Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Stage 2

I am having what could be described as "a crappy week". First, there was the day from hell with 4th grade. Then, my nagging fear became reality: That as soon as I was devoid of regular income, my car would require costly repairs. Take the first two ingredients and mix together with scant hours of sunlight, and voila!, a slightly down kStyle.

Something deeper has been gnawing at me, though. Even though I just finished my semester, and the holidays, with their generous time off for everyone in school, are approaching, I've been feeling overwhelmed and anxious. I've been feeling that this whole career change is a more insidious climb up a taller mountain than I even thought it was, and fearing that I would run out of energy and provisions before I could scale it. I've also been feeling sad that, as a sub, no matter how often I work at the same school, I'm an outsider there.

Yesterday, a book I'd ordered for my thesis work arrived. As I flipped idly through it, the stages of second culture acquisition popped out at me. I learned about this over the summer, but it was stored in the dusty bins at the back of my brain. I realized that I'm going through a similar process of adjustment, adjusting to a new career, to grad school, to the school where I substitute, to a new, topsy-turvy life, while adjusting my identity to include "teacher". And I realized that I recently progressed from Stage 1, the honeymoon, to the difficult Stage 2, culture shock. I quote from page 183 of the 4th ed. of Brown's Principles of Language Learning and Teaching:

1. Stage 1 is a period of excitement and euphoria over the newness of the surroundings.
2. Stage 2--culture shock--emerges as individuals feel the intrusion of more and more cultural differences into their own images of self and security.

Although Stage 2 feels pretty crappy, it is a sign of progress. It means I am closer to integration, to becoming an ESL teacher. But for now, I feel crabby and sensitive. Intellectually, though, I understand this is a positive step.

Can't we just skip Stage 2?


Bill Stankus said...

I think you can skip stage 2. I majored in things I was convinced were my future. I loved the studies and the part time work in that field. My first job after college was at one of the finest centers of that endeavor. Due to politically driven cutbacks my position was eliminated.

I rattled around some, tried something different and seemingly by accident I found my calling. Once that discovery was made, everything became clear and easy. I found it to be natural for me and I didn't have complications doing the work I enjoyed and earning an income was straightforward.

How does one duplicate that experience? I don't know. Luck? Serendipity? Skill? Openness? Maybe some of all those things. But I believe negative struggle is unnecessary.

kStyle said...

Bill, I wouldn't characterize it as "negative struggle" so much as an adjustment. But I will contemplate the possibility of skipping Stage 2 and see what comes of that. Thanks for the idea.

Narya said...

Eh; just remember the noble truths and you'll be fine. (easy, no?)

As you know, my experience has differed mightily from Bill's--my callings (or vocations, if you will) have not, in fact, worked out for me. I keep coming back to the same work, not so much because I love it but because it's the work I can get someone to pay me to do. OTOH, with age comes a certain amount of resignation. Also? Still no sacks of flour, and still a comma. (I'd like to be able to USE the PTO I have, but that's a different story.)

kStyle said...

Narya: yes, I'll just starve the seeds of all my discomforts. Easy breezy! ;)

Not using the PTO: ah yes, I remember it well. I found the way around it was to schedule trips involving plane tickets 6 months in advance, and request that time off 6 mos ahead.