Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Long flight

When I am tired all the time, which I have been recently, I keep thinking of godwits.

There are pictures here, maps here, and more information here – and I totally recommend that you look at all of these. They are inspiring.

I heard about the godwit first on a Radio New Zealand podcast (don't ask me which one) back in September, when there was a small story about how birdwatchers were gathered hoping to see the first godwit land after its epic flight. I looked up godwits when I got home, because this was new to me.

The bit I remember most about the radio story is the scientist talking about how tired the birds are when they arrive. He said something like:

"You see them reach land, and they stand there with their wings drooping below their tails. They can't hold them up anymore, they're that tired."

At the time I heard this I was on the train home on a Friday night. I sympathized entirely. Sometimes a semester can feel rather like a long migration. The only difference is that I don't seem to be getting anywhere.

(And I don't lose half my body weight.)

I should add, however, that today my third period class made me feel better, at least for the ninety minutes it lasted. I wish it was my last class of the week instead of being on Tuesdays, so that I could spend the weekend feeling successful. Actually I wish it was the last class on Tuesdays, so I could spend Tuesday evenings feeling successful.

Today I walked into the class at third period thinking that having done the same lesson twice, this time wouldn't be much different (a mediocre lesson plan), but those guys made me feel like a successful and brilliant teacher. They greeted me in loud and ridiculous voices and tried out a few new expressions they'd learned during the week, most of them rude. They fell into laughing fits so often they made me feel dry and dull. They seem to think English is the funniest thing that ever happened to them, and my classes the most wonderful and silly experiences on earth, and they learn more than any other students I've ever had. These students are actually having conversations with each other, in English, and enjoying it. (If you've ever taught in Japanese universities you'll know how rare this is.) I think it's because they have learned how to insult each other. It makes all the difference. i did not teach them this. They figured it out all by themselves. Good for them!

But then my last class sent me straight back into godwit dreams. It was dreadful, and I ended up feeling tired from trying to motivate them. Flap, flap, flap.

Flap, flap, flap, flap.


Anonymous said...

Language Teachers of the World Unite - we're the only ones who can appreciate just how much it wears you down. As a mate of mine in Osaka who managed a branch of a big language school once said in passing: "All our students are failures" - meaning that most successful language learners don't learn in the classroom.

First index of success as a language teacher is how well one deals with this... and it's tough!