Sunday, August 30, 2015

Peculiarities of Insecurity

Hi All,

I have more to say about Lviv, but it will keep for the moment. So far I've mostly concentrated on my day to day activities and hopefully stayed pretty positive. Sometimes, however, a little introspection is a good thing...

I'm Here!...

Unlike the boys, who went back to a village where their returns were heralded with community-wide acknowledgement (and then promptly set to work with camps or clubs), my arrival was more of a whisper than a bang. I assuaged my feelings of guilt with the unemotional outlook of practicality. I am NOT a visible feature in my community, mostly because it has over 80,000 people. It takes longer to make the kinds of friends who invite you into your home in a city. Of the few friends I DO have, they have either a family busy with small children or in one case, is a newly wed with a baby along the way.

In addition, summer vacation is a busy time, and many of the students live all over the city, or even outside of it. They are from a demographic that most do not seem to just be randomly roaming the streets of the city. The teachers at my school in the English department are mostly people I have not met yet, and the Director was on vacation. Putting up a sign outside my school would probably not attract anyone's attention, and I do not have the space nor ideal location to start holding a club at my house.

These and several other practical reasons all add up to a rather clear pictures - it would be very difficult to start a club (or few) before school, where timing was due to change with schedules. However, self-doubt can easily creep in. Do I accept these reasons too easily? Am I intimidated by the thought of starting clubs? Am I lazy volunteer? The uncertainty and gnawing feeling of guilt can sometimes surge up, especially when looking at other volunteers.

But I know I have to stop that.

I am here as a volunteer to work WITH. Yes, I probably could've made some very strong requests that clubs get started immediately - but this would be of dubious worth given the situation of students being unable/unwilling to come and could possibly make things awkward for me professionally with the Director. I have to lean on him for support for my posvidka and for other help already, and building some credit once teaching starts will give us a firmer relationship of professional respect and put me in a stronger position for future projects. It's also more culturally-sensitive.

My insecurity should not be used as a battering ram.

In addition. Hello. I'm back in Ukraine. I have every confidence in myself that I am a hard worker and plus, this is round two. I feel more confident in my work this time around, and know things will fall into place. My clubs may take a few weeks to plan out, but I'll take these next few weeks to get to know my students - whose lives are often over-scheduled with tutors and activities - to see what will work best. Because that's the other thing I discovered yesterday...

I'll be Teaching 18 Classes...Eventually...

The thought of hitting the ground running this next week filled me with a bit of a kick of excitement. Sure, it'll be a bit crazy to start, but I figured I'd jump right in and get started. So it was a slight blow to speak with my current counterpart (newly returned from Greece last night), and discovering that the vice director would wait two weeks before giving me my schedule.

In all fairness, 3 out of the 5 English teachers I haven't even met yet, though I will tomorrow morning. I am sure they are perhaps a little apprehensive of sharing their teaching time with an unknown entity, and I am sure I will have some of the challenges I faced last time (fear or speaking in front of a native speaker, fear I'll undermine them - intentionally or not - in front of their classes, not knowing what to do with me, etc). It's actually a good opportunity to be able to shadow some classes to get a feel for ability level before I have to start crafting lesson plans.

Also, the first time I was here, they had me shadow the first weeks as well, so they could be following that protocol. My real counterpart will be returning in about 2 weeks, so they might have thought waiting for that would be wise as well as I'll likely have quite a few classes with her.

Honestly, they could have tried to just make me teach all my real counterpart's classes for her since she'll be gone. In a smaller school, my presence might have been enticing enough to ignore the fact that my organization would frown upon that.

And maybe that's what my insecurity boils down to. The feeling of not being needed.

Which. Is. Ridiculous.

That is pure ego.

The teachers have been teaching English for years, and will continue to do so without me. Many of my students will not need, let alone strongly desire, to use or learn English well. Relationships are never healthy when based on need, as they foster dependency. My organization focuses on building sustainable practices.

So I will change my mindset.

Patience, hard work and time will change my fear of not being needed, into the reassurance of being wanted. It's the motivation to give my best, to show up and perform to the best of my ability, while forming relationships with my students and the other teachers.

In the end, I hope that I can have a positive effect on the people who surround me, and that I have the humility to learn and accept what they offer in return.

So when the niggling thoughts of ineptitude and self-doubt creep in, I will consider them objectively to examine their merit. Some may push me to expand my comfort zone and boundaries, and others I will simply have to let go of.

There. Now a happy picture to end this slightly introspective post on exploring and conquering insecurities. Some of you may recall my frustration with the fact that the most reasonably-priced milk (other than that from someone's cow put in recycled plastic bottles) comes in a bag. I decided that I would no longer have the fight with propping the opened bag up and hoping that the paperclip would hold. This is a silly fight and I have resources that my energy can be better spent on. So I decided to teach that milk a lesson:
A Pitcher is worth a Thousand Words
It's the small things : )

Hope all is well,



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