Monday, October 6, 2014

Growing Pains + Culture Shock

A few weeks ago, I wrote an email to a friend and expressed that I was feeling frustrated at my new job because I couldn't do what I normally do with my classes. It occurred to me then that I was experiencing a kind of culture shock. 

Culture shock is usually categorized into three basic phases: excitement, frustration, and acceptance. Commonly, being in a new place is exciting at first, and you want to experience everything. Then, as you try to live your normal life, you feel frustrated because you can't do the things you're accustomed to doing. Everything is a challenge. At some point, though, you develop new routines and accept the new environment. 

I'm somewhere between frustration and acceptance. 

Things aren't so different, really, but I haven't been successful in the areas I can usually count on, which is killing my confidence and not making me want to do my job. The students are different. My coworkers are different. The physical environment is different. It's like being in an alternate universe where everything looks basically the same, but at every turn, I'm confronted with something new I have to adapt to.

What's puzzling is how effortless my previous transitions seem by comparison. But that's the problem; enough time has passed that I don't remember how difficult it was. At every college where I've worked, my first semester was pretty awkward and filled with lots of failed attempts. I got better the more I taught and learned who the students were and what they needed from me. 

Another friend who also just started a new teaching job has reported to me that she's not having a good time with her position either. Although our situations are different, when I heard us both expressing uncertainty about our futures, I saw that we both probably needed to give ourselves more time to adjust.

In other words, I've experienced similar growing pains in the past. And they are growing pains. Every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow. The stakes are higher now because the expectations are higher, but that's a good thing. When I've found myself waxing poetic about my last job (you know, the part-time teaching job with no benefits that left me scrounging for additional work), I just have to remember that this will pass with time, and I have to believe in myself.