When good classes go…Great!

It’s funny to look back and think about my teachers. I can’t imagine any of them getting nervous before a class, but I do. Just about every time I teach a new lesson, I get nervous. Because I care. Will they participate? What will they have to say about this? Will they grasp the concept, understand what I’m teaching, walk away having learned something? Some days I wish I didn’t care- I think that teaching these little shits would be much easier if I didn’t care. But then I remember that I do (and I don’t know if it’s possible for me to stop) and when I look back at my favorite teachers, they did too. And I loved them not because their lessons were easy or fun or because they themselves were super cool- it was because they cared (and yes that usually resulted in their classes being fun and engaging and them being pretty cool, but that was a byproduct of their passion).

Post New Years Resolutions, my teachers have had a bizarre bevy of lesson requests. Currently I am teaching lessons ranging from the psychology of vampires, to murder mysteries, to environmental issues, to how the US political system works and the complexity of US gun culture. Sometimes it’s frustrating having a predetermined plan chosen for me, while other times I welcome the simplified springboard.

The days where the students participate, the time flies from engagement, and I feel as though my being here actually matters, are the days when I feel elated to have this profession. True, I am only a part-time assistant in a foreign country (and many days I am disrespectfully reminded of that fact), but to have the students get as involved in a lesson as I am, for them to yell I love you in the hallway (in a genuine and not hitting on me kind of way), for them to express actual sadness at the knowledge that I will only be here a for a few more months, and for them to yell at incoming classes that they are not ready to stop my lessons- those moments are priceless.

And I am grateful for these moments. For the time that the confused student who constantly blurts “what do you speak??” actually learned ‘I don’t understand’, or the time I teared up (just a little) from a student’s perfect synthesis of what I had just taught on gay marriage, or that I could trust my students enough to blindfold me and prove their knowledge of verbal directions as they led me through a classroom maze, or for the knowledge that came with mock mystery investigations- that it’s possible to play and teach at the same time. I appreciate even the bizarre little moments, when one student oh so earnestly asked, ““uh madame…can you ear zat I ave uh accente?”, or when a peculiar student insistently declared that she “was batman”. These good and…weird moments make those days when I wonder “why do teachers do this to themselves!?” fade away.

Fortunately today was one of those days and I’m so happy it was. As I start to see the finish line of the TAPIF program and waiver back and forth between “dear god let’s speed up to the end already!” and “but I’m not ready to go!!”, it’s nice to have days like today where I’m happy to be here now. Here’s hoping these moments continue to stay strongly in the forefront of my memory.

In with the new

Bonne Annee!


I can’t believe it’s already 2013! Where did 2012 go? It’s been a while since my last post as December was a whirlwind of travelling, Christmas festivities, vin chaud and noel marche exploring, squeezing in time with old friends, new friends, boyfriends (just the one really) and finally the arrival of the Christmas Ambassador and the adventures that ensued. And then there was Berlin- a whirlwind of fascinating (and depressing) history, wild all nighters (literally ALL night- the earliest I left a bar was 4 am!), an energetic new years with fireworks a plenty (anyone can buy what ever kind they want at your local convenience store), and a loonnggg 13 hour drive across Germany back to Montbeliard. So yeah. Sorry I’ve been MIA. I’ve been re-cooperating from the past month.




Happy New Year from Berlin!

Unfortunately so far 2013 has not been off to the best start for me. My really nice, expensive camera that I bought (normally I don’t buy expensive technology!) as a Christmas present for myself last year, broke on Christmas this year (haven’t had a complete melt down yet because I’m waiting on Macgyver to work his magic). Then my little camera broke on New Years day and soon after my right hand went out of commission with tendinitis. No photos, no painting, no writing and no ukulele practicing. What is 2013 trying to tell me?? Give up the artist pipe dream? Anyone who knows me will understand what hell it is for me to have my outlets of creativity cut off. However, I have had to exercise my creativity in other ways, like adapting to left hand use and not going crazy. That’s something. Fortunately it’s steadily improving and I can type! The start of this year has also been an exercise in mind over matter and creating my own happiness. Which leads me to the Resolutions.

The majority of my lessons so far have centered around New Years traditions in the U.S. (I was surprised to learn that very few of them know about the ball drop in Times Square) but mostly around New Year’s Resolutions. Amazingly enough I’ve received a few thoughtful and specific resolutions- one student was determined to hug her friends once a day, another to give up on bad boys who make her cry, and of course many used the the oh so popular “quit smoking”. But as I worked with my students to commit to one thing they wanted to improve for the new year, I became more determined to solidify my list of things I want to change for this next chapter.

I’ve been reading a book entitled The Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben for quite some time (note to self: read more) and the author makes some eloquent points that I find particularly relevant to my life right now and to my resolutions.

1. “Be Gretchen. I have an idea of who I wish I were, and that obscures my understanding of who I actually am.” I personally struggled with this idea last year as I made the decision to move away from my life, my little community in Boston and head overseas to France. I had to let go of living my life in the way that I think I should live it and instead live how I actually want to live it. And it’s a nice reminder- Be Anna. Do those things that challenge you, but don’t force it. Push those comfort zone boundaries, but don’t step so far outside that you lose yourself.

2. However Ruben contrasts this idea with a quote from Yeats, “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.” His words resonate with my particular desire to be in the moment, to take more risks- things that are not easy for a type A, over-achieving, planner like myself. But it’s true- when I feel like I’m growing, I’m happy.

3. Which leads me to three. To grow we must make choices and “our lives are in the space between Isaiah Berlin’s ‘We are doomed to choose and every choice may entail an irreparable loss’ and Borges’s Garden of Forking Paths, where every choice produces a quantum explosion of alternate futures.” Basically this is a wordy way of reemphasizing my need to be here now, to trust my choices and to stop psychoanalyzing the present for an unknown future. Easier said than done, but that’s what resolutions are for, right? 

4. And finally “one of the many paradoxes of happiness: we seek to control our lives, but the unfamiliar and the unexpected are important sources of happiness.” I am a control freak. There is no way around it. I’m working on it, but I say bring it on 2013! Here’s to a year full of unfamiliar and unexpected, new choices and continued growth, unplanned futures, and the ever-present effort to be in the moment and to just be Anna.

Bonne Anne a Tous!