24 September 2012

Yoga hikes and an open window - fall is here!

It is hard to believe, but fall has indeed arrived this week, even here in Georgia. From the falling, crunchy leaves to the refreshingly cool evenings and mornings that finally prompted me to open up our windows again, I am happy to report it! The cats, too, rejoice in the "freedom" of the fresh air; as I type they each have a window and look out at the prey they will likely never have the honor of killing in real life. Hopefully it livens their dreams!

Lately, now that I have just one day off per week, I often find myself feeling a bit strung out on awakeness. Or business. Or somethingness. But no matter what it is, rarely does it feel like laidbackness! That being said, I am learning to value the three things that I do not only for the income they provide, but for the fulfillment that they really do provide. And it is not simply a fulfillment of knowing I can buy a nice bottle of wine once in a while or even a new pair of shoes, but rather, of knowing that I AM worthy and that I might even be somewhat of a significant asset to the people whom I work for! Hopefully you don't take that as haughtiness, for you may have read my recent post about the struggle I've had with feeling "worthy", particularly of my professorship this semester. Let me extrapolate a bit on that, and why I am [beginning to!] feel more worthy.

My students (I may or may not have mentioned this previously) essentially bombed their first exam. Like, I have never had that bad of a grade breakdown since starting to teach; 6 sections at UIC and the most that I had was 3, I think. In my class of 24, I had 7 with F's and 4 with D's. Not to forget the 3 A's and 5 each of B's and C's, but it was still discouraging to grade more and more and see a consistent stream of my red pen. Perhaps it would help me, too, to take up that research of correcting in some other color in order to reduce stress on students...I've used purple before and may go back! Anyway, the fact of the matter was, when I finally settled down and looked at where most of the points were lost, it wasn't really something that I could have "taught" better: I asked them to review several readings which included cultural information and vocabulary. Now, when I say "I asked them" this does not actually mean, "I kind of mentioned it in passing". I explicitly put it on the top of the review sheet that I made up for them, and in addition, drew their attention to this very fact as we started our review. So I really was quite in disbelief when no fewer than 6-8 students told me as they handed their test in, "I didn't know we were supposed to know that!". Well, perhaps actually showing up to the review or printing it off might have helped you. Just a suggestion for your future success in your college education. All of this to say, that, once I'd taken stock, I did learn some lessons about how to choose which exercises to put on an exam, but was also reminded of the sheer vapidness of the idea that your class will actually do what you say if you do not literally hit them over the head with it. Moving on from my rant on my students...

Despite my recent statements perhaps seeming a bit flippant as far as my end of the responsibility, I did feel a much bigger importance to planning this second chapter better. I began by making the exam so that I could be aware throughout the whole thing what I was preparing them for, and how to best help them succeed. Of course, this all hinges on your lesson plans actually going as planned, which any person in any kind of teaching capacity is well aware is the case perhaps 5% of the time. If you're lucky. I have been so lucky a couple of times just this chapter, and I'm hoping that some of it may even be me learning to lesson plan better! There are always the small frustrations of the questions that you don't really know the answer off the top of your head to, but I am reacclamating to the feeling and really can't beat myself up when I forget some slang terms or mix up the 100th exception to a grammar topic. After all, I do try to remind myself that I would not, by any means, be prepared to teach English grammar at this point in my life, though I would probably have a shot, if anywhere, here in the South. While my French has certainly not been used intensely as much as my English my whole life, I did learn it in a very similar fashion, and probably never really memorized rules like my students have to in order to succeed.

So: my growing feeling of worthiness is coming from a slow opening up to giving myself grace. Grace to take a Monday evening to write and get out a few of the things that have been on my mind outside of the realm of teaching or leasing. Grace to really start enjoying yoga more, and even beginning a breathing and walking routine daily despite the time constraints that I am dealing with. I think what it really ends up coming down to is that I am actually learning about myself. I do love teaching, but many aspects of it are stressful and easily can obscure the simple joys of it. Some things I'm learning, or that I might even venture to say that I've actually learnED:

  • I can do an up-dog in yoga. I did one last Friday for the first time, and it was one of the most liberating feelings I've had in a while. And yes, that from just pushing myself up on my hands and the backs of my feet alone. 
  • I cannot learn French for my students. It is always possible to improve my teaching, to plan better, and to make fewer mistakes during lessons, but at the end of the day, they are the ones who have to put in the work. 
  • We will always work with some people we tolerate better than others. I am fortunate to have an office of people who mostly get on, but there are some moments where I really have to reel myself in. Initially, that caused me to "bring it home" quite a bit, and that impacted my relationship with Michael. So I am learning to deal with it the best that I'm able while in the workplace, and then leave it there when I leave. 
Now you know a bit more where I am with all of that, I do want to share some more about my recent yoga adventures. As it says in the title, I have now participated in my first yoga "hike". My parents both gave me scrunchy faces of confusion and skepticism this afternoon on FaceTime when I said that combination of words, but it really is a cool thing that works. We basically just go on a 2 mile walk, or fast paced walk, and stop periodically (about 4 times) to do some yoga. Most of it was done standing, though at the end we also did some "down dog" and "up dog" type things. The hike was wrapped up with a 10 minute meditation walk and then some quiet time amidst a few candles back in the studio. We then all convened at a restaurant where the yoga studio's husband is chef and her parents own it. Altogether a really really enjoyable evening, and even though Michael wasn't able to join me, I very much felt a wee bit recharged from it. I was of course sore, having done hot yoga earlier that day, too, but it is a sore that if you can't enjoy, you at least understand and appreciate it. The bug bites, not so much. 

Yesterday afternoon, I finally finished watching the final episode of that pivotal teenage drama, The OC, again. It was probably at least the 3rd time I've watched it since I own all 4 seasons, but there is just something so nostalgic about it. [Warning: spoiler alert if you haven't seen it all yet!] The Cohens moving back into the home they started out in, Seth & Summer parting ways for her to go picket for safe oceans and then getting married, Ryan becoming an engineer and having [necessary] Marissa flashbacks. Julie Cooper actually doing something not involving gold-digging also maintained the flow of tears from my eyes. It also has to do with the fact that we were all in highschool when we first watched it. That and One Tree Hill really almost followed our path timewise, though we of course never had make-up quite that perfect or boyfriends quite that spastic. Okay, maybe the boyfriends were spastic, but we certainly never attended a highschool like Ryan, Seth, Marissa, and Summer did. At least Tree Hill High was a small town school. All of this just to say that it is like so many things that spark that longing for "before". It was never as good as we now imagine it, but yet we still seek after those same emotions every once in a while. I am thankful that God has made us with that longing for a reason, and to know that that longing will be fulfilled once we arrive next to Him in Heaven. For now, I suppose we must try to be content with bawling our eyes out as we watch the final episodes of those shows we knew so well over and over. 

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