Lessons from TAPIF (the end is near)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Related imageAccording to wikiHow, there are 6 steps that one must take in order to fully step out of your comfort zone. If you had told me a year ago that I would be teaching in the South of France to over 100 middle schoolers I probably would have laughed in your face. You see, middle school wasn’t really the best time of my life (I doubt it was for most people). Many milestones happen in middle school including first pimples, boyfriends/girlfriends, and lots of gossiping. Years after I had sworn off school forever I somehow found myself back at the front steps of a middle school. This time around though things were a bit different; I was a teaching assistant in a foreign country.  The following is a short essay of how I, Sabrina Kennelly, stepped out of my comfort zone and decided to become a teaching assistant for the 2016-2017 academic year.
1)      Make a fool of yourself:
There have been countless times that I have made a fool of myself throughout this journey. From dancing obnoxiously in a restaurant unaware of my co-workers presence to cringe worthy grammar mistakes in French, I sometimes feel as if my life has become a Hallmark movie. Yes, I admit that there are times that I would rather curl up into a ball and stay at home, but where is the fun in that? Making a fool out of myself (however cringe worthy it may be at the moment) has been a valuable experience while traveling and working abroad. Sometimes having those excruciatingly painful moments can become a valuable teaching moment for the road ahead. For example remembering to vous-voyez your boss at all times.

2)      Know that worst thing that can happen when you try something new is that you might fail:

One of my biggest fears when I first entered the classroom was that the kids wouldn’t be engaged in my classes. Everyone in life has a teacher that they hated at school. Whether it was the science teacher that gave you a point off for having misspelled an element on the periodic table or the Spanish teacher that made you conjugate too many verbs to shake a stick at; you loathed every second of that class.

I wasn’t formally taught how to teach a class. I solely went off of what I had seen from my previous teachers and brushed up by watching my favorite movies (Dead Poet Society anyone?). The first day that I taught was daunting. Sure, I might not have had a problem speaking in front of people, but teaching was different than talking to an audience on a stage. As a teacher you become the script writer, director, and actor for your classroom. Sometimes you might get raving reviews while other times you might fall flat on your face as you hear the sound of boos roaring from the audience. Fortunately, as a teacher you have the possibility of re-editing the production for the next day to try again on a different audience. Every time I believed that I had failed in terms of a teacher, by not having my students engage in class, meant that I had to think of different and creative strategies.
3)      Face your fears:

 Living abroad in France can sound glamorous, and I’ll admit that sometimes it is. I live in a beach town where winter is only for a month long and summer starts at the end of February. Creating a place to call ‘home’ in a foreign country wasn’t easy and required a lot of push and shove. There are many adult ‘milestones’ such as renting my first apartment, creating a bank account, and going grocery shopping weekly that I accomplished for the first time while abroad. While many have the help of friends or family at home with these milestones towards adulthood, I took a leap and faced my fears of doing these daunting tasks alone and in a foreign country.

4)      Become comfortable with taking risks:

Now, after having completed these daunting ‘adult’ tasks, I have become more comfortable with taking risks. Before becoming a teaching assistant, I would have never asked for help. I hated talking to strangers on the street or even on the telephone and enjoyed solving problems on my. I’ve learned that this method isn’t always the best when it comes to problem solving. Sometimes, as scary as it might be, it’s actually best to ask for help from a stranger. After all, it’s not like I can further embarrass myself than I already have while abroad.

5)      Most of the greatest lessons in life are learned by taking risks and living outside of your comfort zone

   By taking these risks and talking to people, strangers have emerged into friends. From the last couple months alone there has been numerous times where I have benefitted from taking risks and stepping outside of my comfort zone. From hosting parties at my apartment to a group of random much strangers consisting of coworkers, to staying at hostels and getting to know other guests, or even asking someone for help on the street; I have been able to positively benefit from this interactions.   It’s crazy to think about how if I wouldn’t have stepped out of my comfort zone, I might not have met or created the friendships that I have in Montpellier, France that I have today.

6)      Enjoy the unknown

With my contract’s termination fast approaching, I am becoming more and more comfortable with the unknown of the future. I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t have my freak outs every so often about life, but I have become more comfortable with the unknown for the future. If I can learn anything from my lessons in the classroom as a teacher and on the streets of sunny Montpellier France, it’s that life is full of unexpected twist and turns. Sometimes you might fall flat on your face and fail, while other times you might succeed from the lessons you learn. It’s what you do with these lessons in life (the comfortable and uncomfortable moments) that shapes you into a better person. 

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