Twenty Two

Cheers to being 22! On my birthday I started my job as a teacher at CEC-EPN,survived a 5.1 magnitude earthquake, and joined the realm of adulthood.

Year 22 seems to be an awkward bridge between the adolescence of college and the responsibilities of adulthood. I can drive, vote, and drink. I am, by all real standards, an adult.

Yet, for the last four years my largest responsibility was getting out of bed for my 8:30 class and finishing Rousseau’s Emile. I was totally comfortable experimenting within the comfort zone of Michigan State University. I learned to think, but was never really forced into this difficult real world. I was able to read, write, and go out with my friends without a single worry. In one day I would cry from the stress of a difficult assignment, and then drink a bottle of wine with my girlfriends.

Beginning year 22 of my life, I am time zones and hemispheres away from that comfort zone. I have a real lease in a foreign country. I have a real job with no sick days. I have been catapulted into this world of adulthood across the globe, without any familiarity or constant, and that is terrifying.

My 22nd birthday was my first day of classes at the Centro de Educación Continua in the Escuela Politécnica Nacional. Despite zero formal training in education, I am an English language teacher. Whereas almost all new teachers are teaching two periods of the same class, I am teaching two different classes.

I am teaching an Intermediate 2 class, which is a mix of high school and college students. These students understand some English, but have a difficult time communicating.

Beginning next week I will be facilitating a conversation club with a few students hoping to improve their conversational skills.

I am also the only new teacher that is teaching an Academic 3 class, which is an advanced grammar class. These students are almost all older than I am, and typically the seasoned teachers are given this assignment. It will be an immense challenge to learn some of the grammar myself to be competent enough to teach the class.

Given the books for the classes on Monday, I was required to be prepared by Tuesday to teach. Because I teach from 2pm-8pm I had all day to sit nervously at my apartment, working up the courage to stand in front of my classes as a teacher. My birthday was the farthest thing from my mind.

During my first class my face was red and I was sweating. I have honestly never been that nervous before. The kids generally stared at me like I had three heads, but they loosened up a little bit as we played a few icebreakers. Just as they were starting to smile at me, the entire building began to shake. It felt like everyone in the eight stories above me was running from one side of the building to the other. I distinctly saw the building move from side to side, and my kids looked at me, horrified. It was an earthquake. I had no idea what was going on, and even less of an idea of what to do. Some classes ran downstairs, but other stayed. Living in Michigan, I had never experienced an earthquake, and those 30 seconds were terrifying.

Luckily nothing happened and I was able to finish my class in peace. Almost running from the building afterwards, I locked myself in my apartment and absolutely lost it. My kids hated me. There was a FREAKING 5.1 MAGNITUDE EARTHQUAKE in the middle of my first class as a teacher. I have a way heavier workload than any other new teacher. Nobody knew that it was my birthday and nobody cared. I questioned this crazy decision to come to Ecuador and become a teacher. I found myself thinking that I could just come home after Christmas and never return. It was one of my best pity parties, if I do say so myself, but it was cut short by my second class for the day. Thankfully the second class of the day was uneventful.

Dead tired and extremely discouraged after what was probably the worst birthday ever, I realized that this is what it is like to grow up. I mean that in the least depressing way possible. My years of the princess birthday treatment had passed. Birthday cakes and parties were now superfluous. My responsibilities came first. The texts from my best friends and Skype sessions with my family made me feel special in themselves, and that was enough. Did I wish that I was home? Absolutely. But, that is growing up. I made the decision to come here, and I needed to make the best out of a bad situation.

So, after a “tremor” of a day, Kirsten and I popped a bottle of champagne and danced to Taylor Swift, said cheers to surviving earthquakes, starting a real job, and to year 22.

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