Thursday was my last official day of teaching. I am no longer an official native-speaker/English-teaching-assistant! By which I mean I have no more classes, no more lesson plans, no more tooth-pulling as I try and get some response out of my poor tired students. That said, I will miss my students, especially the ones I’ve gotten to know over the course of the whole year. They can be really goofy and silly and are also very smart, and I had a really good time with them.
Some of the other teachers and acquaintances have been asking me what I’m planning to do next. Well, I’m starting my Master’s in Russian Studies in August (at my alma mater’s rival university! the shame!) and that’s two years. To me that seems like a pretty good answer to the “what will you do next” question. But only to me. Everyone else says, “and… what will you do with that? Teach Russian?” To which I kind of laugh and say, “no…”.
One of the things that I have learned this year is that I am not really cut out to be a teacher. I know lots of people who have taught English abroad, both people who have a real interest in teaching and people who have gone on to do other things. I think even within our group of ETAs it’s the same, there are the people who were interested in teaching and in Russia and so decided to do this, and then there are the people who were more interested in Russia and saw teaching as a way to get here. I belong to the latter group. While I do think that my students learned something from me, even if it’s just that not all Americans like McDonald’s, or debunking some other cultural cliche, I think I was able to fulfill the “native speaker” role better than the “English teaching assistant” role. I have learned how to be flexible, how to make lesson plans, how to manage time, and to some degree how to assert control over a group of students who are really only a few years younger than me. I’ve also learned how to improvise when things don’t go as planned, which for me was more often than I would have liked. I’ve also learned to stand up straight (literally, I’m a sloucher) and to not be self-conscious, especially when you are teaching a group of rowdy 18 year old boys who are kind of looking at you (youuu know) and most likely making jokes at your expense thinking you can’t understand them. But I’ve also learned how to joke back with them somewhat, and if nothing else to charm them a bit.
I’ve also grown to appreciate the American style class discussion, and realize to what extent in undergrad I was guilty of the same long periods of silence that my students occasionally subjected me to after I asked them a particularly complicated or just pointless question. I’m glad to be aware of that also going into my program in the fall.
Even with all of these things that I’ve learned, I still maintain that I’m not teacher material. The two main things I don’t have enough of are patience and creativity. It’s better to know this now than later, I think, and I’ve definitely really enjoyed my work this year, but it’s interesting to know more about yourself.
So, I don’t know yet what I will do next, though I still think having a plan for the next two years isn’t too shabby. As for the short term, I’m going to visit a friend in Sochi on Monday. SOCHI. So that’s a pretty good plan too.