Sociology and teaching.

There will always be things about this place that surprise me. Every time I start working in another part of town I find something new and interesting. Even if it’s just the feel of the a farm in the middle of a city. I just started teaching at HP. It’s not too far outside of the way, but sometimes it seems like it. On Tuesday and Thursday I wind up working from 6am to 7:30pm. The last job of the day is a couple hours outside of town with the construction. It’s not the worst, but it gets harsh by the end of the day.

The classes are easy enough, mostly private classes. They wind up being easy enough, mostly conversation with the book directing us. My biggest problem is that I have a tendency to run on too long. That doesn’t really work when you have back to back classes. I’ll get better about it. Just have to keep an eye on the time. I find it interesting how no one believes that they can speak English. Everyone I have ever taught believes that they cannot say anything, or at least that no one can understand them. I find I feel the same way about Spanish, until I start to speak.

I found some new people to practice with over at the Mercado in Santa Teresita. I was buying eggs and bacon and the butcher started talking to me. I practiced a bit with him and the others at the counter for a bit. Now I’m going to have to find reasons to go back by there and practice. Whatever works, right? I started shadowing the guys at nerd poker too. Not out loud, that would be weird. Well, weirder than I am willing to risk right now. The book is coming along well. I get about five pages a week edited, surprising considering how much time statistics eats up.

The class isn’t really getting easier, but I get by. It’s nice to know I can spend an entire day working on the midterm. I also finished my homework early this week so I can spend some time practicing before I take it. The thing that should help is that the Diplomat’s brother is a mathematician who speaks English and tutors people. I just have to hope he’ll have some time to help me practice. It really works best for me to have someone there to show me the details. But, I know I can’t fail. At the worst I’ll get a C, unless I miss more than half the questions on both the tests. With only 25 questions, it shouldn’t be too difficult. I hope.

The sociology class is easier, if much more depressing. The study of social problems is the study of all that is wrong with the world and the evidence that it is probably never going to get any better. They mention that violent crime is down across the board, then go into depth on the cases that do occur. I really enjoyed the brief glimpse into the life of the prisoner that ripped out his cellmates lung and ate it, then blamed his bad childhood. Normally an interesting story, but there is just enough information to be scary and sad without really telling you anything useful. I find the methods interesting, conflict theory, functionalism, and symbolic interactionism. Basically, the way the world is, the way we wish the world was, and something that reminds me a lot of Buddhism.

Conflict theory is society through the use of power. Those with power exert it on everyone around them, and the power struggle creates the world. When you start looking at the difference between arrest and conviction records between the poor and the wealthy you start seeing this trend very clearly. Same thing with politicians, religious leaders, and anyone else with power. As long as they stay in power nothing can really change without massive conflict.

Functionalism is the idea that society is a machine. A place for everything, and everything in its place. The idea is that the world works perfectly unless the needs of the parts, meaning people, do not get met properly. If everyone gets what they need, everything works perfectly. I have never found this to be realistic. Maybe on a small scale, in certain businesses or cultures, but even then the powerful control the machine and decide which parts go where. Eventually the leadership moves on and the new leaders begin to disrupt the flow of the machine. People can rarely be satisfied with their place, no matter how good or bad it is. Billionaires steal money when they can already buy anything they need.

Symbolic interactionism is the concept that what matters in society is the symbols that things represent. The concept that violence occurs because of the symbol of power that is attached to being able to take what you want. The symbol of strength being attached to breaking the law and rebelling. When you view the world through this lens, it makes sense. Strip the meaning from words and actions and the world becomes a simpler place. This appeals to the Buddhist in me. The idea that the world can be fixed if we simply change our minds. Nothing could be simpler, or more difficult. At least with conflict theory you have the hope of revolution to change things, here you have to get people to take responsibility for their thoughts and emotions.

I find all of it fascinating. It’s how I think already, but now I don’t have to work out all the details myself anymore. It makes the classes really easy too. I read the chapters and look over the videos because I want to, not because I have to. I could pass the class and never do more than scan the material, but it’s so much fun, even if it is a bit depressing.

I’ve been talking to people more in the places that I go. I’ve decided to be less restrained in my behavior. The people who know me well will probably be frightened. It’s mostly just practice asking names, talking to people for no real reason, asking questions of vendors without buying anything. There was still a part of me that never wanted to be rude, that social force that tries to force us into relationships with people we don’t know. I’ve spent a lot of time destroying the social norms with my friends, coworkers, and families, but now I think I’ll start on strangers too. It always amused me to see what I can get away with.

I wanted to start learning how to haggle, so once I have some extra money I’m going to start working on it. As an American, I’m used to having a price tag and set price. Either I can afford it or I can’t. If I can’t, I walk away. Now, I want to see how that game is played. I won’t mess around with the people who handle my food, but the rest is going to be interesting. I’m going to have to find a way to get rid of the extra stuff once I have it.

I did find out that I get almost two weeks off for Easter this year, possibly more depending on HP. I was talking to the Peacemaker down at ITTO about moving to the beach at the end of the year. I like the idea of Mazatlan because I know someone with a martial arts studio there. He said it was much smaller than many of the other cities and would be harder to get a job there. I’m going to start looking at Merida, Veracruz, and Ixtapa at his suggestion. As long as there is surf and martial arts, I’ll work it out. I need to move to a job teaching a younger crowd anyway, and after Christmas I’ll have some time to move and get settled before I have to start the new job. I’ll also have just renewed my VISA so I won’t have too much trouble with that.

I may also throw the net wide and see what I find. By then I won’t have to stay in Mexico, but it will probably still be the easiest thing to do. The Londoner, a new teacher at my school, was telling me about his job teaching at a private school in London for six weeks in the summer. I don’t know if they’ll hire me, but I can look into it. He said they would once I have my degree, and I wanted to see London anyway. We talked about Saudi Arabia too. You can make $50,000 in ten months, but there is really nothing to do there. I could learn Arabic and play a lot of video games, but I’m not sure I’d want to do it. On the other hand, I don’t like to close doors before I see inside.

I love the sky here.

I love the sky here.

Sunset down south.

Sunset down south.

It looks like an orchid, but it's on a tree.

It looks like an orchid, but it’s on a tree.

They built a skate park under the freeway near Perifidico Sur.

They built a skate park under the freeway near Perifidico Sur.


The sun was just starting to go down. I wish the camera on my phone was better.


It looks like spring has arrived here. There are fresh strawberries and the flowers are in bloom.


This entry was posted in 2015-01, Guadalajara and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Sociology and teaching.

  1. I quite enjoy reading your blog, young James and this line especially: “The idea that the world can be fixed if we simply change our minds. Nothing could be simpler, or more difficult.”

    Simple and true.


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