There is no tougher crowd than the teachers' training course, my dears -- a bunch of teachers who don't necessarily know each other that well shoved into one room together for two weeks and made to speak English in front of each other, knowing that every other teacher in the room is sizing up their ability. It can take damn near tooth-pulling levels of effort to create an environment, in the hour and a half that you have, comfortable enough to convince them to start talking. With situations like that, it's your attitude from the moment you walk through the door that sets the tone.
If you want to know what it's like to perform, try this. Because these people don't know shit about you and somehow you have to go in there and, from the first second you take your place in front of the room, start leading them toward open conversation. Not to mention, if you catch them in the second week, they've already sat through hours and hours of weoneomins who may have only been in this country for a couple of months and don't have a fucking clue what they're doing (not their fault -- we're not given a single guideline for what this is or what we're supposed to do -- we're just told show up and teach teachers for three hours).
I just pray that I've ended up with a lucky draw -- groups that have made peace with each other and settled the pecking order, with at least one or two talkative leaders who will help me get the ball rolling. Usually, this involves having at least one male teacher in the room. The women tend to be more squeamish about being the first to speak out, whereas I've had some male teachers who have almost taken the class control right out from under me before.
But I enjoy these sessions. I like the challenge of it, and that moment where you finally shatter the barrier in the classroom, and people start to speak up not because they feel bad for you, standing up in the front of the room surrounded by awkward silence, but because you've managed to spark enough interest that they want to say something -- even if it has to be in English -- is one of the most rewarding moments you can have, amongst life's small victories.
Here we go. I've got a lot to take care of in the next couple of days if I'm actually going to make it out of country. Good thing I'll be finishing a little early today and tomorrow. Say a prayer for good weather and cooperative audiences.