Emotional Landscaping

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heartmapquoteThe last few months have been a massive change emotionally for me. After deciding to step out on this path of travelling and working abroad I’ve really had to take stock and it’s had a big effect on my thoughts and feelings surrounding what I want for myself and my daughter. I think in a way, entering into the final year of my degree or even just coming back to university after giving birth, has been the biggest catalyst to all this emotional change.

If you’ve had kids then you may have had a similar experience to me, where during the pregnancy and straight after the birth it’s not really possible to really know what you want. I was pretty scared and a lot of things were going on that were outside of my control. I just didn’t know what I wanted pure and simple. I knew what I had wanted in the past intellectually speaking, but it was put on hold in a strange way that I’ve never experienced before. There was an unknown entity on the way and I was really conscious that the minute they came into being and ventured into the outside world things would change – I don’t mean in the obvious ways, I mean more in the sense that there would be a person who would eventually have thoughts and opinions that would change the decisions I was going to make. This mentally put me in some sort of freeze hold and I just couldn’t conceive of much beyond the birth. Even after she was born I spent the usual few weeks recovering and acting like a hormonal wreck and then I started to focus on getting back to university.

It was at this point that I really started to ask myself what I wanted, I found myself caving in to those invisible societal pressures that surround us as parents and even just as people. Those pressures that tell us to conform, take a normal path, provide for our family and not take risks. Despite having never wanted to follow a ‘normal’ path in my life I suddenly found myself looking into ‘normal’ graduate schemes and ‘normal’ jobs. I was convincing myself that having my daughter meant I needed to make the ‘responsible’ decisions and not do the outlandish things I’d always wanted to do. Whilst in the early stages of my pregnancy, Monkey’s Dad and me discussed things that we wanted and we both expressed a wish to travel. I said I wanted to finish my degree and give myself the option of further study, but I said that travel was definitely a part of my future. He seemed to need something more than this and I just couldn’t give it to him. Now, the reasons he decided to leave are way more complex than I can do justice to in a blog post. And I don’t think it would be fair to him to claim that this is all there is to it. But I think a small part of it was that I was too busy trying to control everything, whilst he was too busy trying to force me to commit to things I just wasn’t ready to commit to. We were both panicking and we didn’t know each other well enough and he didn’t give me or himself the chance to find out what we wanted, together as a family. Within weeks of finding out I was pregnant he’d gone. I often wondered what would have happened if we’d just given ourselves the time to get used to the new situation we were in; instead of trying to force each other to be the people we thought we needed the other person to be….

Since that point I have changed and developed so much as a person I’m partly unrecognisable. I’ve gone through such a lot having my daughter on my own and coming to terms with the effect that will have on both out lives. As I said, I really ended up convincing myself that I needed to do the ‘normal’ thing for the sake of my daughter. It was only as I got further down those paths, and truly started looking at things like the NHS graduate scheme or civil service as a realistic option that I knew it was never going to make me happy – and that would make Monkey unhappy. It was this realisation that made me really start thinking about what I actually wanted – and that’s to travel. I know without a doubt that if I get to the end of my life without travelling, without living in another country and possibly without learning another language then it will be my biggest regret. So to allow that to happen whilst knowing that would be a big crime against myself.

A while ago I did a post about how big my safety net should be: http://www.backpacksandbabygrows.com/2014/07/03/how-big-should-a-safety-net-be/ . In this post I discussed giving myself a back up plan that involved completing a Masters at the same time as saving to do a RTW trip, so that if travel didn’t happen I would have other options to fall back on. Options that I actually wanted to take, such as postgrad study. Since writing that post though, I’ve realised that actually, I just want to go. I don’t want any other distraction; I just want to save up as much as I can and head off into the unknown with my wee Monkey. This trip and travelling has somehow evolved into so much more than ‘just’ a trip. I know that thought is probably echoed in the minds of countless other travellers or wannabe travellers. So much so, it’s become clichéd – but it’s clichéd because it rings so true for so many people. For me this trip is about finally starting my life. That probably sounds strange, but I’m a late starter in life – my own potential and personal development has been delayed and diverted time and time again. Mostly due to circumstances out of my control, particularly as a child and teenager. My 20s were spent coming to terms with this, and it’s only been since starting college and going back to university that I’ve become the person I always knew I could be. Having my daughter has finalised that in a way nothing else could. Making these steps to travel and jump out into the deep end, as a single parent is really the first step in what I feel is my ‘true’ life, the life I’m meant to have. So there’s a lot riding on it. It’s not that I don’t want the postgrad stuff anymore, it’s that I’m acutely aware they will be there when I get back, I can do those at any time, anywhere in the world. But it’s travelling that will help me to be who I need to be emotionally; it’s travelling that will let my daughter be the person she can be….

Another thing I’ve slowly admitted to myself is that I don’t want to put monkey into the daily grind that is the school system. I know there are some amazing teachers out there; my sister is one of them. But there’s also some terrible teachers out there and the school system is there to cater for the middle ground; it’s there to create an obedient workforce who behave themselves, turn up on time, don’t question authority and basically live life with a set of blinkers on. The world does not need any more of those people, that I do know – if it’s to survive, if we’re to survive as a species we need the mad, creative, wild and inappropriate types. I know too many people who had every last bit of creativity and individualism drained or pummelled out of them at school, to be OK with signing my child up for that. I really want to do something that probably lies in between home schooling and unschooling – (although as with most of the other unschoolers I’m not that keen on the name, as it implies no learning whatsoever which couldn’t be further from the truth). Admitting this to myself has made me realise that those are my 2 core beliefs and aspirations in my life: travel and home schooling, so the rest just needs to somehow fit around them. Or I need to make it fit around them because in the end it’s me that’s in charge of my life. No one else can do these for me. I would love to start working for myself, writing and making a living by piecing together all my skills in a way that makes me happy. Whether that’s teaching English, writing, doing photography, or a bit of all these things and maybe some other things too, I don’t know. But I’m definitely not a Monday to Friday kind of a woman. I would also love to meet someone who shares my dreams, I’d like to let go enough to fall in love again and maybe (just maybe) expand my little family, as having monkey has been the best decision I ever made. Finally realising that these are the things I truly know has given me emotional freedom that I’ve never felt before. It’s given me a purpose and something to aim at. I don’t need riches (not that I ever wanted them), I do want to have the finances to travel (obviously) and to provide my daughter and myself with a half decent standard of living but beyond that I really don’t care. I don’t want her to grow up in the consumerist mess we have in the UK, where how we view our own worth and the worth of others is somehow inextricably linked to what we own and how much money we have in the bank. I want her to know that there is so much more to life than money and possessions. Poverty is horrific but so is having all the materialistic things you ever wanted, only to realise that you’re still looking for something that can’t be bought and now you’ve not got the time to find it.

So this is where I am today, embarking on this adventure is a strange thing for me at this point in time. I’ve still got a year of my degree to complete. This will undoubtedly be one of the most intense years I ever experience but it’ll be worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears that I shed and have shed over the last 7 years. The RTW trip still feels completely imaginary – because it is. It probably won’t feel in the slightest bit real until I actually book us those tickets, and maybe it won’t feel real until we step off the plane and head into our first country on the list (hopefully China). To keep myself focused on the long-term future I keep looking at this big map online and planning where we’ll go and when, I’m reading all these travel blogs and talking to my closest friends about my plans. But on the flip side, I also have to keep my feet firmly on the ground and focus on the here and now. I HAVE to get this degree; I’ve worked too hard to fall at the last hurdle. Not only that, I know I’m capable of getting a 1st. It’s where my grade point average is lying at the moment and I’d be fibbing if I didn’t say a 1st is what I want. Although saying that, I do now know that it’s not the be all and end all, any degree will be a massive achievement for anyone let alone someone in my position.

So this is my bit of emotional landscaping – making that decision to travel has just brought on an avalanche of life choices and realisations that I could never have expected. I’d love to hear if any of you have had a similar experience in the comments section! I suspect that travel and making those massive decisions takes on this huge role in nearly everyone’s life – especially if it’s something you end up turning into a lifestyle choice rather than just a holiday. I’m so excited already at the thought of the adventures to come and the experiences me and my daughter will have together – I’ll have to increase my vocabulary and powers of articulation just to put into words how I feel when we actually go!!

Teacher Tuesday: Biography cubes

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backpacksandbabygrows:

Great Idea for Teflers

Originally posted on cornishkylie:

Biography cubes lesson idea

Completed biography cubes.

An excellent activity for any classes studying within the topic Talking about other people which seems to crop up in any TEFL textbook I have had thrust on me.  I have used this lesson multiple times with various classes and it has always been really successful.

Students choose their favourite celebrity and complete a worksheet with five basic sections;

What is his/her name?  Where was he/she born?

What does he/she look like?

What is his/her personality like?

What are his/her likes and dislikes?

Write three sentences about your chosen celebrity.

The sixth section requires a printed photograph of the celebrity.  Six sections = 1 section for each side of the biography cube you will be making!

If you have internet access this can be completed in class, but I preferred to do an example on the board and set it for homework.

Once the worksheet is completed…

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Tefl approved…. (technically)!

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approvedI have now finished my 120 hour online TEFL course! I’m of course extremely happy about this; I’m now officially qualified to teach English as a foreign language. BUT…. there’s always a but isn’t there? I say ‘technically’ in my title because doing the online course means I’ve had no actual teaching practice.

I’ve loved the course and I don’t want to make it seem like I’m criticising the TEFL qualification; however, there are some big downsides to doing the course completely online. I think I’d be incredibly nervous before teaching a lesson for starters. Also there were lots of grammar related questions/problems I had, that really needed the presence of a proper instructor to solve. Anyone who has looked even briefly at the structure of English grammar can attest to how complicated we seem to have made our system. But (yes there’s a 2nd more positive ‘but’)… I feel that I made the right choice and I will stick to my original plan. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while you will know that I planned on doing the online course to familiarise myself with the grammar and to get a feel for what’s expected of me before applying to do the more formal CELTA qualification at the university I currently study. I’m glad I did it this way round. I now have a rudimentary understanding of grammar. Although I will say that if I was only planning on doing this course then jumping straight into teaching, I would need some immense organisational skills to fully prep all my lessons in advance in order to make sure I could answer any questions my students had. 

On saying that, I think preparation and advance planning and a huge amount of lesson plans and worksheets all done in advance of the lessons will be key to being a good EFL teacher. I can see why there’s so many complaints about of terrible quality of teaching. If you’re just bumming around and do the TEFL course as a thing to make money, but it’s not something you put any effort, energy or passion into, then you will be a terrible teacher. You will also end up hating your job as much as the students hate you. Sorry, I know that sounds harsh but having done the course I know that it’s completely true… you only have to read some forum and blog posts to know the level of appalling teaching that’s out there and I think this is the reason why. They’ve gone into it thinking it’ll be a doss and it couldn’t be further from the truth.

I think you could do the online course and then build up lots of experience through voluntary work if you wanted. This could be a viable option for anyone who can’t afford the far higher price of the CELTA course. I think I’ll try and do some voluntary stuff anyway as it will help me to get over those initial jitters about standing in front of a class, and it would be nice to have experience before accepting a proper job too. The online course is pretty easy, I don’t want to belittle anyone who found it hard… by that I mean that with a bit of effort I think most people will find it manageable and would be able to complete it. The assignments start off as multiple choice quizzes on the grammar and then build up to written assignments you submit for proper marking. However, these begin as small, manageable quick pieces of work and it’s only the final 3-4 assignments that pose a challenge in any way. These last ones do require you to apply what you’ve been taught and to prepare some full lessons from start to finish. They take time and care and are worth doing well, after all this is what you’ll be doing as a teacher!

Once you’ve done the course you’ll find that along the way, you’ve had to do so much research you’ll have hopefully built up some great resource links from external websites – these will be a huge help when actually teaching. One of the best I’ve found to date is the great blog found here on WordPress called ‘tefltastic’ – http://www.tefltastic.wordpress.com there’s tons of resources, worksheets and lesson planning advice and tips along with a large amount of activity ideas. There’s also hundreds of activity worksheets available to download. Well worth a look! The tefl community is in general very helpful and inclusive – everyone has been in that starter position before, so I think that makes everyone really willing to help and create an open community of sharing when it comes to academic resources. 

Below are some good websites I’ve found during the duration of my course:

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk This is a BBC/British council site offering loads of tips and lesson plan ideas along with grammar help.

http://www.teflteachertraining.com is a great blog by Ted, offering untold amounts of advice and help on all things TEFL

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/ A good resource if you need some grammar explained in plain english whilst completing the course. It helps to fill in some of the gaps that are there in the TEFL course book.

http://www.onestopenglish.com Again, this is a good site for filling in some of the gaps, the TEFL course is OK but I must admit I did find some explanatory gaps in their books. Although I suppose a bit of self-study is never a bad thing either!

http://www.tefl.net A general resource and advice site

http://www.businessdictionary.com This is a great resource to use for vocabulary you might need in a business english class, providing definitions and also ideas around which to plan your business english lessons.

I’m planning on continuing to post any useful information I find including useful resource sites, so keep an eye out if you find this kind of stuff useful. I’m also hoping to get a little site started up with my own worksheets and lesson plans etc once I actually start teaching. Although this will be a couple of years down the line save for some voluntary work. It is most definitely in the pipeline though – you can hold me to it! 

I just want to end by saying that the TEFL course provided by http://www.tefl.org.uk was well worth the money. Although I found some of the instructions to be a little bit ambiguous I did get through it with a grade point average well over 90%. They also marked all my assignments in the agreed timeframe and gave me advice when I asked for it. I’m very glad I did this, and I think it will be extremely valuable when I do the CELTA to have had access to the knowledge and the lesson plans. And if you are very self driven and motivated you could definitely get along into teaching without the CELTA – but I would suggest doing a substantial amount of voluntary work if you can to get the experience and to put into practice all the theory you have been taught. Also it’s worth remembering that knowledge of the subject is only one part of what it takes to be a good teacher and that will come more easily the more you do it – however what really matters are the qualities employers and students will look for :

tefl qualities

Happy TEFL-ing guys, I can’t wait to actually get going with my travels and put my knowledge into practice!

How big should a safety net be?

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Casting-a-Net-IrrawaddyI’m such a lazy blogger – I know this! I’ve been putting it off and putting it off and really it’s just because things have been ticking along nicely. It’s not much to write home about I’m afraid.

I’ve finally finished the grammar section on the TEFL course so I’ve just started off on the methodology section. I’m hoping to get this done a bit quicker if I’m honest. I really need to discipline myself to at least an hour a day and more if I can. I’m about to start doing the research for my dissertation, as it’s a frightening 2 ½ months until I go back to uni. I’ve also been getting on well with driving – apparently I can do perfect manoeuvres, including a perfect 1st attempt at parallel parking. However I’m rubbish at clutch control – as always it’s the small things I struggle with so nothing new there. I’ve been known to get the most complex of stuff straight away and be flummoxed by the beginner stage of whatever it is that I’m learning. So this is the mission for next weeks lesson: get to grips with the stupid clutch!

The only thing I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is a bit of an inner dilemma I’m having about how big a back up plan a person needs. To explain that a bit better – Now I’ve decided that I want to travel I’m so focused on that, that I’m reluctant to apply for the usual graduate jobs in case I get sucked into the trap of feeling obligated to take them as it’s secure money etc etc. But it also feels quite scary to not apply for anything throughout the whole of my final year just in case the worst happens and for any reason at all I can’t go travelling and then find myself jobless, with another year to wait before I can apply for all the schemes.

How big should my safety net be? This question has been bothering me for a while.

My plan up until now has been to move back to Manchester and take an opportunity I have to live with a friend without the massive expense of rent and bills in order to save up for roughly a year or maybe 18 months so I fund a RTW trip and have some money behind me to then settle wherever life takes me without having to immediately worry if I’m not making a full time wage straight away. I guess it just feels kind of scary to let all the deadlines go by for the jobs and the graduate schemes without applying for a single one even though that if I follow my dream I’d turn them all down anyway. So what I’ve decided is that whilst in Manchester for a year or more I may as well apply for the Masters at the University – there’s an interesting one called an Ethics and Political Philosophy MA. I don’t think I’d go for the Mres as it’s so geared up towards getting you to write a PhD proposal and I feel it’d be super stressful whereas the ethics and political one is my main area of interest and actually sounds kind of fun. There is a bit of funding available at Manchester too, whereas in Glasgow there’s none for a Masters. So my back up plan if the travelling never happened would be that I could always go for the doctorate if I did well. Pretty nice sounding back up plan in a way hey?!

The bonus as well is that I know having a degree and an MA can be hugely beneficial in getting a visa to some countries especially if they operate a points based system. So I know Hong Kong gives you lots more points for every degree and MA you have, and the University teaches in English. Glasgow philosophy department is actually linked to Hong Kong University so I know I could apply there to study in the future if I decided it was a route I wanted to travel down. Also the MA would be good as a bridge between philosophy and sociology. I adore philosophy but I think deep down it’s sociology and in particular visual sociology I’m very interested in – I’d love to do a big photographic project whilst travelling with a sociological theme to it for example and then possibly take something like that further academically….

I guess what I’m saying is that I need to just take this leap, don’t apply for the jobs that will take me too far from the path I truly want to follow, but I’ve realised that if there’s something I can do whilst directly working towards my goal that can act as a back up plan – well I’d probably be daft not to do it – I should be grabbing all the opportunities I can and accepting all the help offered to me.

So that’s how big my safety net should be – big enough to make me feel secure but small enough it doesn’t ruin the view I have of mine and my daughters future.

Satisfaction through progress

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AYN2012_4912_1334853172335_visuel_satisfaction-fidelisation

This week has been a satisfyingly good week!

I’ve had a really great driving lesson where I got to drive on the big roads at national limit (60mph) for the 1st time and did proper clutch control and navigated plenty of traffic lights and roundabouts with no stalling. That was nerve wracking but mostly exciting.

I’ve steadily managed to progress through the TEFL grammar section with an average grade of 95% and I should have that 1st bit of the course completed by tomorrow now. It’s taken me a bit longer in total to finish it but I actually think it’s taken far less than the 30 hours it said it would take. I kind of need to get a move on with it all though.

I’ve had a really good week in terms of getting on with exercise classes and starting meditation – anyone who read my last post knows that I’m particularly happy with this bit of my life right now. I went swimming for the 1st time in years today – I only had time for 20 mins before I had to be somewhere but it was probably a good length of time after such a long break and I’ll increase it by 10 minutes each time I go until I’m doing an hour I think… slow and steady wins the race! I also lost a bit of weight so I’m getting closer and closer to my pre-baby body. If this all continues I may just end up with a better than pre-baby body too and this nothing more confidence boosting than that I reckon.

I found out today that I came 2nd in the whole year for philosophy out of the single honours students which really boosted my confidence and finally made me stop criticising my academic performance this year. It got me to sit back and actually reflect on what I’d achieved. I’m my own harshest critic and sometimes I take it a bit too far and forget to allow myself to feel proud – I’m starting to realise allowing acceptance of achievements is probably just as important as putting in the initial hard work to get them.

I was also told one of my favourite lecturers who had left before I came into Junior Honours is coming back and can most likely supervise my dissertation – I’m really really pleased about this as they’re a fantastic teacher and great at calming my irrational anxieties so I think they will really support me in progressing and achieving highly next year in my academic writing.

Also earlier this week that one of my absolute favourite local charities who do wonderful work with families and in particular vulnerable families, said that they would like me to work with them. I’ve been offering to volunteer for ages as I am fully behind what they do and have been from the start but it was said they may get funding to be able to employ someone part time from September and if they do they would like to offer it to me first. This really made my day and I will jump at the opportunity if it happens – it would also be a massive help to me in my final year to have a little part time job it must be said. Every little helps and all that but to have one with my favourite charity would just be awesome.

Now if I can just get all the ironing and general housework done along with some revision for my theory test and make a start on my dissertation research this will really be an immense week – I’ll have to be careful or I’ll end up being a fully paid up member of The Smug Club :)

In all seriousness though – this week has definitely been a GREAT week (and it’s only Thursday)!

 

 

Complete enormous to do list? Tick!

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hippie-pic

I realised I’ve had such a busy week I’ve not had much chance to post for a few days; so I wanted to say a wee hello!

I feel like I’ve had an incredibly productive week. I’ve had another driving lesson (everyone is alive and well), Ive written my dissertation proposal and handed it in (I now have an enormous self-inflicted reading list to get through this summer), I’ve joined a badminton class and a boxercise class (get rid of baby belly and get fitter and healthier, phase 1), I’ve done an enormous amount of housework (not in the name of procrastination, just for its own sake), I’ve joined various new social media platforms including google+ and Facebook (check out my new pages if you have a chance although they are both huge works in progress so please cast a forgiving eye!).

So out of this big list of things I’ve managed to do there’s one glaring black hole (oxymoron? Can a black hole glare? I digress sorry…) I’ve not managed any TEFL since my last post. I’m learning another lesson; I keep thinking that if I don’t have 2 hours to sit and do a full section of the course then I can’t do it. Whereas a much better plan of action would be to just grab bite size half hour sessions whenever I can but just make sure I’ve got a block of time available when I need to actually sit down and do the tests. A handy little tip I have discovered though is that if you’re like me and a bit of a proud pedantic type of personality; the minute I blogged about not doing any TEFL the last time, I was immediately galvanised into action and spent an hour reading up on verbs. Almost as soon as I’d hit the ‘publish post’ button. So I may just try that in future if I’m not getting much done, I’ll just publicly blog about my uselessness.

I have also started what will sound like a very strange social experiment – just for my own personal gain. I’ve always wondered whether the fact that hippies (by hippies I mean floaty, smily types who seem endlessly calm, wear floaty clothes, practice meditation and yoga, eat hippie food, and carry their babies in great swathes of material until there about 3 – I know I’m generalising here but we all know one or a few; in the west end of Glasgow they’re practically an institution!). Anyway I’ve always wondered whether they are very relaxed, chilled out positive people who therefore become hippies who are identifiable by sight, or if when they’re young they kind of get into the fashion and the rest just sort of follows like a self fulfilling prophecy. As someone who is a bit uptight and pedantic and often suffers with anxiety but prescribes to a lot of the hippy ideals without ever jumping in 100% (probably because I met a bunch of heavy metallers at a key impressionable age and went a completely different route), I’ve often pondered over this chicken and the egg question. Do calm, anxiety free floaty people become hippies or do hippies evolve into calm floaty people?

This all no doubt sounds like a bit of an odd generalistic line of thought and reasoning; sorry if I offend any hippies with my shamelessly narrow description – it’s truly in jest and admiration, I really do just want to be in the club! So I’ve decided to give myself a complete hippie makeover. Whenever I feel stressed or anxious I’m forcing myself to smile and think happy thoughts. I’m off to find a meditation and yoga class next week and I’ve hunted out all my floaty comfy clothes and shoes and vacuum packed everything else. I did actually already own an awful lot of floaty, brightly patterned comfy stuff so it’s just been a wardrobe exchange if I’m honest. The bonkers plan is to see if I can make myself into one of those carefree non-pedantic types who irritates the life out of anyone even remotely uptight. I have a feeling that if I’d met different people and been influenced by those more inclined towards Buddhism (or something similar) from an early age then I would be a different person today and would have taken the paths I’m taking now at an earlier point. This is not about regret, please don’t think that – but it is about trying to take control over my life and my thoughts and my anxieties – albeit in a slightly mad way. I guess the idea is ‘dress like hippie, become a hippie’ and float around the world on a sea of positivity, taking each day one step at a time. But most importantly I want to pass some of that philosophy to my daughter. I was raised by highly anxious people and I inherited those idiosyncrasies, so more than anything I want my little monkey to inherit slightly more positive ones. I’d also like her to truly master and gain a love for yoga and meditation as the benefits of these two things are now firmly set in the social stone that is ‘science’. Brain scans of monks who regularly practice transcendental mediation have been publicised a lot recently; they’ve known this stuff for thousands of years of course but now we have brain scans as proof it’s become ‘common knowledge’. I’d really love monkey to be a calm, happy, positive floaty hippy to start with, rather than have to struggle and claw her way to the same place as I have over the course of 20 odd years.

So I’ll keep you all updated – can I reinvent myself as an anxiety free, carefree, happy, positive hippie? I really hope so although I suspect it’ll take a bit more than that such as a true commitment to serious ideals of buddhism and some serious practice of mediation and yoga. Which will serve me right for such blatant and insulting stereotyping won’t it?

 

Verbally challenged!

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frustration

I finally finished my TEFL section on verbs!!!! This probably shouldn’t warrant so many exclamation marks but F*@! Me that was difficult. OK, so the verb section is much more complicated than the noun section (kinda obvious when you look at how complicated the English system of verbs actually is); but there were some glaring gaps in the teaching and the odd question was completely ambiguous. I mean, I sat looking at one question for about 30 minutes and I’m still not sure what it was asking of me… This was the section on the present participle of verbs. In the exercise book I’m told that one way in which verbs can inflect is by having an ‘–ing’ on the end, and that we often use these verbs to describe an ongoing action. There are various examples given: ‘I’m watching a TV program’, ‘they are building a new hotel in my street’, ‘I was cooking spaghetti in the kitchen’. I’m then told that all the verbs have 2 things in common, firstly, unsurprisingly, they all have an –ing on the end and secondly they all have an auxiliary verb in front of them. This auxiliary verb is always the verb ‘to be’.

So far so good. This is all the information I’m given about present participles. When we get to the exercises at the end of the whole section I am asked the following:

“Write in the present participle of the verbs in the order they appear in the passage. Only write the participle, for example: 1. going 2. reading

I’m then given a passage and there are two boxes after the passage to fill my answers into – giving the clue that only two verbs are required. This is the passage:

“The three of us were sitting around the dinner table during lunch break. “I like Wendy McMinn,” I ventured. I was hoping that revealing my own secret would encourage Michael to start opening up about who he liked in the class.”

Now I happen to think that the instruction given to me is incredibly ambiguous. I initially take it to mean that I should write any verbs that appear in that passage in their present participle form. However I quickly realise this can’t be the case as I’m only given 2 boxes to fill out. I can immediately spot the verbs ‘sitting’, ‘liking’, ‘hoping’, ‘revealing’, and ‘opening’ – although I think maybe in this sentence ‘opening’ isn’t a verb but I’m still not sure on that one.

This is the major downside of an online course – there’s no one to ask. I was sent a snappy, friendly message from ‘Tim the Tutor’ when I electronically handed over my £215; that informed me the grammar section was a self taught section but he’d be around to answer any questions on the next bit. So basically “don’t email me stupid questions about grammar”. I looked on the TEFL.org forum – no luck for this particular question.

So despite what the question says I start to think that it is asking me to identify the actual present particples of the verbs that are used in that sentence in that form, rather than what I think it actually asks which is to write the verbs, as they appear, in their present participle form. By the way, at this point I have genuinely wrung my hands through my hair and possibly growled at my computer. So if the request is the latter then I think ‘sitting’ and ‘hoping’ are the verbs that are already in their present participle form, so I put these down.

There’s 9 more of these….

The next one has me even more flummoxed:


“Yeah, we know,” replied Michael. Both he and Pete were grinning wildly. “Speaking of whom …” He was gesturing behind me and as I turned I could see that Wendy and her gang of friends were wandering past, carrying trays. I caught her eye and she smiled ever so slightly before turning away.”

What do I start with? Grinning? Knowing? Gesturing? Wandering? Carrying? Turning?

There’s only 4 boxes – the other problem with these exercises is if you get the first one wrong, you basically get them all wrong because it has a knock on effect. I think I started with ‘grinning’ and I got all these wrong…

The rest of the test isn’t too bad – comparatively – and I eventually get through about 12 exercises on various forms of verbs in about 2 hours. I hand it in and find out that although I got the ‘grinning’, ‘gesturing ‘ section wrong I actually did OK on the bit that had me pulling my hair out. However I did incredibly badly on transitive and intransitive verbs – still, I managed an overall 90% as I got full marks for nearly everything else. Present participles frustrate the hell out of me but intransitive and transitive just plain don’t like me…. More work needed there then!

Anyway, I’m just happy I’ve done that section – I have learned a big lesson though… it’s maybe not a great idea to do some intense verbal workout just before bed – I lay there wide awake until about 3am, totally pumped up with all that new knowledge flying round my head and the frustrations of the TEFL instructions. You’d have thought an English language course would be able to articulate in a less ambiguous way wouldn’t you?! I’m still annoyed actually!

On a side note – any help or advice from some Verb Masters would be very gratefully received!

Who knew verbs could be so exhausting? And paradoxically insomnia inducing.

Just as a little positive but unrelated end note before I sign off. I found a lovely blog today that I think will prove extremely helpful over the next couple of years so I wanted to share the love – I suspect any well seasoned bloggers/travellers will have heard of them already but if not take a look!

http://www.goatsontheroad.com

Thanks again for reading!