This post is a part of our weekly International Voices column, writing by UT students, for UT students. Enjoy!
As the air chilled and the moisture from above turned into icy little stings on Wednesday night, I was home pressing my thumbs (the equivalent of you crossing your fingers) and checking my email, anxiously awaiting the UT winter weather task force’s decision: Would there be a Snow Day? I was imagining the weather team sitting in front of an array of TVs broadcasting the weather forecast while simultaneously checking on 5 different species of weather frog climbing up and down the ladder in their glassy abodes. Eventually, one task force member must have braved the cold and held a wet-ed index finger in the wind – and we had our (half) Snow Day! I hugged my pillow and thanked the gods for recognizing my students’ wild careening earlier in the afternoon for the snow dance it was. Then I settled into my layers of blankets relishing the thought of sleeping in.
What I’m trying to say is that, just because I’m on the teaching side of things now doesn’t mean I don’t rejoice in class cancellations. I may worry about catching up with the material later, but long before rational thought kicks in, reflexive cheering at any break from daily routine happens.
Which is funny, because I truly enjoy teaching. If it didn’t sound so sappy, I’d say that the one hour a day I spend in the classroom is the best part of my work-day. I mean, I have it easy: I teach 23 agreeable undergrads the beauty (and headaches) of my native language. Without effort, I’m an expert in the classroom, and thanks to my linguistics background, I can explain the quirks of verb second order or the phonetic environments determining the different pronunciations of <ch> in Bach vs. München without having to think too hard. Don’t get me wrong, entertaining 23 still-teenagers suffering from post-lunch-coma (I teach at 2pm) takes some serious preparation and a willingness to make yourself into a spoon (German idiom for poking fun at oneself), but at least I know what I’m talking about. As a graduate student I often feel dull-witted when discussions in my lexical semantics class go over my head; and as a researcher I sometimes despair over the difficulties of eliciting a particular construction in a language of which I have little command. But teaching reminds me that I have useful skills and can facilitate access to a language that a month ago was little more than a jumble of harsh sounds and insurmountable grammar to most of my students. Many of us international graduate students teach a language, and we enjoy thus sharing our culture with our students. Not all aspects of our job are pleasant, the grading never stops and having to correct the same mistakes over and over again wears our nerves thin, but it’s a rewarding job overall.
Which brings me to my last point in today’s ramble. If you have the chance, I strongly advise you to take a language class at UT. College language courses differ vastly from your high-school experience: You meet for at least 5 hours a week, to which you can safely add about 10 hours of homework. But already at the end of your first semester, you will be able to have a real conversation with a native speaker, or to travel to a new country and make yourself understood. Most likely you’ll also have made a bunch of new friends/comrades-in-arms because, four times a week, you bond with the same 20-odd people over the woes of studying der die das and their 16 different case forms (don’t let my students read this, they think there’s only 4…). Lastly, you will learn something new about your own mother tongue and hopefully stop and marvel at the variety human languages exhibit when expressing our common thoughts and desires.