"Education is man's going forward from cocksure ignorance to thoughtful uncertainty."
-- Kenneth G. Johnson
I must have been consuming the equivalent of mental burritos yesterday, because I had nothing but brain farts going off the whole afternoon -- during one my tutoring sessions, no less. Come to think of it, make that a mental bean burrito, two slices of intellectual prune cake, and a giant order of cerebral onion rings. Beer battered, please. My case was so bad, I almost expected to slip and projectile-vomit half my frontal lobe onto the table. Either way, it wouldn't really have mattered. My pupil, a bowl-headed Korean boy, probably wouldn't have cared or even noticed. He seems to have more interest in watching the flowers grow in the window box than paying attention to anything I have to say. I would almost argue that doing that would have been more productive than our last session.
Part of the reason for all the mental blanks, I have to admit, was a lack of preparedness on my part. Adding to my laziness to come up with anything coherent to teach until about three hours before our lesson began, the library and computer lab decided to enjoy some spontaneous holiday that nobody else had heard about. Or, more specifically, the personnel involved decided to close up shop and take the day off without giving anybody any prior notice.
Which, in a cruel backhanded way, was exactly what the boys upstairs decided to do, in a situation where I needed them most. The now seemingly oxymoronic idea of German efficiency (which, I've discovered, really consists of excessive red tape and blind adherence to procedure so that staff can more easily bunk their duties) is subliminally penetrating even my basic thought processes.
It was a royal mess. I stuttered, stammered, went blank, lost myself twice completely, and just gave up and moved on in a few places where I found I simply couldn't go any further, either for fear of redundancy or of simple uncertainty of how to explain the topic in a way which we both could understand. I had been hired with the foreknowledge that I hadn't had any direct prior experience teaching English as a second language, and that weak spot in my CV was beginning to unfurl itself in all its hateful glory. Even though I have always been comparably good with language in terms of reading, writing, and vocabulary, my greatest weakness has been and has remained spontaneous, off-the-cuff speaking. I used to stutter badly as a child (lack of steady interaction between other people my age with whom I could converse only worsened things) and still often put my foot in my mouth even when it comes down to things such as simple conversation.
All this helped impress upon me what I had so often heard repeated by one of my old fiction instructors back in my sophomore year at university. "Whenever you walk into any kind of class setting," he said, "all eyes and ears are going to be on you. It's your job as an educator and as a speaker to ensure that you never make the mistake of talking faster than you can think. Forget losing your audience's attention span -- there is no worse way to kill your credibility by suddenly running out of things to say in mid-sentence." I suppose I have to take that comment to heart more than ever and give up the assumption that I can thoroughly teach barely glanced-at material a scant hour after I run it off in the copier.
Things will get better, but there's that sneaking suspicion that my personal environment is having a probable effect on my work habits. In light of that, I guess now would be a worse time than ever to go to France. After all, I don't need my brain to go on strike in protest of me forcing it to work more than thirty-five hours a week and beyond the age of sixty.