It’s the end of my first week in Italy and I’m shattered (I’ve even learnt the Italian expression so I can communicate this feeling: sono destrutta). I’m taking an intensive course to teach English and by Friday night, my brain felt frazzled. So far, we’ve each taught 3 lessons, had about 5 and half hours tuition in a language spoken by only about 70,000 people in the world and of course, are learning the dos and don’ts of how to teach the four skills.
It’s been really important for me to remember what I need to stay calm and happy during this period. My needs are not the same as the other trainees, my teachers and my housemates. If it were one of my friends living this month out here instead of me, they would have different needs again.
Yesterday was a great example. I have work to do over the weekend, so although I’d slept in yesterday morning, I found myself using the word I’ve become very wary of: should. I told myself I should finish my work before I go out and explore the town, I should get everything done before I relax with an ice-cream, and that leaving all my work until Sunday wasn’t the right thing to do.
And then I stopped myself. My energy levels were low, I had a headache coming on, and despite my best efforts, the words weren’t flowing. It would be much more effective to attend to what I needed first, before attempting to complete what I needed to do.
Getting a change of scenery
I needed to shift the feeling of sluggishness I had by getting up and moving around. So I grabbed my bag, sunhat and a bottle of water and got out of the house. I took a stroll in the heat, through the bustling streets of this small town, just observing Saturday afternoon in action, seeing how Italians ‘do’ the weekend. Seeing the architecture, smelling delicious coffee and glancing into shop windows began to reawaken my creativity and I began to feel restored.
Having the chance to connect
I’m suffering a little from small attacks by mosquitos and so visited the Farmacia intending to buy some cream that one of the other trainees had recommended to me. Fortunately the pharmacist spoke English and was very helpful in ordering in the cream for me. She even apologised that she wouldn’t be able to get it for the next day! I also had successful transactions in (mostly) Italian in the newsagents and the gelateria and came away feeling buoyed up. Just connecting with people, speaking a few words of Italian and making myself understood lifted my spirits.
Deep, deep breathing
There is not really a limit on how much work I could do for the course that I’m on, as a trainee English language teacher - yet of course, there is a pass mark. This week, when I’ve felt a little overwhelmed by the sheer amount of coursework I have to complete, it’s been such a help to just stop and take a few deep breaths to fill my body with oxygen. This simple act has made the difference between panicking and surviving. To pause and centre myself in this way has helped me keep it all in perspective!
Keeping the bigger picture in mind
There have been many moments this week when I’ve had to remind myself that this course isn’t what my life is about. Yes, I want to pass but ultimately, my goal is not to achieve the best mark or reach teaching perfection. It’s to be able to teach English. I am more than what is happening in this single moment, and bringing to mind where I want to go gives me the focus and persistence that I need to keep going with this step. It’s just a step and it’s not forever!
Packing in the vitamins
When I’ve felt stressed, overwhelmed, a bit fearful or isolated this week, I’ve reached for a coffee or a biscuit - a little hit of sugar or caffeine to keep me going. But yesterday, I took the time to stop at the supermarket and choose some delicious fruits and vegetables to support me for next week, which I have been warned will be as intense as this week has been!
Remembering what I need has made all the difference to how I feel this Sunday morning, inspired and ready to complete the rest of my coursework, ready for another week.
What will you do to support your needs this week?