Friday, May 05, 2006

Rzeka Wisła

I gave my first truly awful lesson yesterday.

My debut last week was bad enough. It rattled me to the core. I cried about the damned thing. I spent the evening alone in my room dwelling on it. But it was my first stab at teaching. I really believed that my subsequent classes couldn't (and wouldn't) get much worse.

I was wrong.

Yesterday's lesson - a 40 minute debacle - was horrible. Everything that could have gone wrong not only went wrong, but went to shit.

For the three hours after class, nothing registered in my mind. I was temporarily a vegetable. I couldn't talk or think straight or eat or really do much of anything but stare at the wall and wonder how everything went to shit. How did it happen?

Going to shit is a cumulative process. It all starts with one mundane detail going to shit and the shit snowballs. Once that shitty snowball really gets rolling, it's almost impossible to stop. It picks up momentum until it's screaming down the hill and then it crushes you, leaving you lying there in pieces on the bottom, wondering how the hell to put yourself back together and get back to the top.

I'm still at the bottom of the hill, lying there in pieces. Today has not been an improvement from yesterday. My nudge-nudge all-smiles classmates are now distant and not so friendly anymore. It's like I've got the plague and I might screw up their lessons if they get too close.

There are moments before class where first floor windows beckon me to open them and leap, leap out onto the grass and run, run, run until there's no city left, until I'm up in the hills with the goats and the old maids, where I'll never have to dry heave into a trash can again. In these moments, I must remind myself that I'm in Poland because I want to be here. I am teaching - even though my skin blanches and my body shudders at the thought of it - because I saw myself spiraling down, down, irretrievably down the vortex of mediocrity and this was the only way out short of joining the military and having to cut my hair. I'm here in Poland, down on my hands and knees licking the toilet seat clean because I want to learn languages, because languages are one of two things I am genuinely interested in (the other is metaphysics, but you can't exactly sell that on the street).

I am fascinated with languages. I want to know them. This is my way of doing it. One toilet seat at a time.


Kevin Beasley said...

"Don't think of it as failure. Think of it as time-released success."
-Robert Orben

First off, you have some huge balls to be over there doing what you are doing. I don't think I would have done anything as extreme as try to teach english in a foreign country (although I am keeping the Peace Corps option open...) so I admire you greatly for that!

"I fear we are not getting rid of God because we still believe in grammar."
-Friedrich Nietzsche

I think it's really cool that you are pursuing something that interests you. Plus, not settling for mediocrity is quite rad. Bravo!

Keep it up Keith,


Little_Wilkins said...

It sounds like you hit the shitty part of being abroad...The "Oh yea. This is slightly uncomfortable." part.

But just because you find something interesting or think it's worthwhile, doesnt mean that it's a selfish thing to pursue.

There is a difference, I think, in doing things that foster some kind of good feeling or excitement in you and doing something shitty and selfish. People should do things the things they love. The problem is most people are too scared to, so you have big BALLS.

Keef said...

Thanks, dudes!

I assure you that my balls are quite regular-sized and aren't much to look at.