It’s no secret I am somewhat a worrier when it comes to my job. Put simply, I’m scared that I’m rubbish. I have so many lessons where I think I am a failure. Sometimes it feels as if I am baby-sitting children and not much more. I can never create enough interesting activities to seem like a good teacher. I just don’t have time to make materials. I’m all out of games and interesting ideas. i need a break. Let’s just use the book and not much more. I’ll tell them all the grammar rules explicitly because it doesn’t go in whether we play games or do grammar drills. At least with the grammar drills, I’m getting them to write notes that perhaps their parents can help them with.

Worrying and getting depressed about it has resulted in feeling unnecessarily ill. I’m going to the doctor’s for a blood test tomorrow, the results of which I hope will tell me I am fine and it’s all in my head.

So, having decided to remember that this is only a job and not my life, I have come up with the following philosophies.

1. It’s okay to not be the best.

This realisation was a moment of epiphany for me. I don’t have to be the best to do my job well. I don’t have to write materials, I don’t have to create something that no-one’s already done before. I can use the textbook, and steal other people’s ideas. It’s all fine and perfectly legal in teaching circles. Not every lesson has to be mind-blowing and enlightening. And they are not going to remember every grammar item after only one lesson. I’m not a failure.

2. I’m going to tell myself I am the best teacher in the world.

It doesn’t have to be true to everyone else, but if this equips me with the confidence to go forth and present a decent sort of lesson, then I’m going to believe I can do it. I’ve had the record stuck for too long on “I’m rubbish, I’m a fraud, I can’t do it” for too many years now. It’s time to listen to a new tune that goes “I am the best, I can do it, I’m a genius”.

3. If you convince yourself you are rubbish, you do a good job of convincing others, too.

The mind is a great thing. It can make you produce physical symptoms with no physiological reasoning. The mind can inhibit you and cripple you if you let it. If you tell yourself you can’t do something, the chances are that you won’t be able to do it because you’ve already decided it to be so, or you feel under pressure so you inevitably crumble. Ex-Liverpool footballer, Fernando Torres, was the laughing-stock of the nation after his move to Chelsea for not being able to score any goals for his new team. It’s clear that he is not playing as well as he was at Liverpool. He looks less confident on the pitch now. He is the perfect example of someone who can’t seem to pick himself up after some knocks to his confidence. I’m sure I look like this in the classroom.

I have a degree in French and Spanish. Despite living in Spain since September, and all my language credentials, I can’t manage to meet anyone and speak to them. The accent in Cadiz is impossible to decipher, and I foolishly admit to everyone that I can’t speak Spanish that well. At the beginning of the year, my boss reluctantly gave me a student for tutorial because she wanted someone to tutor her who could explain the grammar in Spanish. I had to insist that I was able to take this student on. Why did I have to insist? Why did she see me as less capable than other teachers? Because I gave her the impression that I wasn’t capable because I think to myself that I am not capable.

If I give the impression that I can’t teach, or that I can’t do something well, they begin to believe this. I have to get rid of this idea that I am incapable. I have to show others that I believe in myself, so they should believe in me too.

4. I am a creative who works as a teacher.

First and foremost, I am an artist and creative. I am a linguist and a philosopher. Teaching is my work, and I hope I can use teaching to channel my creativity in my own way. After a holiday, of course.


8 Responses to “Worklife”

  1. David Warr Says:

    I think you deserve a very long holiday, and maybe get your brushes out.

  2. crazykites Says:

    The brushes are around, and I’ve a big canvass that’s blank. Not used to painting on such a large canvass (I prefer very small ones) but I have lots of inspiration here in Cadiz. And I might try a Liverpool Skyline. I’m in love with the Liverpool Skyline.

  3. David Warr Says:


  4. Carole Says:

    Re the Spanish speaking – the problem is that you see everything as an academic exercise. You don’t want to speak to a real live Spaniard because you still have in your head that it is the lector/a from university who is conversing with you to test your ‘speaking skills’. Not so. People who have never been to university pick up bits of language, words and phrases to use as tools to navigate themselves through the business of living and surviving in a non-native environment. You need to do that, too.

    Re the accent in Cadiz, I was talking to a work colleague who comes from Valencia. She recounted a story about when she visited Seville for the Expo ’92. She said she couldn’t understand a word the locals were saying. Think about the fact that the BBC had subtitles for Rab C. Nesbitt. Clearly some Brits can’t get their ears around Glaswegian. So just work at it.

    “Not used to painting on such a large canvas (I prefer very small ones)”
    This sums up all of your problems in one small sentence. Get out there and start painting on the biggest blank canvases you can find…in every aspect of your life. Otherwise no-one will notice you are there 🙂

  5. crazykites Says:

    It’s not that I’m scared. I just haven’t met anyone who doesn’t want to speak English. I had to ask my colleague’s Spanish girlfriend, who spoke excellent Englsih, if I could chat to her in Spanish. I was afraid she’d say no. I’m so used to being treated like a tool for other people’s language learning.

    As for the Gaditanos, the best approach is to answer the question you guess they have asked you. It works nine times out of ten. Or smile and nod. but I wanna meet people I can have proper chats with. There just isn’t the opportunity. I have one friend who is Spanish, and she’s a student. and speaking to Englsih people or Irish people in Spanish is just silly. It’s so unnatural.

    How would you try to meet Spanish people who don’t want to learn English? We’re thinking of doing a ceramic painting course next year. Chances are the person leading the course won’t know any English. It just seems so silly all of this. It;s like once you leave school or university, it’s impossible to meet people.

  6. Alan Tait Says:

    I know exactly how you feel.

    When I met my now-partner, we started off in English because I was a virtual beginner in Spanish. After a year or so, I REALLY had to put my foot down with her so that she would start speaking Spanish to me. It’s not that she objected, but that it was so hard for her to break the habit.

    Go for the art course – it really works for language acquisition. My parachuting course was in Polish, and I only understood 10%, but I survived ok 🙂

  7. crazykites Says:

    Wow, alan! That really was risking it!

    My partner is Moroccan. I met him here in Cadiz, but I was so much more comfortable in French at the time. Now, he tells me off for not letting him practise English, and I tell him off for not speaking to me in Spanish. What’s the solution? Time-tabling?

    I guess his English takes priority since we may well come back to England or somewhere were English is useful, but we won’t stay in Spain for longer than a year.

    We sort of speak a mixture of everything. I’ve invited him to come out with me and my CAE students the day before their speaking exam, so he can chat to them in English and everyone’s a winner. Except me. But I’m a teacher, so I have to be more selfless than everyone else. 🙂

  8. Carole Says:

    Yes, I think ceramic painting is a little safer than parachuting! I can’t speak other than Spanish with Mr Kites because that is where we started, as much as it is a long haul for me…but at least your dad can speak footballese with him! 😉

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