I wonder how our language changes when we teach English. Spending time in Mexico was easy because I teaching such a high level, and I never downgraded my language to fit the people I spoke with. It’s different here. I’ve heard other teachers speak to people, and it’s almost always strange. Some people slow their speech, or use simpler words to fit the people they are speaking to. Other people sound weird, using the wrong verbs and conjugations to fit the common mistakes made here. I understand when you know someone’s English level, but doing it to locals out of hand seems wrong.
The thing that gets me is that to my American ears, the tone can sound condescending. I know it’s unlikely that Chinese speakers would pick up on it though. The way their language is spoken, that tone would be hard to detect, like sarcasm or dry humor. I wonder if it’s being here, or if it’s the result of teaching children for years. I have heard that same tone in too many classrooms, the voice of power and superiority. The voice that separates us from them. I hope I never use it. Now I wonder if I do without knowing it.
I never wanted to be the kind of teacher that knows everything. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t really know anything. Every fragment of information is just a reflection, of myself and the world I am in. I am good enough to improv my way through most problems, but I still learn more than I teach. Fragments of truth and wisdom pass through, and I don’t always catch them. Sometimes they repeat, and sometimes they seem completely new. Everything’s done under the sun, right?
I think the struggle for power is my biggest problem. I don’t have any interest in controlling others. Power is an illusion, so is control. I always believed it was simply applied violence, violence of words or of actions, that drive other people to do what we want. Or it’s honey, driving people through happiness to your end. Done properly, the carrot and the stick can drive people to terrible or glorious ends, but it is still their choice to follow, even when they forgot how to make that choice.
There’s an old story of a warrior, a woman, who defeats every monster in the kingdom. One of the monsters is Fear. She stands before it and asks “Fear, how do I defeat you?” Fear replies, “I will scream and shout, get in your face, and try to paralyze your muscles and make your blood cold, but I will never touch you. If you do not listen, I can do nothing to you.”
You can yell at a child, but eventually they learn that the words have no strength. I wonder how good it is for them to learn that lesson early. Probably as bad as it is to learn it late. One of the problems with self-defense is that some people yell at their students. If they obey, they are only being taught to obey when yelled at. The voice is a powerful weapon. It can defuse a situation or subdue an opponent before the fight begins. The threat of violence can get you things that violence cannot. An easy score. A silent victim. People who never learn how to face fear can lose everything to a voice when they might fight back against a fist.
I wonder if I will ever really finish fighting my fear, fighting my demons. I find as I get older, they just get more subtle, and fear finds a way to make itself heard. Fear is one of the constant companions in my life, a friend always trying to protect me from the world, but always trying to control me through fear.