a big beautiful mess

Teacher Teacher

One of the strangest transitions for me in the last few weeks has been realizing that I am a grownup. Or at least I have to act like one in front of the students.

This is the first time since age 3 that I have not been a student. Now, I’m at a new school again, but as a teacher. It’s an odd position I’m in. I’m the same age as a lot of my students, and my “peers”– the other teachers in the kafedra–are in their upper 20s and older. It makes me feel all the more pressure to present an image of authority and competence to the students and not just be friends with them. Having students greet me formally in the hallways and, in some classes, stand when I enter the room, is a very new sensation. I feel I have to be always vigilant and in control of my behavior, even though my tendency is to joke around and just hang out.

One of the classes I’m teaching is called “Effective Negotiations” and is about how to conduct international business negotiations. The students have a lecture Monday morning with one teacher, and then I lead this practical application section on Thursdays. I don’t know jack squat about business, and neither does the other teacher I’m working with. I came to the first class today armed with conversation-starters and scripts for them to act out and an email-writing assignment, and an active vocabulary game to pull out if I ended up with extra time. I was ready.

They ate my lesson plan! There were only five of them, and they were clearly not interested in business negotiations. They went along with acting out the video transcript in the book, and begrudgingly and briefly answered my follow-up questions, but we had finished almost everything before we even got to the break in the middle of the class period.

During the break, I regrouped with the other teacher, who was sitting in the back of the class and letting me have the floor. I wondered what the heck I was going to do for the remaining forty minutes. I decided to be frank with them and marched back in with, “Clearly none of you are planning to go into business.” But even a “What do you want this class to be? What are your plans for the future? What will be useful to you?” conversation only got us halfway to the end. So then, I got up and started babbling about email etiquette and pulled a format for writing professional emails completely out of the blue and gave them an assignment based on the nonsense I had just made up.

I am simultaneously impressed and horrified with myself.

Here’s how I told them to structure a formal email. I think it’s actually not half bad, no?

  • Dear…
  • Introduce yourself briefly.
  • Talk about them.
  • Talk about you.
  • Small talk/ polite niceties.
  • Sincerely…

1 Comment

  1. Jefe B Jefe B
    28 October 2011    

    Keep it up. You will hit on the key, even if that’s just ploughing through one class at a time. Seems like they would learn more effective negotiation in a Central Asian marketplace — I wonder if any of them have gone to Uzbekistan.

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