We can make it

Elizabeth Ann Bloomer* later in life said:

You can make it, but it’s easier if you don’t have to do it alone.

I was reminded of this again when I had to face the second module with Ana (the one who insulted my presentation in French class – post: Recognition of our Existence).  The comments that followed were so helpful.  I decided that I should handle Ana’s behaviours head on.  If she said something hurtful to me I was going to tell her privately after the class.  I prepped before the start of the next module.    

In the following module, we had a different professor.  The past 3 modules I had had the same professor (by coincidence).  The new (new to me) professor’s name was Carole.  

I have to back track a bit to the first module I had with Ana.  I knew who Carole was before as I had seen her in the hallway.  I had once seen Ana and Carole exchange pleasantries prior to having her as a professor.  I got the immediate impression they got on well and Ana had made the comment that she liked Carole.

So, on our first day with Carole I was not very happy with the situation.  I thought, great, this is going to go well.  Carole also asked us to present on a topic.  I was already reliving the nightmare of my last presentation but this time Carole asked us to present a proverb from our language/culture and tell us something about it.  

Carole, for me, was very difficult to understand.  She spoke fast and didn’t seem to watch her words when it came to teaching people who won’t pick up 100% of what she says.  I definitely was forced to concentrate a lot harder – already more than usual.  She also switched between subjects, it was like we were listening to everything going through her head.  At times (when I could understand), she was quite funny.  There were other times I found her to be exhausting and somewhat disorganised – making it even more difficult to follow.

Each day a different student presented his/her proverb and gave a brief presentation about it and the professor would then lead a discussion about it – often, leading to a more philosophical one.  I began to enjoy the presentations and found it fun to participate in.

It was, then, Ana’s turn to present – she choose:

“Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are”

Ana is from Russia and I couldn’t find the origin of this proverb however, in English, we often use ‘Birds of a feather, flock together’.

We had a good discussion about this proverb.  Carole asked us if we agreed with this.  I answered with No and then I had to explain why I disagreed.  My explanation, not so eloquent in French, went something like this: There is more to a person then their friends.  Many factors determine who you are and who we are is more complex than the friends we have.  Then, Carole asked for an example of what other factors determine who we are and this lead to another discussion.  When the discussion ran its course, Ana then said I brought another proverb.  The student who had presented before her had brought two proverbs (probably a back up).  Carole told Ana that we didn’t have time for it today with what she wanted to get through.  Ana responded with the fact the other girl had brought two proverbs.  Carole said we can’t today and maybe if we have time later in the module (3 weeks).

This was Carole’s boundary.  And she said No.  Carole runs the class with some of our input on our objectives but for the most part it is up to the professor to design the class how they want it.  There is no standard format except for grammar objectives.  As the course continued Carole often cut off Ana when she started down the path of negativity – she went down paths of insulting cultures and started to pick on the only man in the class.  Started saying that women are like this and men are like this.  At one point she started to blame him for a game that we played that went astray and even I had had it – I told her that he speaks French very well and I understood him very well.

Carole often stopped Ana from talking so that we could talk.  She also would switch to another person if what we were staying didn’t lead to conversation.  I could see that she held boundaries and didn’t like them to be crossed.  Something that was lacking with my old professor.  I didn’t agree with the way in which she approached some of the situations but I could appreciate her sticking to her boundaries.

After all there is no such thing as perfect and no such thing as a perfect professor of a foreign language.  Carole nor the old one were perfect.  Yet, I would choose Carole** any day of the week.  She helped me deal with Ana, she helped me stand up to her when she had crossed my boundary of blaming someone for why we messed up the game.  I think I could have eventually done it having learned from my mistake in the earlier module but it was easier with someone there who helped set boundaries and help introduce the concept of enough.  It is easier when someone else understands what you feel.  It is easier to go through recovery with all of you.

xxoo TR

*Elizabeth Ann Boomer came to be known as Betty Ford later in life.

**Carole did help set boundaries in our class – it helped on the emotional front for me.  And, in fact, Carole helped me learn French.  She has a great technique of helping us learn vocabulary and explain grammar.  Ironically (or maybe not so), the professor with healthier boundaries ended up being a professor where I learned better.

Related Posts:

Brave New Kitty: It Takes a Village to Raise a Really Healthy Person

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6 thoughts on “We can make it

  1. Morning (afternoon) TR! This post is a really helpful illustration of why it’s so useful to have people model for us behaviors we need to practice. Doing so firmly, without negative affect, as Carole did, is a sign of a good teacher. She has a responsibility to the rest of the class to get through the day’s material w/o undue disruption, and she obviously realizes that Ana is a problem. Isn’t it great to see that reinforced? I think your comment that the boundary-setter ended up teaching you more about French, as well as other things, resonates with me. And it is SO much better going through what we’re going through with the help of our friends. After all, the subtitle of your blog is “Life is about the company you keep…make it good.” I know that I am finding the posts and stories of my friends and how they handle their own situations immensely helpful. I’m super good at boundaries in my work life; with FOO, putting them into practice has been taken by my FOO as a crime against the Clan. They read boundaries as “unloving.” it’s why my mother thought she could plagiarize from me and get away with it. All I’ve done is set boundaries with them these last five years. But I need to learn to do it without feeling any aggro, and that’s the hard part. xo CS

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    • Good morning CS! I just finished lunch :). Great to hear from a teacher. Great point about her having responsibility to the whole class. I slowly began to see that she was having a problem with Ana and I think Ana herself wasn’t used to having someone set boundaries like that. Towards the end of the class Ana says to me, how come you are able to do all the homework, I just don’t have time – I was about to answer when Carole says ‘there are same amount of hours in a day, everyone has the same amount of time’. Would it be surprising to you as a teacher that Ana never did her homework?

      Totally agree, that is so helpful to see someone model these behaviours in a firm and fair manner. It was great to see that and see how I could practice this with difficult people. Because although Ana isn’t continuing with this school, I will deal with others.

      I think we are capable of having boundaries in different aspects of our lives. DH is excellent at this at work and dealing with difficult people and he struggles with his family. He knows no boundaries when it comes to his family – he has never seen it in a relationship. Nor have I and as we discuss more and more about it we can see how difficult it is for the both of us to do so in our personal lives. Exactly! they read boundaries as ‘unloving’. That is exactly how it is with my in-laws; DH and I have had this discussion that his family will perceive this as unloving (especially when we decided to stay in a hotel room).

      Your mother saw your work as her work; that is very common trait I’ve experienced. They take credit for things they aren’t directly responsible for. This is an excellent connection because some Ns can’t see a boundary between one’s own property and another person’s.

      Establishing boundaries in a firm and fair manner takes time. I feel like when I first started setting them up they came across harsh – it was new to me and it takes practice to sort of ‘fine tune’ putting them up. I think it is natural to be a bit aggressive when it isn’t something we are familiar with.

      Hugs, TR

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  2. Hi TR,
    Thanks (again) for the ping! I’m so glad you got a fresh perspective on Ana from a teacher who was able to see her for the problem person she is and set good boundaries with her. I can imagine how validating that was for you. Yay for Carole! Boundaries are a biiiiiig topic. Seeing someone set good boundaries, or just reading a story about it, just makes my day. It’s a great reminder that all the crap that went on in my FOO was the crazy stuff, and that there is sanity to be found out there, in the real world. 🙂

    Love,
    Kitty

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    • Hi Kitty,

      It was validating – the moments of ‘am I crazy?’ went away. It gives me an extra little umph in getting through difficult times. It helps to see how someone handles them in healthy way as CS mentions. Examples like these were so lacking growing up and the real world is very different than our FOOs!

      Hugs,
      TR

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  3. I’d never thought of it before, but you’re right about learning more from the teachers who set and maintain boundaries. So glad it turned out well with Carole! Love the quote!

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