What’s happened in these last 10 years that you would like to highlight? What have been the lessons for you this decade and what are you bringing with you, to harness, develop, cultivate, strengthen – master – in the new one? Please go ahead and drop a comment, I’d love to hear from you.
Speaking for myself, 2010, as I remember it, was not the best of years, to say the least. I was stuck in the deepest of ruts. Despite having become a home owner just a couple of years before, something I’d dreamt about for eons, and which I was – am! – so happy about and deeply grateful for, despite feeling young, knowledgeable, competent, strong and ready to go, go, go!, there didn’t appear to be anywhere to go to after all. Monumental ambitions had come crumbling to the ground right there before my eyes and I had been left in that state of groundlessness that Pema Chodron speaks about so eloquently and beautifully in her book, When Things Fall Apart.
By 2011 I was on my knees. Professionally, I’d been paralised for almost 4 years, despite numerous and heartfelt attempts to be industrious and productive, and although I didn’t regret having returned to Mexico after the best part of a decade in the UK, this dead-end trap I seemed to be stuck in, like the character in Groundhog Day, invited me to ponder upon the questions I’d asked myself prior to making the decision to return every now and again, always finding great comfort in the knowledge that my deepest intention had been, and has always been, to be helpful.
My big break and opportunity to be just that came towards the end of 2011 when I was finally offered useful employment in the shape of a position, as freelance teacher of English to adults, at the British Council. As the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities, the British Council was an absolute life-saver at that moment – nowhere else would I have felt so validated and vindicated – and although I was an emotional shipwreck at the time, I was also absolutely determined to make it work and to rebuild myself, from the inside out, into the freelance teacher of English to adults I am today.
Notwithstanding such noble intentions, 2012 was a rocky year. Teaching mature, monolingual students in Mexico City, who stuck around for years instead of a few weeks or a month or so at the most, was a big change from what I’d experienced back in London. Back then it had been young, dynamic people from all over the world in brightly lit, modern classrooms just a few blocks away from the stunning Greenwich Park:
Fast-forward again to 2012 in Mexico City and I was struggling to find my teaching groove, even though I knew I was in the right place, doing the right thing. But, dear Universe, how to find that spark? How to bring myself back? I asked these questions every day, as I slowly became re-acquainted with all the content and adapted to planning with the support of newly available online resources.
And then, one day, it dawned on me that, in the words of the venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, The Way Out is In, and what I needed to do was to commit to practise sitting in mindfulness meditation and, some time later, in 2013, to find every way I could to share the practice with others. I am so happy and grateful that British Council Mexico has supported me in this aspiration. Not only have I been sharing weekly mindfulness practice sessions there ever since, but I have also spoken about teaching and mindfulness at international conferences such as BBELT in 2015 and 2016 and at IATEFL in Glasgow in 2017.
Back to my question at the beginning of this post and my answer would have to be that continuing to master my craft – bringing teaching English to adults and mindfulness together – is definitely one thing that’s on the cards for me this new decade. And what better way to kick it off than at BBELT 2020 at the beginning of February, with the presentation Teaching with the 5 Powers? See you there!