I overwork things. Always have and I’m afraid always will. My parents often laugh as they tell stories of how in middle school I’d be up until 1 or 2 in the morning, panicked and frazzled as I worked on a project or paper that just had to be perfected. My dad would often tell me that it didn’t need to be perfect, “just good enough”, as he fixed the computer malfunctions that were sparking my meltdowns, while my mom would often suffer through the nights with me, lending editing skills or conceptual advice. I used to think that it was just me, but as I’ve gotten older, I blame both of my parents. Each of their own neurotic and anal tendencies (and maybe even genetics) have combined into a full fledged type A mutant. I found a picture of me not too long ago that pretty much sums it up- a picture of four year old little Anna bearing a big, proud smile as she stands surrounded by shoes organized in concentric semi-circles. My parents tell me that I had been quiet for so long that they decided to check on me, only to discover that I had not in fact died, but instead had anally organized the shoe closet. I’m afraid there’s no hope.

I am reminded of all this as I dive into the teaching process. Or assistant process. Except that it’s really more like teaching. Here begins the start of my confliction. I’m technically a teaching assistant, here to add extra help, support, and native information. However there are 12 different teachers with 12 differing ideas of what that means.

The overall idea is that I get them to speak. That’s great in theory, but I’m learning that in practice it’s a whole different ball game. So even though, yes, technically I work 12 hours, I find myself turning into that overachiever Anna-spending hours looking up interesting videos and games to engage them, reading articles on the most effective ways to teach ESL, meticulously crafting Plan B strategies, all the while feeling overwhelmed with where exactly to start. The French professors on the other hand, simply seem to have the oh so typical laissez faire mentality of do the bare minimum and ‘just get them to speak’. But when you have 14 students at varying levels, too shy to talk for an entire hour, you know it’s time to have some structure. I’m at a cross roads. I want students to be engaged and interested, but not at the cost of my own sanity. How can I take laissez-faire and overachiever and meet somewhere in the middle? It’s a learning process I guess. For now I’m thankful that I can fall back on the excitement and intrigue of being the ‘new assistant’, ‘the American’, ‘the Texas girl’. But we’ll see what happens when the novelty of that wears off…

Was I this bad?

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