It’s been far too long since I last blogged. Honestly, I haven’t written in any form in awhile. If you happen to be more in touch with your emotions, maybe turbulence helps your artistic expression, but it tends to create mental blocks in my world. Wrapping up my year as an English assistant has me shoving things in suitcases, searching for cheap transportation and housing options into all hours of the night, and saying goodbye to everyone I’ve met in the past seven months.
One of the strangest skills I’ve mastered this year is how to open canned food with nothing but a spoon. This is a skill I would have pegged as unnecessary in a first world, relatively well-paid temporary job, but is just one example of how the past seven months have completely surprised me. Can openers are superfluous, as are a closet full of scarves, scented body wash and gym memberships. There are so many things I used to take for granted that I can now count on my ‘extreme pleasures’ list, can openers being one of them. One of the things I love about my job is the plethora of ways in which it gives back to me, and learning exactly how many things are so uncritical to my life is one of the great lessons of living out of a duffel bag (I actually lived out of a much larger bag than that, though I’m working on it.)
While part of me is sad to leave my school, where I had a ton of fun with the students and was happy to see their English level improve with every month, I’m excited to announce a new chapter in my life: University Reader in Reims, France. I’ll be working at the École Supérieure d’Ingénieurs (Engineering and packaging school), where I’ll finally have the autonomy I was lacking these past five years as an ESL instructor (there are only so many times I can lie and say an ‘exam’ is graded when I am technically prohibited from administering exams.) At my new post, I’ll have the liberty to design a full year of lessons / exams / conversation excursions / what-have-you, rather than being an auxiliary teacher. While this will obviously be a greater challenge, I’m more than ready to get serious in the profession.
I’m excited to be staying in the same technology field I worked with this year at a vocational high school; I’ll get to see where all my current students will be in just a few years while continuing to use the specialty knowledge I gained this year. I’m also happy to be working so close to the little mid-size city I’ve called my home for the past seven months, and all the great educators with whom I had the pleasure of working. I’ve already met a few people at my new school—all wonderful—and feel at home in the region, as Reims is a two-hour drive from Troyes.
The most surprising part about this transition from high school assistant to university reader, however, is that I’ve come to see ESL as a career path rather than a side job. At university, there was nothing I loved more than working with my language learners, but I had never considered it as a future option. Now, I see that I can teach English anywhere—at home or abroad—and really enjoy my work and environment. New Caledonia? Thailand? San Francisco? Where to next? Living on year-to-year contracts is not stable, and certainly not what I expected from my university degree, but it’s also so much more than a steady job could give me. It’s a beach sunset after ten miles of walking. It’s discovering how large, and small, our world really is. It’s like opening a can with a spoon: you have to twist, you have to dig to the center.