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


Breathing Life Back…

…into this poor, sad blog.

I decided to come back and make a few tweaks and changes to my little blog. I’m debating about working on making writing a blog a new career move for myself, and I’d like to have a more aesthetically pleasing blog to share with people if I do follow through with this change.

Why, might you ask, would I be considering this?

For the same reasons I’m doing lots of new things these days. I am choosing to indulge in healthier habits, taking pride in my job, finding passions in my life I wasn’t aware of, and becoming a bit of a fan of adding creativity back into my world. I’d like to share that with people, even if I’m not sharing things that I was sharing before.

My blog may change a bit as a result.

However, I wanted to address a few fun things:

  • I’m still writing! I have been working on a novel and am committed to completing and posting Anti-Hero to Wattpad. Those of you who follow me there may notice there is a fancy bit of cover art I recently put up, and it has inspired me to move toward completing my current novel so I can finish Anti-Hero. 
  • I’m actually teaching ESL or English as a Second Language, and I absolutely love it! In fact, I may begin sharing some tips and tricks of the trade on my blog as I continue in this new profession. I never would have expected to find this job to be so exciting, but it’s become something I’m quite passionate about and am now considering pursuing further education in to make it a full-time career.
  • Fernando and I are still enjoying married life, much like two no longer newly weds would be, and we’ve settled into routines. If you check out the new design of the blog, you’ll see I’ve linked to my Instagram account where you can find pictures of us both as well as our favorite Dobby the House Corgi.
  • I’ve become quite a fan of exploring Pinterest ideas and putting them into practice in my little apartment. They tend to make a small space brighter, larger, and more pleasant. Feel free to check out my Pinterest link in the sidebar and get ready for upcoming posts sharing all my adventures with Pinterest creativity.
  • Last but not least, I’m becoming pretty obsessed with these little things called essential oils. I won’t go into too much detail in this post, but if you haven’t heard of the various companies out there that sell them, you should take a look at Young Living Essential Oils. I’ve been getting oils for several months now and have quite enjoyed incorporating them into my life.

Phew! You didn’t know you’d be reading a book of life changes, did you? Well, prepare for more to come as I hopefully am going to be sharing more with you about my writing, creating, teaching, loving life.

By the way, the title of my blog might seem a bit misleading, but I think I’ll also be doing a series on how I’ve been escaping cubed life over the past several years and what it’s done for me.

If you’ve hung in with me this long, thanks! Look forward to more from me, and I’ll be sharing more about life in a Cubed world.

– RaeNezL

Sometimes I want to run away…

Photo from when I studied abroad in Italy… Ah, Venice, how I miss you!

There are days I look back through photos and remember the adventures I’ve taken, and it’s all I can do not to want to scrimp and save every ounce of cash to run off on another adventure overseas again.

Today is one of those days.

The above is a photo I took while sitting in a gondola in Venice, Italy, during my summer semester abroad there in college. It was beautiful, fascinating, foreign, and one of the first times I really caught the foreign travel bug.

A little town called Civita, also in Italy… an incredible place to visit.

One of the places we visited while in Italy was a tiny Etruscan (pre-Christ) town called Civita. Aside from the large cities, this was by far my favorite city that I saw. It was gorgeous, old, and the views were incredible.

A view looking out from the city of Civita, Italy. Breathtaking!

I captured so many photos of times and places that caught my attention, stole my breath, and made my life feel more than normal. It made the adventurer in me surface in the worst way, and it made me want to run away again and again to these strange foreign places that we think are exotic but are really just home to another set of people.

And today is one of those days when I wish I could run away again to another foreign country… or one I’ve already visited. I’m not too picky. I’ll take what I can get. I’m saving money now for any expenses that could potentially come up unexpectedly anyway, and I’m a bit of a nut about things like this, so it’s not really that difficult for me to add a little extra on the side.

Maybe I should save a bit and suggest a getaway with Fernando? Perhaps somewhere a bit exotic for the both of us?

A view of St. Peter’s Basilica I took from atop the Spanish Steps at sundown in Rome.

Perhaps I should introduce Fernando to some of my favorite foreign places, like Rome… where you can dine on pasta and wine for hours on end and walk around at dusk to quaintly lit streets with a view of the St. Peter’s Basilica from any height in the city. I did so love discovering my traveler’s genes in Rome particularly, where I learned how to navigate a foreign subway and developed an affinity for certain parts of the city, like the Spanish Steps, which were surrounded by some of my favorite designers.

Ah well.

The point of all this is that there are moments when even trying to push through the monotony can’t keep me from longing to escape it all in a mad dash to adventure. And so I find myself perusing old photos and wishing fondly for days when I could go tackle crazy jobs in foreign countries and travel on foreign dimes and see the world in my own mad way.

Perhaps I will again someday, but not tonight. For tonight, I have my photos and dreams and the promises of tomorrow. And, as they say, tomorrow is another day…






The Price of Tea…

…and other things.

Since I haven’t really talked much about myself, I thought I’d share a bit. I’m not partial to tea over coffee and in fact prefer coffee to tea, especially in the mornings. But I’ll drink tea as well as coffee and most other hot drinks.

I figured that would be good enough to get started, right?

Just so you know, I’m a twenty-something woman looking for a better job but keeping the one she has while she’s got the bills she does. I’m in some bit of debt in the form of student loans and car payments, but that’s pretty much it for me as I live at home with my parents currently.

For those who don’t know, I’m living at home until, well, until things change in my life. It seems a bit strange to admit, but my life’s a bit up in the air at the moment. I’m dating Fernando, and I’m loving every moment of it. I live at home to keep expenses down and because I don’t trust that I could afford car payments, loan payments, and apartment rent plus the things that go along with that. And you never know what will change in life, do you?

I’m a dog, not a cat, person. In fact, I’m downright allergic to cats, including the ones that Fernando’s family have. (I’m sneezing some as I sit in his room writing this and he plays a video game.) However, I have a dog who is precious.

Dobby – My little buddy

As you can see, Dobby is my bud, and he’s got quite the expressive face. He can also be mouthy when he likes and is playful and fun. He’s a babe in arms, still, only a little over a year old. Wherever I go, Dobby goes, too, and he will hopefully be part of my life for many more years.

Aside from my job, which you know a little about, and now Fernando and my dog, what else is there to tell? Well, I’m a writer, which I’m sure you couldn’t tell from my blog. I intend to hopefully self-publish novels in the future; though I’m not sure I write well enough to publish through any mainstream publishers and don’t necessarily have the confidence to go after an agent.

I’m a lady of different hobbies, most of them more artsy than my business major would allow. I mean, who normally spends her time writing novels during business school anyway? And I wrote the majority of my first completed novel during my senior year of college… mainly during classes when I maybe should have been paying attention. I’ve also spent a great deal of my life writing blogs, poetry, and journals and studied journalism during some of my college years.

As you can imagine, I don’t just write. I read, too. I used to host a reading and writing blog, which I may or may not pick back up at some point in the future. That said, my library is extensive. Just ask my parents. Or Fernando. I can be wrapped up in books for days on end. I bury myself in books and get rather involved. But it’s a pleasure to do so, so why stop?

I’ve done some ballroom dancing lessons in the past. It’s always a pleasure to do; though I’ve never done it seriously.

What else? I’d say travel is a hobby if you can call it that. I wish I could say I do it as often as I like, but that’s not altogether true. I’d like to do it more. But I suppose that will take time and a deal more money than I have.

And since I don’t want to bore you to tears with nonsense about me, I’ll simply leave you with a bit of photos of this snowy, wintery day here in town. We’ve enjoyed it and will continue to do so, hopefully with a viewing of a movie, some popcorn and chocolate.

“The road goes ever on and on…” – Bilbo Baggins (Lord of the Rings)

The view from my road was a bit snowy today when I awoke. It was beautiful, and I thoroughly enjoyed the lovely whiteness on the ground. We don’t get it often here.

A bit of a black and white photo (plus green leash)…

Dobby rather enjoyed his time out in the snow despite not knowing what to think of all the white stuff.

Anyway, I should get back to more appropriate topics tomorrow, but I wanted to share a bit more general knowledge about the person you’re reading a blog from. And now it’s back to watch Fernando play a video game with strange fairies that have lanterns dangling from their noses…




The Ethics of Job Blogging

This can be a rather dicey subject, and I’d best put out my thoughts on it now before I go too much further in my blog and let you all know more about the place I work and the people I work with.

There are lots of things I want to explain about the call center, and before I start, there are some hard and fast rules I have set for myself and this blog:

  • I will not name the company for which I work, its location, or any of the people within the company.
  • I may badmouth some of the business practices of the company, but I have signed nothing that states I am not allowed to do so, and I believe I am indemnifying myself by holding to point 1 above.
  • It isn’t wrong to blog about the company I work for, the conditions I work under, or the reasons I’m seeking work elsewhere, especially considering I have yet to find something else, and if/when I do leave, I will still hold to point 1 above in an effort to indemnify myself and absolve the company of any blame.

All of that said, it’s hard to blog about your company as an unsatisfied employee. When the problem is not that your customers are bugging you but that management is constantly offering up change that seems to make the place more unworkable and expecting you to adhere to standards you cannot meet, you begin to feel it necessary to find some means of venting.

Now, many people do this on the premises at my work, which is an ethical nightmare of its own. Not to mention any rational person knows this is a means to an end: literally an end of losing your job. I’ve heard it said any gossiping reported to our VP of Human Resources will report in immediate dismissal. Given the fact I work in a gossip den, I find that highly unlikely but don’t want to test my luck too much longer by venting with other equally unsatisfied co-workers for fear of getting lumped in with the group and going down in a heap of ashes.

Venting can take other forms at home or in other places away from the office. I’ll sit at the dinner table at night and rant to my parents or Fernando about this or that change that’s taking place. Our key phrase at work that seems to define everything we do is: “Change is Good.” And my sarcastic rants typically reiterate this in the most sneering way possible, followed by the ways in which this change will likely make my life hell for the next however long until the next change comes along.

While an adequate means of venting and while both my parents and Fernando (and even some girlfriends of mine) are good sports about my venting, I always feel it gets tedious for them.

I don’t want to become the next crazy person walking into the office with a gun and blowing people’s heads off because of workplace stress. Granted, I also don’t feel it’s gotten even close to that point. But I am taking my own measures to ensure it wouldn’t get near that point.

So here I am. I set up a blog unaffiliated with any of the other blogs I host, under a different name from those blogs, attached to a different email address. The secrecy may be unnecessary, but I would like to keep my anonymity. Should someone who knows me personally find this blog and read it and recognize me from the posts, I would hope they would come to me before running off to someone else to share the surprising content of the blog. However, I’ve decided to start this blog for my own form of catharsis from some of the things my employers do, and given the number of others who do the same, I see no problem with this.

As a side note, I have made sure not to associate this blog with a Facebook page or Twitter account or any other social media I am a part of. Why? I’m sure you can imagine. The ethics of hosting a blog like this demand I be polite and maintain a distance between my personal life and the truth behind my professional life.

It’s just good sense. That’s all.

I believe the content of this blog will be a mix of funny and sarcastic, angry and amused, witty and wondering as I take the journey of life outside the box. And it won’t all be about my job. But I have quite a bit of fodder gleaned from my time at the call center, and I believe it’s worth posting for people to read.

Besides, how many people have you talked to who worked in a call center? Do you really know what it’s like behind the phones and polite “May I speak to so-and-so” tones?

This is my ethical statement of purpose for writing this blog. I believe it’s perfectly fine to write, and I am not condemning myself or anyone else by doing so. Anyone who feels otherwise is more than welcome to make his opinion known to me, but I will continue to write my posts in the interests of maintaining my sanity in a working condition that has me wishing I were independently wealthy and able to live off nothing with my dog for company in a posh apartment where I could spend my days shopping and being vain about being wealthy and having done nothing for it.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

– RaeNez

Just Doing My Job…

After two random posts about my job and a brief description in the about me section of this blog, I suppose I could explain a little more about what exactly it is I’m doing. In case you’re curious about what a girl like me is doing at a place like this and whatnot.

I’m currently working at a call center, which you may have already gathered. It’s the typically glamorous life pictured in numerous commercials (“Representatives are standing by to take your call now!”) where the gleaming white-toothed, perpetually-smiling rep takes calls non-stop with the patience of a saint and the ability to solve world hunger all in the space of 9-hour workday. Not to mention this rep never suffers a single complaint or becomes fazed by the anger of a customer.

There are multiple variations on this theme. I’m a perpetual target of SiriusXM’s call center lackeys. (And, yes, I feel I can call them lackeys since they essentially perform similar functions in a call center in the same way that I do.) They call about that ridiculous trial offer I naively took out when I got my new car, and “Ma’am, don’t you want to enjoy your favorite SiriusXM stations again? With this offer, you get all your favorite channels plus a dog, a cat, a white picket fence, and free wireless for the price of just one month’s subscription!” Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating that last bit.

Needless to say, they are just doing their jobs as sales reps. I get that. I respect that. And I generally am kind in declining my renewal subscription. It’s always the same, too. They somehow ask why I don’t want it, and I inevitably respond: “I can get it elsewhere for free, so why would I want to pay for the same service?” Cold, callous, and totally true.

But SiriusXM is the sales model call center. You’ve also got another model in terms of fundraising and/or surveying. These people don’t call with your name, or maybe they do and it’s on a list they harvested from a paid list of names. Either way, they call with similar themes: “Ma’am, can we speak with the oldest male present who listens to the radio?” (That’s the most recent one.) Or sometimes they change it up to: “Ma’am, may we speak with someone in the household who listens to the radio?”

These people are irritating on a whole different level. I never gave them my name or number. I didn’t ask to be surveyed or otherwise begged for money. Nor do I honestly care if you’re doing a survey about ongoing radio trends in the greater metropolitan area. If you’re going to call back fifteen times a day, you’re going to get used to people like me who eventually answer the phone, wait for it to connect to the person on the line and simply say: “Please stop calling.” Click.

And then we’ve got my model of call center: the collections center. Note that these call centers are not to be confused with inbound call centers that deal primarily with customers calling in to make purchases, ask questions, resolve issues on accounts, or otherwise harass reps. We’ll deal with inbound call centers later.

My job is a simple matter of logging into multiple different systems on a computer each day, putting on a headset (which does get uncomfortable after hours of use), and clicking onto a desktop system connected to my phone that allows calls to come through. Our system dialer is active throughout the day, and it runs campaigns on delinquency.

Delinquency, you may ask? Yes. Delinquent accounts. I work in a company I will not name for privacy with accounts that are mainly individual debt. Think of it like working with mortgages, car loans, student loans, credit card debt and other similar forms of debt. The debt can be anywhere from a few dollars when it’s close to being paid off to over $300,000 in some cases.

To simplify it further, I am working with simple interest debt. The principal balance on any given account accrues interest daily, and in turn, payments go towards accrued interest first and then principal. Easy? Yes. The people I speak with would sometimes disagree, but that’s not my problem.

My job is just to call and try to convince people to pay their bills. They’re always bills that are past due by at least 17 or more days. They’re typically people who tell me they can’t make their payments for this or that reason, and I have to come up with a solution to their situation. Thankfully my job allows me to do this; we have assistance options available. But woe to the person who doesn’t qualify for a program or payment plan to fix their issues!

As you can imagine, it’s an easy enough job. I figure if monkeys could talk and type, it would be simple work to train them to do it. And it’s surprising the work hasn’t been outsourced to India or some equally incomprehensible country where the hours are unreal and the people are willing to work for much less pay than what I’m getting now.

But that’s what it boils down to, isn’t it? It’s a job, and someone has to do it. Unfortunately, until I can find another job, this is what I do.

So if I call you about your payment, don’t get mad. I’m just doing my job.

– RaeNez