My blog is falling by the wayside because I have become obsessed with teaching. If I am not doing it I’m planning it or thinking about it. I am clearly not very talented or I wouldn’t need to spend so much time on it all, but I am fascinated by trying to find the tricks and magic formulas which make things go well in the classroom. I have never had a job that absorbed me like this- it’s simultaneously exhausting and exciting.
Part of the excitement is just the onset of the school year after a long, slow summer. Part of it is that I did the extension to CELTA for teaching kids at the beginning of September, and now I have my own classes of 10-year olds to contend with, with their ever-shifting social alliances and wild enthusiasm for giving answers and their very involved parents. It’s a different universe to the classrooms I have inhabited until now, with their jaded accountants and teenagers who will do anything to fly under the radar.
For the first time I have to impose a system of rewards- initially I thought, with my almost 40 year old system of priorities, that nobody would do anything to get a star next to their name, but it turns out I was wrong. I try to remember being 10 myself and suddenly recall my desperate contortions at Friday aerobics, trying to get the free drink from the school canteen that was given to hard triers. It’s a trip back in time for me, and a foreshadowing of what is to come with my own children. The time is fast approaching when I will stop worrying about their eating and sleeping and start to worry about their social life and education, a far more complex set of problems.
For the first time since Maja and Janek were born, we had a proper holiday this year. Partly thanks to the extra hands of my parents, partly to the fact that this time nobody screamed all night (or not much) before waking up at daybreak to scream some more, partly to the fact that anyone who wanted to could have at least 2 hours of napping/ babyless time in the afternoon. Instead of a total break from routine, we had a transposition; instead of playground-home-playground, we rotated forest-home-lake. In the evenings we sat up til late, safe in the knowledge that naptime would come again the following afternoon. Even the cooking and cleaning, shared amongst 4 pairs of adult hands, didn’t feel like a chore. Though trying to teach the kids not to kick kittens did.
As a result, instead of gritting our teeth and waiting til it was over, we were actually sorry to come home. I feel generally encouraged that travel in the future might actually be pleasant, which I have never dared to hope for before.
Listening to my own children start talking, I remember words our family used when we were little which were purely invented. Monie for tomato, bogga for spider, the niche-filling doon-doon, described elsewhere, my youngest brother’s ‘butter-up-top’ for the peanut butter which was kept on the top shelf.
Janek and Maja are making their own contributions. Some words are just bastardisations of words as yet too difficult to say (neczko for słoneczko- sun) or molot instead of samolot (plane.) Others are more mysterious. Gloom for milk is purely their own invention. And the other day Maja was sitting in her high chair licking a lemon and saying over and over again, Fushka! Fushka! When she got down, she went to Marcin in the bath to tell him all about her fushka too.
We are quickly infected. Our own language is peppered with gloom and fushkas and molots. I hope I can keep it contained and out of the workplace.
I forgot to publish this post in May and just found it in my archives. In a bid to regain some credibility after so much slacking, I’m publishing it now.
After starting the day with a weary sense of generalised despair, and plodding off to work in a very negative state of mind, whining to myself about how I didn’t want to, and how I just really needed a nap, I was uplifted first of all by a not-disastrous class ( I don’t require too much in this respect) and secondly, by the boys who work in the courtyard underneath the building where I work, who came up to talk to me all star-struck by the beauty and usefulness of my bike, which they alone in all of Warsaw recognised (If anyone steals it, it will be us, they said. Nobody else realises.).
Instead of being annoyed that they were bothering me as I tried to go home late in the evening, I found myself simpering away as I told them what this bike (and me on its sturdy steel back) had done. I didn’t believe it myself. I felt like I had just been introduced to somebody who had done something amazing, but no- it was me! I rode home feeling smug in the twilight on my bike which had taken me over the Kizil-art Pass into Tajikistan and through the Japanese Alps and other places too wonderful and distant to list here.
I have been slacking on the blog front. For the whole of July I have been teaching 5 hours a day, and I am stretched in so many ways that I can hardly believe I am still standing at the end of the week. I spend all day (beginning at around 4:30 in the morning) in a ferment of lesson planning and teaching, and come home to the whirl of dinner-bathtime-bedtime. After which I fall into bed myself and the whole cycle begins again.
I’m happy and relieved to find the teaching exciting instead of terrifying. I have a class of 11 young Belarusians who amaze me and amuse me (“Rose, your tights remind me of a rabbit”) every day. Their neurons are also firing madly, so we are in it together. They do not realise the extent to which I am experimenting on them-I feel like I need to try out any new trick I can think of while I have such an energetic and responsive audience.
So much of this is new. For the first time I am developing warm and constructive relationships with my colleagues. For the first time I am farming out my children all week long, so that I hardly see them. Sometimes I hear their sleepy early morning jabbering building as I exit the flat in the morning- more often, everyone is still sleeping when I leave. I know that my parents (who have the kids 3 days a week and often do overtime on weekends) are stretched as well, and I barely see them either. I call in the afternoon to remind them I’ll be late and hear the sounds of their secret life together-we’re just in the kitchen having our nana, says my father, and then, he’s escaping too! We’ve got two Trobriand Islanders, and they’re not wearing their leg ropes!
I don’t plan to live like this on a permanent basis, though I know that many people do and somehow manage. But I don’t feel guilty either. For this month, I can wallow in work and see how it feels.
This is what my mother used to tell us when our constant competitive childhood ranking (his is better, his is bigger, she got more!) was getting her goat. It sounds like a piece of wisdom inherited from her own mother, and possibly used for the same purpose.
I make them anyway. It’s a constant source of amazement to me, how different my children are. I could touch each of their bodies with one finger and know whose it was- Janek’s dense wombat-flesh, Maja’s springy little muscles. I watch their different kinds of bravery- Maja, who hides behind my leg and wards off strangers with a murderous scowl, has no qualms about sliding headfirst down the slippery-dip. Janek is devoid of any fear whatsoever of unknown humans, and goes about the playground stretching out his arms to other people’s Babcias, saying try!try! (this is what they say when they want to do something and need help).
Their absolute and irrefutable difference has saved me endless mothering guilt, in particular over Janek’s eczema, which I would otherwise think was my fault. It’s one of the biggest advantages of twins- seeing the way they turn out to be themselves, regardless.