exploring, examining, exchanging, expressing
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Role Reversal
I have no doubt that learning a different language is difficult. I took French for four years in high-school. I took another four semesters in college. Ask me how much French I know now. Je parle un peu. It's pathetic. Language skills are lost quickly when they aren't used.

I know I need to learn some Spanish if I'm going to survive in Costa Rica. I can hope that folks in San Jose will speak a little English, but I'm going to have to venture into the other areas eventually. Besides, learning another language will undoubtedly help me be a better language teacher.

So, to that end, I've been taking a conversational Spanish class at OSU's adult education center. But it only meets once a week, so progress is slow. I've also been listening to lots of Costa Rican radio. And I've even tried some Spanish audio lessons. But for practical, real-life education that's entertaining too, you can't beat video from random freaks on the Internet.

Thanks to YouTube, I've been watching Spanish Lessons with dvk:
Lesson 1 - WTF are you doing?!
Lesson 2 - You are a pervert.
Lesson 3 - That's %$#*ing awesome!
Lesson 4 - Holy #$%@!
Lesson 5 - WTF LOL BRB OMG
Lesson 6 - What's up, dude?

And some more traditional-style lessons from skypeskool:
Lesson 1 - Basic Greetings
Lesson 2 - Basic Questions
Lesson 3 - Restaurant
Lesson 4 - Ordering Food

Still, I don't know enough Spanish to get by on my own. This really makes me appreciate the struggles my students face. They show up, every week, after working long and hard hours. I can see the exhaustion. I can tell they are tired. But they persist. They endure. They make the effort to show up and learn a difficult language. They want a better life. It's that important to them.

If they can do it, so can I.



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Saturday, November 11, 2006
Let's get the formalities out of the way, shall we?

Hi. I'm Tony.

I was born in 1978 in a small town in upper-east Tennessee. My hometown had more cows than people. And where there weren't farms, there were churches and used car lots and not a whole lot else. But it also had mountains and lakes, friendly faces, and plenty of character. I didn't appreciate it at the time. Growing up, I hated it. I couldn't wait to leave. And so, when I graduated from college in the Summer of 2000 with a BA in English, I moved away.

I followed a girl to Columbus, Ohio. It seemed like a good idea at the time. The relationship didn't last, but I stayed in the area because I found a good-paying job at an Internet company. This was during the days of the tech boom, so life was nice for awhile. We had catered lunches and monthly massages. I was learning about web services, domains, networking, telecommunications, and all sorts of hot stuff. I got to play with servers and routers. It was great experience. But then the bust came and things started to get ugly. No more treats. Not so much as free coffee in the break room. In fact, the money dried up so quickly the company didn't even provide toilet paper in bathrooms after awhile. And then there were several rounds of layoffs. Luckily, I got "downsized" early, when they were still providing good severance packages.

Dismayed and discouraged by my first unemployment experience, I stuck around Columbus and looked for another job. I had been spoiled. The job market was much tougher by this point. So I applied with a consulting firm. This made me a glorified temp. No perks. But it eventually led to another real job with a stable company. It wasn't as exciting, but it was still computer-related work, and the people were fantastic. And that's where I've been for the past five years, gradually making my way up the ranks. There have been some interesting projects, but there have also been plenty of frustrations. I've met some wonderful folks. I've played with some cool technology. I've learned a lot about corporate life and the business world.

In fact, I learned enough to know that I'd like to leave it for awhile.

I'm ready to try something different. I've been volunteering with the Columbus Literacy Council, assisting with a class that teaches English to adult speakers of other languages. It has been incredibly rewarding to help these students achieve their goals. I've loved learning about their dreams, their histories, their struggles, and their successes. It has its own frustrations, of course. The education system is bogged down with beaurocracy. There are never enough resources. And some students are difficult. But I still find myself looking forward to going to class. And I end those nights with a smile on my face and good stories to tell.

When I finished college with a degree in English, everyone always asked me, "So what are you gonna do, teach?" It was the furthest thing from my mind. I wanted a real job, with real prospects. Teachers are poor! They're overworked and underappreciated! Who would choose a career like that?!


For better or worse, I'm going to give it a shot.

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