My hamartia.*

I’m a sickeningly hopeless romantic. I’ll gladly, and only slightly sheepishly admit that. At the slightest suggestion of reciprocation of someone I’m in any way attracted to, my mind starts going at a million miles a minute on both lanes of the highway; she’s probably not interested in me; this would be a nice date to take her on; I don’t think she finds me funny, at least not in a good way, and so on. I’d probably make a good member of some disaster response committee – running through every possible scenario all at the same time.

I have jut realised that this tendency to get carried away with the future manifests itself into any time I go job hunting as well. I uploaded a profile on to one of these recruitment websites as soon as I completed my TESOL course, and no sooner had I clicked ‘submit’, I was contacted by a school in deepest Sicily. And sure enough, my mind went into overdrive; I felt myself wanting a job in Brighton, just to stay in the country a little bit longer, but I also started looking up apartment prices and the cost of living, so I’d be ready to go once I moved out.

Inevitably what happened was they wanted someone with experience in teaching towards specific exams. Experience which I didn’t have and, at two days notice, wasn’t likely to gain before I started, so I politely declined the position. That was a couple of weeks ago, and I’m currently waiting on the outcome of my second interview, again for a last-minute start in dear old Sicily. I’ve been promised a response by the close of business today, which could be any time until 10pm tonight, but to me, no news really is no news this time. I’ve learnt from a fortnight ago.

As yet there isn’t anyone around to test if my hopeless romanticism is still as wreckless…

Jack out.

Hamartia (Ancient Greek: ἁμαρτία) is a word most famously used in Poetics, where it is usually translated as a mistake or error in judgement. In modern discussions of tragedy, hamartia has often been described as a hero’s “tragic flaw.”

Time to really apply myself.

Following on from my last post, I am now almost a week out of completing my course, and as such I have been looking for EFL teaching work for a few days now. In the past few days I’ve applied to jobs in Spain, Italy, France, South Korea and the United States, and it really is a blast from the past.

What I mean by this, and this is something I’ve written about before some years ago, is the job application process is pretty much exactly the same as when I was applying for anything with a paycheck straight out of university having completely bombed my degree. There is a long list of hurdles you need to jump over before you’re even considered. I have a relevant qualification, but as I found out when one school contacted me not twenty-four hours after I uploaded a profile to a website, I need knowledge of the exams my hypothetical students will be taking. Or I need two years post-certification experience. Like I said, I have sent off half a dozen or so applications since the beginning of the week and, as before, it seems that none of them are in any rush to reply to me. In all honesty I’m not surprised at this.

It’s not all doom and gloom like last time though. I actually did well this time, and have a very relevant set of new skills in a very applicable area of the country. Two of the biggest tourist towns on the south coast, with probably the highest concentration of English language schools outside. Which probably makes you wonder, why haven’t I applied to any of the dozens of language schools nearby? Well, I actually went away from writing this and applied to half a dozen schools that had some sort of vacancy or invitation to apply despite no actual current vacancy. And therein lies the problem – it’s just turned October and most of the students are scurrying home to the warmer climes from whence they came. This leaves the teachers that are working less in-demand, and no requirement for any more, even less so ones fresh out of the training machine with a glint of hope and optimism in their eyes. In short, I’m expecting the same response from these applications as the ones I made for the unskilled jobs I applied to three years ago – radio silence.

As for the rest? Well the fantasy is that as an English speaker I’m much sought after. As one that’s been trained to explain the language to others, even more so. We’ll see.

Jack out.

Tiny footsteps. Tiny, tentative footsteps…

So the day has arrived. Today was my first day of teacher training!

In an ideal world, with infinite time, I’d like to blog daily during what is a very exciting time, but with the sheer volume of work I’m expecting, I just don’t think that will be practicable. So, in no change from the usual regularity with which I post anything, I’ll be operating an “as and when” schedule.

I figure that after the first day I’ll have the lightest workload of the course, so here’s something. What a day! I’ve been dumped in with what seem like a very nice bunch of trainees, and the confidence boost I’ve already received from somebody starting a sentence aimed at me with “well you seem to know a lot about…” cannot be understated.

I’m already having to plan a lesson, albeit of only thirty minutes. The one-hour goliaths will be towards the end of this and, for me, the beginning of next week. There is such a diverse range of backgrounds, from former civil service, to one woman who already teaches in Laos, and you can really feel the wealth of experience each person brings to the mix. Even me and my ‘dangerous hobby’ of motorsport watching.

I’ll write again when I can.

Jack out.

The seventeenth post of the expedition – the one with the punny title

Yesterday I made a joke which, for once, I wasn’t the only person to hear. A friend and I were sitting in a local park which just so happened to have a flag similar to the St. George’s cross flying on a nearby pole. ‘St. George’s cross,’ I said, motioning towards it. ‘I have no idea what upset him, but there you go’. Now this particular friend, while she doesn’t have English as her first language, speaks it well enough, and usually laughs at the appropriate time when I try my own special blend of humour. However this one took a little explaining of the ambiguity of the apostrophe-‘s’, but, nevertheless, she subsequently gave a reassuring laugh.

Along this train of thought, it’s a recent realisation that perhaps this fondness for wordplay, extended metaphor, poetry and double meaning that I’ve displayed numerously online were the early manifestations of an interest in language, which seems to have culminated in where I am going in the next few months. In theory, I’m still participating in an English language summer school in the town I’m living in at the end of next month, followed by a couple of months in England to rest and reset. And then it gets interesting, as simultaneously to staying with a new family in Tuscany for the duration of the next academic year, I’ll be continuing my fledgling career as an English tutor, with two colleagues of the mother of the family I’ll be staying with. And there’s nothing quite like a challenge for a man as doing more than one thing concurrently.

Jack out.

The tenth post of the expedition – the live album from the legendary Woodstock appearance

As I mentioned last time, I have now been here three months exactly, and I am exactly half way through my stay with this family. So I think it is time for reflection as much as looking ahead to what the next three months have to offer.

It seems like it was only yesterday that I was staying timidly quiet in the back seat of the lift from the airport, with the youngest boy staring equally timidly up at me, and the realisation as I started to unpack that the bottle of wine I had brought over unfortunately didn’t survive the journey. However at the same time it feels like a distant memory, although it has been not even five weeks, that my English companion left to study a CELTA, something she should be done with by next week. In this mere month-odd I have really settled in to a good routine, and now more often than not I see a friendly face when I go out at the weekend, even if it is only my own in the mirror behind the bar.

On the day I arrived, I was two months away from visitng Rome, which seemed an age in the relative unknown of what lay ahead, and yet that is already a month in the past. That was an amazing adventure, if only for a few days, and I hope to have something similar in these next few months.

Which brings me nicely to the next three months here, and what lies ahead. As I said, I hope to have another adventure somewhere in this country. I feel like somewhere else in the south requires a visit, however I’m not too sure where. But this may be dictated by other people. Milan, while nice, isn’t the ideal place to visit for the casual tourist visiting their friend in a foreign country, so I think a more typical tourist destination may be called for, should any of my friends want to visit.

June will bring with it the end-of-year madness known to school children all over the world. I may start to take a more proactive approach to helping my older child prepare for his English end-of-years (I know, since when did I do proactive?) and try and get some feedback on grades he’s been getting so I can really focus on helping improve where it’s most needed. As I was warned, I’m not entirely convinced by the quality of teaching and grading – the youngest came back with top marks for an English test, despite several spelling mistakes. Evidently it was good enough to beat the system.There was never a more appropriate time for that well-known Alice Cooper song to come on than when I was writing this paragraph.

June will also bring another new experience to add to the ever growing list – me left in partial charge of numerous children for a week or two. Think your favourite sports day as a child, with the addition of an after school drama club, and some proper English lessons thrown in for good measure. Long time readers will know of my love for all things improv, so I’ve been thinking up hair brained ways to incorporate Irish drinking songs, limericks and film noir into teaching English to under-11s. Suggestions in the comments please.

And then after that? All I know for certain is that I’ll be returning to England in about three months until I have a reason to return, as an au pair, bonafide teacher, or miscellaneous hobo writing about the cat he lives with.

Which reminds me, if you want to see more of this miscellaneous hobo’s writing, including stuff that won’t be published on my blog, check out the link I posted last time. It’s for a website I’m writing for, due to go live soon, with your favourite rambling blogger as a featured writer, so hopefully it’ll be right up your street.

Jack out.

The eighth post of the expedition – the experimentation with a new genre

Heh, I’m a little impressed with how some aspects of my posts are attracting interest from all sorts of subscriptions. I know, actual people want to get an actual email when I post.

I think the only one that isn’t ‘hey, look at my product/service/advice and buy it!’ is a teacher of EFL, I don’t dare say ‘fellow’ yet, in Latvia of all places. But nonetheless, it’s nice to know I’m not writing to myself…anymore. I had a click through from Google the other day as well. That felt odd, like someone had carved my name into the Moon.

Enough of this self-worship, what did I actually want to write about? Oh yes. I am actually going to be taking on this summer school in June, not confirmed how many weeks or precisely how many minions to expect, but I’ve been told in the region of fifty (minions, not weeks), and although it won’t really require it, I’m firing up the ‘teaching’ areas of my psyche for future use. And I came up with this:

“Well, you’re just going to have to make do.”

Now as an English mother tongue, understanding this is obviously easy. But if you try to dissect it or explain it, how do you do? It took me a little while. And if you fancy an extra challenge, translate it into another language (presuming you know another language, of course, and no, ‘chav’ isn’t).

Maybe I’m going to be ‘that teacher that confuses everyone’ this summer. I’ll let you know what I did with the sentence after the weekend.

Jack out.