I cracked–just a little bit–this past week.
Being on this island is no easy task and it’s been a long haul. When I think about my life here, I quickly remember that I’ve existed on this small little rock in the Mediterranean for an extraordinary amount of time. True, I didn’t know how long I would stay here when I first arrived, and certainly staying as long as I have was an option, but it’s something entirely different to deliver through on the promise of staying in one place that is not your home for such an extended period of time.
This week, all of the English classes that I’ve been teaching “reset”. Most of the students were ready to move up from each level to the next level. This was exciting, proving that the students are progressing, but it’s always a tossup to see how well everyone will adjust to the changes. Will they be confident enough in their abilities to move from one level to the next? Will they remember that the time of their classes will change? Will their be enough room in the classes with the number of students changing over and potentially numbering too high?
I’m a warrior when I’m in the school. I push my students to come to their correct English levels. When they come to the wrong English level, I challenge them, I push them out of the class, I hold them accountable. When they don’t understand me and the charades I act out to explain that they’re in the wrong place, I find translators to help get the job done. Even still, some of them are tenacious and I have to hold my ground. Teaching the beginning English levels for months on end has proven tiring as the fight never seems to conclude. There is always resistance and, with every new resident discovering the magic of the Hub, I’m met with more and more people looking to learn English from the ground up. The battle just continues.
With so many of my students progressing to new levels this past week, I was excited to have just a handful of students remaining in the lowest level class. This was an opportunity for me to help them out with a bit more individual attention. Unfortunately, things didn’t go exactly as I had hoped, and there were a few stragglers that didn’t understand that they should move up a level and allow the other students to have some more individualized attention. And so, the class began again at the beginning. We learned the letters A, B, C, D, and E on the first day. Even after an hour of excruciatingly slow learning (which is necessary and helpful if you actually need to learn the alphabet), the students remained in the class and returned the next day. I tried again to explain to them on both Tuesday and Wednesday that they really should move on to the next English level and they used their phone to translate to me that they didn’t care if they already know everything, they would stay in the low class forever.
As a teacher, this is so disheartening to hear. No matter what I did, they were never going to progress, they were just going to spin their tires endlessly in circles, never getting anywhere. I didn’t realize how crushing this was to me until Thursday morning when I had NO motivation to teach the class as the students slowly trickled into the classroom. This was the first moment in the last 7 months that I felt the urge to step away from teaching. I’ll just hand this off to some other volunteer and forget about it.
By the end of the day on Friday, after teaching the upper level classes some more, I felt okay again, but man, it sure was a yucky feeling to want to throw in the towel.
I suppose the feeling stemmed solely from a place of caring. I want what is best for my students, and when they choose to stay stuck in a holding pattern, it pushes against everything that I want for them. It renders my job and my time meaningless. It makes me want to give up.