The Scamp Wants a Superpower

I don’t think I know anyone who has not wished for a superpower at one point or another. The person sitting in traffic wishing they could fly; the child who lives far from home wishing they could teleport; the slightly pervy guy who wishes he had X-ray vision. Kids who want to be like Batman, Superman, Captain America, or one of the X-Men. No matter what the age, I think that most people can agree that it would be really cool to have a superpower. The challenge for this week (week 43 already? Seriously?!) is to write about what super power I would like to have.

If someone had asked me this question last week, I probably would have said I would like to be able to fly or teleport. I’d love to be able to get to California to see my family for dinner, and then back to work in Edinburgh the next day. My life would be so much easier that way. After this week though, I have a new superpower that I wish I could have. I want the ability to understand and speak any language. I usually teach advanced conversation classes for the language school I work for, but this week, I was with students whose levels of English ranged from basic to intermediate. I thought it would be fun to do a Halloween themed activity, and even had Candy Corn that my mom sent me from the US to share with the students. They were all from Spain, and I know that Halloween is not celebrated there, so I figured it would make for good conversation and would be fun to see what the students thought of the candy.

One of the students I was working with had a very basic understanding of English and was finding it quite difficult to keep up with what was going on in class. I understand Spanish, but it is not good enough, and I am not as confident in my ability to explain concepts to someone who doesn’t understand English. The student was not a fan of my class, and I could see him getting increasingly frustrated as the class went on. Two hours is a long time to sit in a room where you don’t really know what is being said….especially since you are paying to be there. If I had the ability to speak and understand any language, I would have been in a better position to help him enjoy the class, lack of appreciation for the Candy Corn be damned.

This is not the first time this has happened to me while working at the school. Several months ago, a woman came to the school to do her initial assessment, and she spoke no English. We tried to muddle through a conversation while I gaged her skill level, and explained what the classes would entail while she was a member of the school. Somewhere in my explanation, the student thought I was telling her that I was not going to be working with her, not because my boss handles the students’ assignments, but because she was Polish and I didn’t like her. I was mortified. I would never want to do anything to jeopardize the reputation of the language school, but I also never want to offend people on purpose (well, some people, but they are jerks and they deserve it). If I had been able to speak Polish, I would have been able to help her, and help her with the start of her English training.

I’m hoping that one day someone will make this little dream a reality. In the meantime, I am going to try my best to not offend any more people, and brush up on my Spanish skills.

 

 

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The Scamp Swears like a Sailor

I always knew my penchant for swearing and my love of a well-timed insult would come in handy one day.

I just didn’t know that that day would be in an evening Advanced Conversation Class at Simply English Edinburgh.

I love my job there. I have the chance to help some really lovely and amazing people improve their English skills. One of my favourite people owns the school, and has graciously hired me for to teach some classes, and act as a sub when needed. It puts me back in the classroom (which is something that I miss), and I get to meet really great people.

I have been working with a student who is in Edinburgh for a few months for work, and is at the school to improve their English Language skills while they are here. So far, their time here has been less than ideal. My student works in a horrible department, spends most lunch breaks eating alone, and is dealing with a major setback with work.

By the time my class rolled around, my student was not in the best of moods. Luckily, the other students in the class were not about to let a bad work environment ruin the magic of the city. I gave them the option of what the focus of our class would be, and somehow, we ended up talking about cuss words and insulting people in English. The students took notes on the sayings and insults, and then we looked up the best Scottish insults and I translated them from Scottish slang to English they could understand.

Now, to be clear, this is not something I would normally do. I know that as a teacher, I have a responsibility to be professional, but right at that moment, this is what the student needed. All of the students in my class are in their 30s, and before we started, I made sure that everyone was going to be comfortable with the subject matter. Everyone was laughing and chatting away in English and sharing where they learned some of the more creative insults.

I think I was more embarrassed explaining it to them then they were hearing the insults. This is not going to be an everyday thing, but when I left the class, my student who is struggling was laughing and felt better (they even had a list with all the insults written down to take to work for when the co-workers start to act like jerks again. The hour and a half of laughter was worth it for me. Just in case anyone was wondering, I worked in grammar, new vocabulary, and how to structure the insults in the best way possible, so learning was taking place.  It’s amazing how good a little swearing can make you feel.

In the interest of fairness, here is the article that I used for the Scottish insults. If you are easily offended, please don’t click the link. I’m not going to post the ones that I gave to them, just trust that they were really nice and colourful. Twatscile was one of them (okay, you get one from me).

https://www.buzzfeed.com/hilarywardle/chew-mah-banger?utm_term=.cbe8vGplA#.yv0zXJQ3d

Feel free to share your favourite swear word or insult with me, or just scream it out loud in an empty room when you are having a bad day.

The Substitute Scamp

For the last several days I have been filling for a teacher at small English language school in Edinburgh. It is the first time I have taught in a strictly ESL instance, but the group I was in charge of for the week are all upper intermediate students with a strong command of the English language. Five of the students in the class are from Spain, while the last student is from South Korea. They are all very friendly and very excited about learning, and the rest of the teachers at the school are great (ok, so one is one of my best friends, and another is my landlord),and if this place was hiring teachers, I would definitely apply and be very happy working there.

I thought things were going great. The tasks they have to complete from the book are pretty easy, they are not shy about speaking to me and to each other, and they even liked my idea for a conversation cafe where they offered topics and had a lively debate on the merits of private schools. Today’s lesson was covering things that are annoying, and while sitting in gum and having a bad haircut are certainly things that one would complain about, The students didn’t really feel like those things needed to be discussed, so we talked about things that they would complain about, or be afraid to complain about. One of them mentioned that she would not complain to a person’s face that she could not understand what they are saying, but rather do so to her friends or at home. After a little bit of prodding, she told me that my accent is so hard to understand that she often doesn’t know what I am saying. I was crushed. I thought I was doing such a great job, the students are great, are were not shy about working, but now I know that they are just too polite to tell me they can’t understand me. Boooooooooo.

I grew up in California and always considered myself someone with a very flat accent that was easy to understand. I never thought that I would get to Scotland and be the one with the hard to understand accent. Looks like my career as an ESL teacher is going to end before it ever really has a chance to begin. I am not sure that I have ever been self-conscious about the way I speak, or how I sound to other people, but now, I think that might change.

A major part of my job is meeting with people and talking about my research and the plan I have for their programs. If people cannot understand me, how are they going to take my overhaul of their curriculum as a serious option?

The Scamp is Umemployed

in the United States anyway.

As of 8 pm Pacific Standard Time on May 13, 2015, I completed my contract with the community college. It is the last of my three jobs.

I got fired from the first one in January, except, no one told me. I worked hard as a research assistant, and now someone else’s name will go on the work. I quit the second job last week when I realized I spent more time hating the rude and horrid 13 year olds than helping them. They put me in a bad mood week after week, and I was unable to shut off my hatred of them and just do my job.

So I quit.

I only feel bad about quitting because my mom could use the help. I will say though, the yoga classes this week were a lot better because I wasn’t already frazzled when I got there.

The teaching job is a little different. I was actually a bit sad to see this job come to an end. The last time I was done with a job, it was to take the teaching job, so I was not the least bit sad to leave it. With this one, when I dismissed my students for the last time, I was sad to see them go. Many of them came up and gave me a hug, and a few of them who I have really gotten to know over the last year brought me gifts and really thoughtful cards. When a friend of mine asked me how I was feeling, and I gave him the honest answer.

I felt like I wanted to cry. I should be happy because now I have free time to sort out the packing and shipping, and really get into the literature I have found for the new project I am about to embark on, but when I was walking to my car last night, I was sad looking at the buildings and passing the library where I have spent the last month working with my students. I got an exit form, and when my grading is done, I will turn in my keys and the form. and be officially done with the campus. This job was my bright spot for the last year. Even when the rest of my world was falling down around me in flames, this job remained a bright spot. I liked my students for the most part, liked the people that I was working for and with, and thought that I was doing a pretty darn good job and teaching students how to write.

Earlier this week I got the written review of the class evaluation that I got in April. I was profoundly disappointed when I realized that I had simply been deemed “satisfactory.” I’ve never been just satisfactory at anything in my professional life. The thing is, nothing in the comments on the evaluation were bad. The couple of areas that needed to be improved were areas that I knew I was going to get dinged on (I mean, really, I have never used a rubric in my life). Satisfactory is good. Satisfactory is 80/100. The thing is, I do not feel like I am an 80/100. I’m a 100/100. I’m not sure why people do not see that. I know that the chair of the department was only in my class for an hour, but I have to say, I thought it was a pretty good hour. My mother patiently reminded me that I am a part timer, and that they had already offered me two classes for the fall, so I should be more than happy with my review. I was still smarting about my review at 8 pm last night when I let my class go for the last time. One of my students who I had both last semester and this semester came in and brought me a note that she had forgotten to give me when she saw me earlier in the day. This is what it says”

Dear Ms. Wilder,

    I wanted to write (type) you a few words before you leave overseas. Well, to start off, congratulations on getting a full-time job in Scotland! I am truly happy for you. You have told us many times that you wanted a full-time job, and now you have it, although I am sad about it as well. You are the best English teacher I have ever had! I have learned so much in your class. I was so nervous when I started attending school because I had not been in school for so long, but you were helpful, and guided us throughout the semester. I am so thankful that I was able to attend your class this semester too. When I first started coming to college, I knew that I wanted to major in English, but plenty of people tried to talk me out of it. The reassurance I needed came when you told us that that you had majored in English, and all of the experiences you had encountered on your way to achieving a higher education in Scotland. Learning all about your achievements in general made me realize that I should pursue something that I love. So, I thank you for that. You are an extraordinary professor, and I want you to know that: I love the way you teach, the communication that you have with your students, the way you organize your lectures, the clarity of your explanations when getting into a new essay, the comments you write in our journals and our essays to help us improve our writing, your dedication to each and every one of us, even the fact that you play music before class starts. That is what makes you stand out from other professors, the time you take to do the small things for your students that make a huge difference for us. You are original in everything you do. Wherever you go, please do not lose your unique style, both in teaching and in fashion. I am really going to miss you Ms. Wilder, I believe that I speak for the entire class when I say that. Those Scottish students are lucky! Good luck with your upcoming job.

Sincerely, 

Your English 100 student

That is all it took to remind me that I am anything other than satisfactory. This student has a bright future, and is going to do well in life, and I am going to take a little bit of pride knowing that I had a little hand in helping them along.

The Scamp Gets Rewarded

Today was the last day of my first class at Fullerton College. I tell anyone who will listen how much I love my position there, and how much I love what I do. Today was yet another reminder of why.

I thought to leave my students with some final thoughts about writing, and my hopes for them as they continue their writing career. I know that had I been in a better place, I would have written something heartfelt and meaningful, but because I am all tapped out for the semester, I gave them the gift of John Keating. I played a clip from the movie Dead Poets Society. 

I wanted them to internalize this quote:

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

I thought that maybe these words would be my gift to them.

Today, though, my students gave me a gift.

2014-12-03 19.50.47 (2)

This merry band of misfits have all become amazing writers. I’d love to say it was all my doing, but many of them came to me with the ability, and just needed someone to help them fine tune it. They asked me if they were my favorite class, and I told them the truth when I said yes. I looked forward to seeing them every Monday and Wednesday, and I have really enjoyed reading all of their work.

When I had finished with my words of wisdom, they all wanted to share their final thoughts. Many of them told me that they loved my class and are excited to have me next semester, and one woman told me that she knows God steered her toward my class for a reason. She is a returning student, and worked hard for an A in my class. She told me that she would have never survived if it wasn’t for me. Another one of this delightful group told me he would have dropped the class if it had not been as interesting as it was. This was the first college class that he actually passed, and one day I hope to stumble across his writing in a bookstore.

I have a month off before it all starts again, and I have to say, I can’t wait.

It is not very often that I get to come face to face with my good decisions, and man does it feel good when I do.

The Scamp Completes her First Week

I’ve finally completed my first week of teaching, and the first week of my second year of the doctoral program.

Teaching is great. I love my students. The first class I teach is at night, but they try to stifle their yawns, and they ask questions and engage with my lecture. The second class is a four hour once a week class, and although we have only met once, I have a feeling that I will get a lot of great work out of them. I like being in front of the class, and it has been awhile since I actually enjoyed my job. While I miss two of the women from the library, I do not miss the drama there. So far, teaching is a drama free environment. I can’t wait to really get into the teaching and the discussions with the students.

Being in the grad program has really changed the way that I view my students. I understand boring classes, and as someone who spends a lot of time looking at cat videos on the internet during the lectures, I have decided to be a little more relaxed about my phone and laptop policy. So far the students have respected it.

The second year of the program is off to a rough start. The results of the qualifying exam didn’t go well for a few people, and I do not like the way that it is being handled. If someone looked really closely at this program, I am not sure that it would be allowed to continue. It is clear that race plays a part in who gets to succeed int he program, and since I still have two years left, I am going to just bow  my head and keep silent.

I didn’t do well keeping silent on the first day, but I will be trying a lot harder from now on. I have never been in a place where racism was so rampant and blatant, and people who claim to hate racial stereotypes and labels applied to them place so many labels and stereotypes on white people. It is very clear that if I was struggling in classes, or having a hard time with the program that I would be on my own to figure it out.

We have a new professor this semester, and when he wasn’t talking down to us, or telling us how he wrote Achieving the Dream, he spared a few seconds to ask us what we wanted to do with this degree. After each of the cohort members talked about their end game, he had some comment about how he had done it, or how he could make that happen for us. He was so arrogant and  annoying. What was even more annoying was the plans for a lot of these people want to be deans and presidents of colleges, yet, they only want to help a certain group of students. These people are not going to work to make the educational system a better place. They are going to perpetuate the stereotypes and color focused system we have in place now.

But being on this soapbox gives me a headache, and it is a losing battle.

85 days until Thanksgiving vacation.

Thank the sweet baby Jesus I love my job.

If I didn’t need the fancy letters after my name to move overseas and start a life, I would have already quit the program and saved myself the aggravation.

A Scamp, The Electrified Squirrel, Missing Pants and a Job Interview

Words you never want to utter, especially when you have a job interview: “I can’t find my pants”. I had my nice dress pants in Scotland…even wore them once for a presentation. I know they got packed and made it home, but for the life of me, I have no idea where they are. I’ve emptied all of my drawers, checked all of the boxes that got shipped home from Scotland and checked every room in the house, but my pants are just nowhere to be found.

Not good when you have a job interview with middle aged men for an instructor position at a college. I have plenty of professional outfits, mostly in the form of skirts and tops or dresses, but I know the looks I get in public when people see my tattoos, so there is no way that is the first impression I am going to make when trying to get a job (except for the stripper job, then it would be totally okay for me to show all of my tattoos). I had to do some quick thinking (and a lot of hunting through my closet since most of my professional clothes are packed in a box in the garage), but I was bale to come up with a skirt and top combination that was professional without being too old. I paired it with black tights and the one pair of sensible heels that I own and I was all set for the interview.

When I got to the interview though, things went slightly downhill.  The secretaries were out sick, so the dean of the department was in charge of getting the candidates prepped for the writing test and interviewing them. To add to his stress, there was a 15 minute power outage that somehow managed to put all of the interviews behind schedule by 45 minutes. I understand that things happen and schedules have to be adjusted, but I would have liked to know that before I showed up on time for my interview. I sat in an office for almost an hour while  waiting to be interviewed, and the interview itself was very quick.

Come to find out, the power outage was caused my a squirrel. poor little guy got BBQed and almost ruined my interview. The school sent out an email to all of the employees thanking them for their patience and all it said, was power outage due to squirrel. My mom forwarded me the email, and I definitely laughed out loud while working on my research.

All in all though, the interview went well. I should know sometime next week, but the dean made the comment that my schedule and availability seemed fine and that he had a lot of classes to fill. If I could get one class I would be very happy, and if I could get two classes, then I could make my loan payments, put money in my savings account for a reunion with the EdLang girls, and a trip to see the bestie in New York, and still have money for gas, my phone bill and anything else that may come up.

Fingers and toes crossed. I’ve gotten a bit lazy since I’ve been home and my baby beer gut will not make me an ideal stripper.