Beginnings and Endings

Life is always full of beginnings and endings. We always watch as one door opens and another one closes. In the end, I think the best part is being able to look back and see the things that we experienced and smile at those experiences.

This week is a series of beginnings and endings for Fernando and myself. Perhaps for you, too.

I’ll start by saying that the world of social media is a great place to watch people take their steps from one ending to a new beginning. Just this week alone in my world of social media, I watched the following:

  • A friend moved to a new city in a new state.
  • A cousin had a first baby.
  • Another cousin became engaged.
  • A friend announced a first pregnancy.
  • A friend posted her engagement photos.

All those beginnings! And each of them marks the end of something, too, when you think about it.

Well, we had our own humble endings and beginnings this week.

Fernando finished out his last day in the fast food world on Sunday. It was, perhaps, not the best shift he could have had, but then again, it’s over. And that’s just it. It’s over!

Poof. One shift, and he never goes back to work there again. He left his keys in the safe, and that was that.

Then I had my own endings this week.

On Monday, I spent my day teaching my class and another teacher’s class because that teacher’s children were sick. Suffice it to say my best laid plans don’t always include teaching four different levels of students! But it all seemed to work out in the wash as I was even complimented by one of the students from the other class about how she enjoyed my class.

Wednesday marked the end of my class, however. It’s the end of a school year here, and while two of my classes will continue through June, this one will not. I said goodbye to my students and enjoyed one last class with my ladies in this class (all females at this point!). Some of them will take amazing trips this summer, and some will go back to their countries, either to visit or to return forever. But wherever they go, they will always hold a place in my heart, and I’m hoping to see them again sometime September when classes begin again.

It’s amazing to think that I started in this class in September and went the entire school year with them. I’m so proud of the work all the students in my class here have achieved. They’ve done so well, and some of them have gone so far just in one school year. But it’s come to a close and is time to move to a new beginning. I just haven’t decided what that is yet.

On the other hand, Fernando’s new beginning started the same day as my ending. Wednesday marked his first day at the internship! He was excited and had bought some new clothes so he could go properly dressed in his business casual attire. It’s now all about learning the ropes for him as he starts a totally new position. I couldn’t be more proud of him.

Beginnings and endings are the markers in our lives, and this week has been full of them. Have you had any beginnings and endings to share this week?

– RaeNezL

News and Nonsense

If you’ve taken the time to follow me at all on any of my social media platforms, you might have noticed a few posts about my recent uptick in visits to local community places. Feel free to check out my Instagram for adorable dog pictures (link is in my sidebar) of Dobby the House Corgi as well as my food adventures.

Let me share a little of what I’ve done lately.

This past weekend was full of fun and mischief as I went out on an adventure with a local corgi group in my area. If you are familiar with the company Petsafe, you might know them as the group that makes lots of awesome dog-related products, such as invisible fences and various bark collars to deter unnecessary barking. Anyway, they also create gorgeous dog parks in cities all around the country, and we happen to have a couple dog parks made by Petsafe in our city.

(As a side note, if you’re a dog lover/owner and are interested in getting a Petsafe dog park in your city, you should check out their Bark for your Park competition. You could help win a dog park for your city.)

Anyway, I have taken Dobby there a couple of times now, and he isn’t so keen on it yet. He goes, but he’s more or less like a grunting, disapproving senior adult. He’s going along with it, but he’s only doing it so he can follow me around and make sure I know how much he disapproves.

Last Friday, I had a meetup with the local corgi owners in the area, and it was fabulous. It was full of laughter, fun, and water. Yes, water. You see, this dog park has a great area on the river that the dogs can just jump right in and make themselves at home in the water. Dobby was the only corgi there without a life jacket, poor guy, but considering his absolute terror about going in the water, I suppose it was okay.

One of the other corgis was comical in his attempts to get into the water. He failed spectacularly at swimming and was only saved by his life jacket and his derpy expressions as the humans all laughed at him. What can I say? Corgis are adorable. The best part was that Dobby did finally get into the spirit of things and chase the corgis around a few times. He’s starting to break out of his shell. Slowly.

Incidentally Dobby’s made a friend here at the apartments, and I’m so proud of him. He actually likes to play with this dog even when they’re on leashes! That’s a huge deal for our poor pup.

In other fun adventures, I went to BiscuitFest this past weekend as well. If you don’t know what that is, it’s simple. It’s a festival that celebrates biscuits.

Is there anything better? Of course not.

I dragged my parents along since I couldn’t convince Fernando to ditch work on one of his last days to come join me. Spoil sport. We went to downtown, paid $10 and ate 5 glorious biscuits of our choice. It sounds boring, but those biscuits were amazing. My personal favorite, and the one that won the people’s choice award, was one called “Mama Says Don’t Say Maybe To Chocolate Gravy.” There’s a picture on my Instagram.

But if you don’t want to check out the picture…

Imagine a confection–not a biscuit, a confection–of pure biscuit pleasure with the sweetest, most delectable chocolate gravy sandwiched between the two layers and drizzled atop it to pool in the bottom of the bowl. Then imagine a dollop of whipped cream and a slice of strawberry to top it all off.

Can you say yum?

I can. I did.

Excuse me while I drool a little in remembrance.

I’m quite enjoying participating in community events this summer. Apparently I need to find a few more of these sweets to join in. But for now, I’ll be finishing out my class days in style as I teach my students and watch Fernando learn a new trade in his internship.

How about you? Are you doing anything fun this summer in your community?

– RaeNezL

*Note: I am not affiliated with Petsafe in any way, nor am I receiving any products or services from the company for this blog post. I just like the company and thought I would recommend it myself! Check it out if you want or don’t. I don’t care.* 

Pee in a Cup

If you’re reading the title of this post, you’re likely wondering what on earth I could be referring to. Or maybe you already figured it out. If you have, you either have some secrets you like to hide or you’ve read my recent posts!

Silliness aside, I have to bring this up because I can finally announce that Fernando got the internship! By the time you read this, he will have finished his last day at the fast food restaurant of doom. In fact, on Thursday, his coworkers bought and gave him a very nice cake to celebrate his almost 11 years of service!

Can you believe it? 11 years of fast food work. That’s a long time!

He did start when we were in high school, so it’s kind of understandable, but I am thrilled that he’s gotten this opportunity to work somewhere else!

It was a huge surprise to us both that he got the internship, actually.

(Not because he’s unqualified but because of the circumstances!)

You see, he did his interview and then got an email about some things they needed from him, namely his unofficial transcripts from college. He got those sent in as soon as he could and then waited. And waited. And waited some more.

Finally he sent an email back to the contact person asking about the internship and when he would hear anything. Wouldn’t you know they’d sent him an offer May 1st via email that he never received? To add to that, it was May 6th, and he only had until May 8th to confirm acceptance of the position!

I’m so thankful he contacted them about the position! He might not have known about the offer if he hadn’t.

Well, after he got that sorted, Fernando set to work jumping through the usual hoops of new employment. If you’ve been around long enough, you know the drill: sending in information for I-9 forms, W-4 forms, even getting insurance (INSURANCE! WOOT!) information, and, of course, the drug test.

The drug test has been his last hoop to jump through, and he did that Friday morning. His last day at the fast food place was Sunday, and then all we have to do is wait for them to give him his official start date at the internship. They said it would be anywhere between the 19th and 26th.

Can I just say again how proud and excited I am for Fernando? He is going to rock this internship!

And now, you can return to your regularly scheduled blogs and Internet goings on. However, if you’d like to leave a little bit of congratulations for Fernando, I’m sure he’d appreciate it!

– RaeNezL

Stereotypes – They’re Everywhere

So I disappeared for a week, and I apologize for that. I got caught up in a lot of things happening with life, and now I’m back to continue what I’ve started!

I wanted to talk today about a trend I see on Facebook and other social media sites that I think can be rather dangerous.

You know how often we share articles, photos, memes, or anything else we find on our social media pages? It’s normal and easy to do. I love seeing what my friends have shared on their Facebook feeds most of the time. But guess what? It’s May 2015, and we’re about to enter the ever wonderful world of election season.

No? You don’t think so?

I think so. It’s going to hit like a whirlwind. News stations are going to light up like New York City at Christmas time. Media websites will feature every candidate posturing about his or her favorite go-to topic, and we’ll be inundated with the “issues” that are important for this election season.

Why do I bring this up? Because inevitably my Facebook feed and yours will be filled with tons of shares of articles from friends that are all about their political affiliations.

This is probably my least favorite time to be on Facebook, when something explodes in the media and I have to see shares about it pop up on my feed for an unknown number of days or weeks until it dies down. Now, I know that might sound silly to complain about, but realistically my main concern is how this appears.

Every time someone shares a news article and doesn’t comment on it, that person is basically agreeing with the content. 

Would you agree?

I had a Facebook friend share a link from a website that was rather uncomplimentary to immigrants this week. It essentially took some simple stereotypes of immigrants and made those stereotypes into a short story. Let’s just say I was unimpressed and downright angry. Not only because this person shared it but because his share basically amounted to approval of the content.

I don’t usually comment on things like that because it’s normally not something I like to involve myself in. Political battles aren’t my thing, and I don’t like to start arguments on social media since they’re pointless battles.

However, this past week, I’ve commented to two friends who shared things of this nature because I’m tired of seeing it all the time.

I almost never share articles on my Facebook page. Why? For the reasons I listed above. Shares amount to acceptance and promotion, and you can’t take that back. You can say you were wrong, but it never leaves the wide world of the Internet. I prefer to share things about my life and what I’m doing instead of sharing the more volatile things like my religious beliefs and political affiliations.

I also just don’t think people need to know how I feel about those issues on social media. I may share some of those things here at some point, so don’t be too surprised. However, I don’t feel that Facebook is the right platform for sharing stereotypes and political agendas and religious fights. There’s a time and place for things like that, and to me, it’s not my social media.

What do you think? Is social media the place to lay down the gauntlet of political, social, economical, and religious battles? Let me know your thoughts.

– RaeNezL

Best Laid Plans

Over the weekend I took Dobby the House Corgi on a trip to a local Pet Fair. It was actually a lot of fun, and we got some exposure to other animals and tons of people. Best of all for Dobby, we came away loaded up with treats, toys, and lots of literature on places, people and things of note that I am now working on reading through.

That was the first experience we’ve had together in a local event for pets and pet owners, and since it went so well, I’m now planning to go to another one in June that will be bigger, last longer, and hopefully give us more delicious freebies for the pup to enjoy.

I decided this would be my year to explore things in my city, and since I’m no longer working crazy long hours with a screwed up weight loss company and I’ll actually have a summer vacation this year, I’ve searched out some fun and fairly cheap options of things to do.

Have you ever searched for local events just to see what your city has to offer?

It’s kind of crazy, actually. I know people who live in a small town might not have as many events on offer as those in big cities, but even in my moderately sized city, I was pleasantly surprised by all the options available. I’ve made plans to go to a few different festivals happening this spring, the next one in mid-May!

In fact, the one in mid-May is probably one of my favorites because it’s the most delicious festival we have. Yes, I live in the South. Yes, we make delicious food. Yes, we celebrate our amazing food. And, yes, I’m going to a festival celebrating one of our Southern specialties: the biscuit.

I’ll likely make a post about that festival as it comes time for me to attend, but suffice it to say, it’s a big festival and there are many delicious options of food.

Then there is the second dog festival we’re attending in June. That one is, as I mentioned, bigger. But it happens to be in downtown and on the same day as a chicken wing festival located in the same area. This means the festivals will celebrate dogs and their people! Can you say excited? I am super excited about this and can’t wait to see what all I can indulge. Of course, that all depends on whether I am allowed to attend the wing festival with a dog in tow. We shall see.

And the last event on my list for this spring? A little thing called Slide the City. It’s something that moves from place to place, so you may or may not have it in a location close to you. Basically this group comes in and sets up a 1000-foot slip-n-slide in the middle of a downtown city street for people to grab floats and slide down.

Can you imagine kids and grown adults screaming, shouting, and laughing their way through a downtown street on their bellies in a torrent of running water? Yeah. It’s exactly why I’m going. I’d like to get my dad’s GoPro and slap a waterproof cover on it to video the experience. We’ll see how well that works, though.

These are the few events I’ve decided to do just to see what my city has available. Is there anything you’ve got planned for the spring or summer? Share with me in the comments.

– RaeNezL

It’s Like Speaking Another Language

There are times in teaching when I look at my students and wonder how we can be so entirely different. It’s not because they come from wildly different cultural backgrounds, or maybe it is. I consider it a totally different type of speaking another language because I don’t just teach English, I teach culture.

American culture, in particular, is one of enormous differences from the cultures of most of my students. They come from backgrounds of patriarchal societies with heavy overtones of male dominance, female submission (in some cases female abuse), extreme religious views that color the lenses with which they see the world, and an adherence to traditional values that have been long abandoned by current American culture.

This is why there are times when I wonder if I’m speaking another language to my students entirely.

I have certain groups of students who are rather loathe to accept instruction from a woman. The fact they’re male is only a part of the equation. The rest of the equation is very much decided by their country of origin and background. They tolerate the teachers but are hard pressed to understand why they fail tests when they refuse to do homework or participate in class activities.

I have other groups of students that are determined to speak in their native language to ask questions about my teaching. I would understand that if they’d already asked my assistance with their question, but they, by and large, ignore me and speak to one another to try to understand whatever grammar topic we are covering. The result is usually lackluster writing and a number of raised hands asking for help to write their sentences.

There are other students who come to class with one purpose and one purpose alone: to have me sign a piece of paper so that they can continue receiving public assistance. These are some of the most entitled, privileged students I’ve come across. And while I would never assume this to be the case for the majority of my fellow Americans on public assistance, especially as I’ve had to rely on unemployment before, I’m seeing that for some of these students it’s no problem to come to class and demand that I sign a paper to verify their class time daily. It is a problem, however, for them to be asked to do homework, come to class regularly, or even participate in class like normal students.

This is the student I want to speak to in this post.

The student who comes only to fulfill credit for public assistance is the student who should find another program. It’s not to say that they have no business being in our program. It’s simply saying they take advantage of a program that other students rely on to help them advance in their education.

I have seen several students who have very little desire to be in the classes come simply to have a paper signed. They sometimes ask me to sign their papers at the beginning of class, but I refuse and only sign at the end. I’m not stupid enough to believe they would stay to the end of class with the paper already signed.

One student came to me and said she would no longer come to our classes because she no longer needed to get the paper signed. I said it was her choice to come or not to come, and she never returned. Another student asked me to fill out her paper but said she couldn’t stay for class that day. She needed the entire previous month filled out and hadn’t bothered to bring the paper to class for me to sign before, so I had to pull up my records and fill in the days she’d attended. She tried arguing with me that she attended more days than I signed.

But my greatest one happened last week.

A student who has apparently never brought in paper or pencil for class moved to my class. He’d been told by our tester she expected him to have his materials for class that day. He came in and brought nothing with him except the paper he’d need signed for public assistance. When we asked about his materials, the same excuse of having forgotten them came to his lips.

The tester called him out and told him it was an expectation. Now this particular student isn’t fond of the women who teach him and the authority they carry as teachers. He’s less fond of a little old lady calling him out for not being prepared. Essentially she angered him so much he skipped the next class.

I have no idea if he’ll be back this week.

If he comes back, I doubt he’ll bring his materials.

And really, if he can’t understand why it’s important to bring a paper and pencil to class, it really is like I’m speaking another language to him.

– RaeNezL

You’re Never Just A Teacher

One of the interesting things I’m learning about being a teacher is that you’re never just a teacher.

I can be teacher and teach English to my students, but I’m serving other roles as well. I’d like to examine a few of those other roles today.

I always knew teachers did so much more than just teach. As a student, I always held teachers up in this higher plane of existence from other fields of employment. Why? Because many of my teachers did things for me that were above and beyond teaching.

Now I know what it looks like in my own experience of teaching adults, and while it’s not quite the same, it’s still true that teaching is never just teaching.

Here are just a few of the roles I have played as an ESL Teacher:

I am test preparer. 

This may seem self-explanatory, but it falls a bit outside my role as teacher. My official role is simply to prepare students for the test they take in our program. Following that and our curriculum, what I do outside it is on my own time, and I have a student who has come to me on several occasions during class breaks and before class to discuss a test she plans to take in order to get accepted to a local community college.

What is this test? Not ours by a long shot. It’s called the Michigan Test, and it is similar to the TOEFL or other tests that are designed to test a foreign student’s English language acquisition and skills. The student who plans to take the Michigan Test has signed up for this test in May and is feverishly studying using a book similar to Baron’s study guides to try to pass this test, but she comes to me for help in deciding how to approach the test.

I mainly give her advice about how to approach her practice tests and tips we have heard over and over as students. “Take one of the practice tests and just answer all the questions with your first thought. See how you do.” This was one piece of advice I gave her. “Try to find ways to relax and stay calm. You forget things when you get tense, so try some breathing exercises.” She talks about being nervous, and one of the big concerns she has had is not being able to remember what she’s learned.

As her teacher, even though she’s already left my class for a higher level class, she continues to come to me for advice and support, and I gladly try to give her what help I can.

I am a researcher.

As with that last role, you might think this one is obvious, but until you have adults asking for information that you’ve never even considered searching out, you can’t begin to question the role of research as a teacher. Certainly I research facts, grammar rules, and information I plan to present to my students. However, I have students come to me for more information about things unrelated to class topics on a semi-regular basis.

With my student above, she came to me with questions about how to enter a community college as a foreign student, and having never been in the position myself, I set to work finding the information from the particular college’s website for her. It was certainly worth the research as I had no idea how different the procedures were depending on the varying visa types.

Another student recently came to me and questioned me about adoption. She asked if she could adopt a U.S. born child as a non-citizen. As this was not a normal circumstance, I decided to look into some of the information on adoption laws and discovered a wealth of information I’m still trying to wade through for her to pass on to her husband.

Being a researcher doesn’t just mean research for my lesson plans anymore. It means finding answers to tough questions that are hard for my students to research on their own with their limited English skills.

I am an advisor/counselor.

I think all teachers feel this at some point in their careers. I am just blessed to feel it at this stage in mine.

My students come to me frequently with questions about how to pass the test. This time I am referring to the program test. They come to me with questions about things they have heard from their American friends. They ask me how to respond when American employers say certain things to them. They ask me how to be confident about their oral tests. And they ask me about passing the citizenship exam and how to stay calm in the middle of the exam.

This is perhaps one of the great responsibilities and privileges that comes with teaching. I love this and love the opportunity to share ideas and advice with my students. I do everything in my power to give them answers that will help, and many of them have come back to thank me for the answers I’ve given them, even if it was just an answer that helped them pass the test.

I am emotional support. 

One thing that teachers see is life. Life plays out no matter what kind of classroom a teacher heads. With my adults, I see things from the perspective of parents, lovers, friends, and enemies. There is a tension that exists in a classroom of adults, similar to that in a classroom of children but with a depth that comes from knowing the bills must be paid, the work must be done, the children must be cared for, and the food must be cooked.

When life goes haywire or when things get sketchy, I find myself at the head of people in line for requests of emotional support. My student who plans to take the Michigan Test constantly asks for my prayers for her success, and I am happy to offer them on her behalf. This week I learned a student has a medical condition she cannot receive surgery for until she returns from her home country, and she had asked for my help because the condition was scary and new.

And yesterday a lovely student asked me and my boss for not only emotional support but for a ride home from the hospital after an exploratory surgery she will have to try to determine what’s going on internally. She has no family here and reached out to us because she had no one else to ask. She asked for help, support, and prayers. I can’t imagine doing any less for her.

All these roles and so many more have been a blessing.

Sometimes teaching is hard, but when I think of the ways I get to be more than just a teacher, I can’t help thinking it’s a wonderful thing to be in such a position as this.

I’m never just a teacher.

– RaeNezL