a yoga class, so I’m in a really “be zen in the moment” mind set right now.

And that makes me wonder what it would be like to be a yoga instructor…


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