Saturday, September 4, 2010

Balancing Act

Ah the irony. I've been assigned to teach 11th and 12th grade literature. The 11th grade textbook is devoted solely to American literature. Which means, that for at least one of my classes I am assigned to teach the American experience. Two things strike me as counter-intuitive. First, that I am here to teach anybody anything is humorous to me. I studied Middle East history, religion, and politics in school, so it feels natural for me to surrender myself to learning. Thanks to prior training in study abroad and other such ventures, my natural state is one of guest and student. Second, I am supposed to teach Egyptian students about America. This makes sense, as one of (if not the sole reason) I was hired was my nationality. Yet, here I am, thirsty for information about their culture, their literature.

As with an old friend, I am meeting again with a familiar feeling, one I experienced when spending time abroad before. At home, I rarely feel that 'American.' As a liberal free-thinker from Portland-wonderful-bubble-of Northwestern-but-detached-goodness, Oregon, I rarely feel a strong patriotic pull. However, in the context of a foreign culture, I have a strongly heightened sense of my Americanism. Generally, I find myself appreciating things from home I never thought I would, and as I skim through the literature textbook, I find myself praising classic American works and figures. I am slowly realizing how truly carved I am out of the American stone.

And so the need arises to perform a strange and sophisticated balancing act. I want to learn as much as I can, letting my host country guide my experiences. At the same time, I want to be the best teacher I can, sharing with my students all my country's past has to offer. And, most importantly, I want to find the perfect balance between demonstrating pride and appreciation for my background, and respect and awe of my new surroundings.

Ready. Set. Balance.

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