We are teachers by trade, complainers by role – 3rd February 2021

Let’s make a list
So we can feel like we’re accomplishing something
So we can feel like we’re working together

Let’s sit in a circle adding to the list
As we move around the room one by one
As you make a suggestion begin sternly
– you take no shit –
To give credence to your semi-constructive argument

Tomorrow we’ll wonder where this generation
Gets their priorities from
Tomorrow my heart will skip a beat
As it does every morning nine months of the year

It has to do with this list
Before the bells even ring
Before the hair is even combed

Will the approach ever change
Or will it begin as I’ve said
And end with a lighthearted twist
To prove we’re all adults?

It has to do with this list
Which we’ll put in our pockets
To throw away at a later date

It has to do with this list
Which makes me feel more uncomfortable
Than I’ve ever felt
More apple pie than I’ve ever been

We are not housewives, executives, or entrepreneurs
We are teachers by trade, complainers by role

– Let’s Make a List by The Van Pelt

I really love the Van Pelt’s subdued musical tone and the singer’s talk-sing delivery. The lyrics here struck me deeply as these days, once again, I wake during the night thinking about how I could help this student or that student and really make a difference to their lives – if only there was enough time.

Let’s make a list
So we can feel like we’re accomplishing something
So we can feel like we’re working together

Lists and meetings – throwbacks to my office days – useless, endless, time-wasting meetings. Lists have their place but may also be overrated – yet here we are, in the absence of a better solution, doing the same so that we can feel like we are doing something. I like the playful sarcasm of these lines – it appeals directly to my Englishness.

Let’s sit in a circle adding to the list
As we move around the room one by one

See that list, let’s mindlessly add to it – we are accomplishing a list. You’re turn next.

As you make a suggestion begin sternly
– you take no shit –
To give credence to your semi-constructive argument

If I speak louder then my information must be more important. Oops – there’s my own sarcasm manifest. I must also remember not to use this strategy when I’m teaching – or in every day communication, come to that. Recall the stereotype of shouting louder to non-English speakers in the misguided belief that this will help them understand.

Tomorrow we’ll wonder where this generation
Gets their priorities from

I hate the kids! That’s what we are supposed to do, right? Yet, I don’t – I love them all very much – even the angry, lazy, nasty ones, the ones that remind me of myself. But I am not one of them and I shouldn’t expect them to bend to my equations, to live up to my expectations. That’s a useless frustration. I felt my grandparents look upon me in that tut-tutting way but my mother showed me and taught me to find my own way. It was the struggle I needed. It is the struggle I still endure and have learned to love.

Tomorrow my heart will skip a beat
As it does every morning nine months of the year

Every day of school I have to pretend I am a teacher. I am purely a teacher based on my mother tongue and my age. But I consider myself a student first. When I feel joy at seeing the student’s grow – I see my own journey. I feel grateful to them for teaching me about myself.

Will the approach ever change
Or will it begin as I’ve said
And end with a lighthearted twist
To prove we’re all adults?

These were the lyrics that really stood out when considering the education system in government schools in Thailand. I was told by other teachers that I would never be able to facilitate change in the system here. I took that as a coward’s statement. They chose the easy way, the way to not ruffle anyone’s feathers, to not take to task the inefficiencies that all can see. Even the students are aware of the low quality of education they receive and have made it part of the protest movement of this past year.

Anyway, the nail that sticks out gets hammered down and that is what had happened to me before here. But, the feathers were ruffled enough to make some change – I felt the sacrifice worth it and the lazy and noncommittal can benefit from it. Of course, there was no sweeping change to a utopia but patience will be rewarded. It may take another 100 years but I’d rather be a lit match that started a tiny fire than a bucket of water. I feel sorry for the kids – how can you hate them?

It has to do with this list
Which we’ll put in our pockets
To throw away at a later date

Ouch! Isn’t that the truth?

We are teachers by trade, complainers by role

Where do we get our priorities from?

Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful that I’m taking the time to write gratitude letters to the people I work with. They have made my time teaching much more fun and interesting.

New day rising – 29th December 2019

This morning I am filled with a quiet happiness. Determined to get up early on a Sunday and to do something, whether it be a walk, a meditation, writing or studying, I rolled out of bed, fed the cats and opted to walk to my favourite local coffee shop, Utopia.

As I prepared food for the cats a light rain appeared. Unusual for this time of year but accurately predicted by our weather apps for once. Undeterred, I set out. The temperature still cool but the minimal exertion keeping me warmed I chose to listen to a reading of a Chekhov short story. The relative quiet around made for clear listening to the beautiful words of the story as I walked through small fields of wet grass and aspiring mud. Was I still in Thailand or transported to that Armenian village?

Before I knew it I had arrived at the shop but it was too early and as I waited on the porch I listened to a primer on Nietzsche and then an imagined conversation between Fred and Jane Austen where, despite their differences they arrived at a philosophical agreement and appreciation for each others works. Inspired by this I contemplated how everyone is different but we must be able to find some common ground.

The Nietzsche primer mentioned his text’s difficult reading but also highlighted his humour. Something which I had not been previously aware of. Friends have told me they preferred to read works about Nietzsche rather than his own. I will try this approach sometime. Sometime when I can add those books to my ever growing library.

The shop opened and I lazily drank through 3 coffees which produced a wonderful buzzing awareness of all the subtleties around me. Soon an acquaintance of Amy’s arrived, a Thai lady who runs her own English school. As this was our first meeting we talked about our shared experiences with teaching here in Chiang Rai.

Coffee and conversation

I lead the conversation for a while before realising it was time to let her speak and so I asked questions about her school and so the conversation flowed. I set myself a small challenge to try to talk to a stranger every day and thought to myself that I can cross this off today’s challenge list and it’s not even 10am.

Later though, as I was walking home, the rain a little heavier than before, I realised that I had failed in another of my personal challenges. Inspired by a Tim Ferriss article I read this week I have challenged myself to not complain about anything for 21 days. To remind myself about this challenge I have started wearing a bracelet, the purpose being that every time you complain you have to swap the bracelet to the other wrist. I have made this doubly difficult for myself by choosing a bracelet that is awkward to attach to oneself with one hand.

As the bracelet effect kicked in I thought back to the conversation in the coffee shop and asked myself if I had been complaining. Despite my mind’s protestations and justifications I sadly realised I had, indeed, been complaining. Perhaps only mildly but there is a fine line between stating the facts as they are and infusing a negative into the narrative.

In fact, the hardest part of this challenge is actually recognising that you are complaining. So long as it pushes to the forefront of my mind more and more it will help me become more aware of my own words and to try to understand how someone might feel whilst listening to me.

The walk home was still wonderous as I contemplated all this and listened to the description of beautiful Masha and the joy and sadness the narrator felt. This description was thought-provoking as I also was feeling so happy with life, despite the fact I was getting cold and wet in the rain. The walk crowned by the view of the feathery grass that spikes alongside our driveway, suddenly weighed down by the heavy drops of water, pointing towards the path home.

Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful to be inquisitive. To want to constantly learn and understand myself. This morning I listened to a primer on Nietzsche which was interesting as an introduction because I don’t know enough about his philosophy. I then listened to an imagined conversation between Nietzsche and Jane Austen where there two apparent so different writers end up agreeing on many things. I walked to Utopia this morning too. A nice gentle walk and gave me chance to listen to these articles.


On Friday I kept my challenge of playing with the kids so that I would get some exercise. However, after a while, they asked me to calm down. I was a bit rough and too competitive. I felt slightly aggrieved at that moment but did calm down some. When I thought about it afterwards I realised they were right. It probably wasn’t as much fun for them as it should have been. I need to learn about the consequences of my actions – even the small ones.

Every everything (The Chiang Rai Alternative Hour #15) – 7th December 2019

It’s taken me more than a year and a half to recover!

When I returned from the CELTA training course I found my brain had changed.  I seem to flip between data driven thinking and artistic thinking and often cannot find a good balance.  The training was very linear and intensive (as it should be) and on reflection now, some 18 months later, was easier to complete than I imagined beforehand and during.  The pressure to achieve was very high but that pressure mostly came from within.  Now, I realise that I can turn my hand to anything if I wish to.

Of course, the circumstances since the training have mostly helped me arrive at this conclusion.  First I started doing some free teaching with students from the local university.  This gave me a little self confidence though I was often shocked at the students poor language levels, in the language they are studying for their degrees, whatever the subject.  I can suggest to myself that I could probably easily complete a degree at the university here purely based on the fact I can use the language fully.  Anyway, that’s by the by for now as I’m not really considering that as an option at the moment.

After a few months kicking around and enjoying much free time I ended up working with Grade 5 students at a nearby provincial school.  I have a million stories from there, many which I would like to forget.  I soon discovered the crazy dysfunction in the education system here.  If it’s obvious to me, an unqualified teacher starting their first job then the system must be pretty poor.

I don’t intend to tarnish the education system as a whole as that would be unfair.  The circumstances I was in influenced a lot of my impressions and I try to understand that what I saw was not indicative of other places.  It was, however, the belief of many others teaching here that things are not much better elsewhere in the country.  There are a million reasons for this and books could be filled trying to explain.  The main down side for me was that I felt that I was unable to do a good job and provide useful learning for the students a lot of the time.  I hate doing a bad job – especially when eventually someone else is going to suffer for it.  So that was the other down side – watching willing students deal with the inadequacies of the system which lead to inconsistency in almost everything.  Frustrating beyond belief.

Beyond that though I have found myself with a passion and love for the students that has made me incredibly happy.  It’s a job that I really love to invest my time in and to go to work to do it.  I’ll talk more about this in future.

Just a short one this time as I push myself to get back into this.

“Every heartbeat, every movement, every moment, every sigh.”


Gratitude Journal

I am so grateful and happy to go to school on Friday, which was hard as I had been sick this week and had a bad experience on Monday. The kids also drove me crazy and made me quite angry but I survived and talked to Kru Noon about strategies to get them to listen more. I will take her advice and try this next week!


The Chiang Rai Alternative Hour #15

Music from Hamster Theatre, Super Thief, Infidel-Castro!, Arm, Kultur Shock, Captain Beefheart, Fugazi, Bogshed, Brainiac, Neon Rose, By The End of Tonight, Rafter, Huggy Bear, Jimmy Two Hands, Zu/Mats Gustafsson, Secret Hate and The Ex.

Let’s talk about luck, right? Let’s talk about it – 27th May 2018

The words contained in the title are not particularly related to the content of this post beyond the fact they are words I couldn’t get out of my head for these 4 weeks of study.

After my last post, some people on the course asked me what I was going to write in this one.  Which made me curious about what I would actually write and what people would think.  When a group of 30 or more people are shoved together for 4 weeks there’s going to be some drama.  In fact, there wasn’t really that much, to be honest.  We were – mostly – adults.

As new faces started appearing on the weekend, our peaceful processing of all things grammar quickly faded to distant regions of the brain.  By Sunday evening the place was abuzz with faces from across the globe.  It was quick to see that there was one Muslim group and another Chinese group of people.  They were all split across separate smaller groups on the first day, though that didn’t mean they didn’t stick together at most other times.  This caused some minor divides but about two-thirds of us were from other places and we all mixed together well enough.  It became apparent to me fairly quickly that it was good to talk to as many people as possible to get different points of view and different ideas – this made the idea of sticking in your little clique seem slightly self-defeating though it was an obvious comfort.

The Muslim group introduced themselves early on.  They were a group of teachers from Pakistan, seemingly lead by one, who we found out later was more a department head rather than teacher herself.  She asked if we like Thailand, to which we confirmed, only to be told that Pakistan is better.  As they walked off, she called back “Don’t mind me, I’m a jolly one!” which I thought rather odd and cute.

It worried me that there was a high percentage of teachers on this course.  Surely they would have a real advantage over those of us with no experience at all.  Thankfully they were given the task of teaching before the rest of us, which at least gave us an extra day preparation.  I also gave us a view of how other teachers go about their work.

So it was that on the second evening of the course we would watch the experienced teachers perform.  Whilst having nothing to compare with, I was mostly just concentrating on things that I saw that I thought I could use myself.  The following evening would be my turn and as I prepared during the night time and that morning I soon found the templates we could use to plan our lessons.  Although not needed at this stage it was obvious to me that they were useful guidance even not knowing how to fill them correctly.  I also made good use of the internet to see how previous students had done things and found valuable resources that would help with the assignments too.  Most of these were posted without comment so there was no clue as to whether they were good/correct or not but they at least provided ideas for the way to do things.  The CELTA folks are also pretty on the ball about plagiarism so straight copying would have been no benefit anyway.

During the daytime we were attended our own classes to learn all about the processes and skills needed to perform to meet the course requirements.  This is where I think that having no previous teaching experience was a benefit as starting with a clean slate was easier to deal with.  Experienced teachers were being asked to unlearn their methods and also they could see that the methods they were being taught may not be useful in their own environments, hindering their motivations somewhat.

So I opened my brain and let everything in and quickly adjusted to the tempo of the course.  The third evening was my turn to teach and despite sweaty palms and stuttering heart rate I went really well considering it was the first time I had ever done such a thing.  I could see that a well prepared plan made for a successful lesson so knew that this was where I should be concentrating my energies.  From here on out I enjoyed the planning and thinking about ways to improve my lessons based on what we were being taught each day.  And we were being taught a lot.

Again, I quickly surmised that there was no way we could learn, remember and incorporate everything we were being taught.  Based on feedback after each lesson you were advised what needed to be improved so it made sense to concentrate on that.

But then came the assignments. Each week a new assignment with ever decreasing deadlines.  They really interfered with lesson preparations, especially if you had to resubmit them as I had to on two of the four.  But again, it was apparent that there was no penalty for resubmission so it made sense to do your best for the first submission and follow the advice provided for the second.  This at least gave an extra few days here and there.

Everyone was warned at the beginning of the course that they would have to deal with critical feedback during the four weeks and some didn’t handle it so well.  I think I had a somewhat blasé attitude to the course after the first week.  After the initial stresses, reassurances from Amy to just do my best, and fairly positive feedback from my colleagues as well as our tutors I ended up concentrating on the end date and when it would all be completed and I would have my CELTA certificate.  This enabled me to cope with criticism of my teaching in a positive way.  After all, we were being told these things so that we could improve and ultimately so that we could pass the course.  Our teachers were obviously trying to help us, without spoon feeding us.

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At one point, one of the teachers from Pakistan complained to me that they weren’t being taught anything and that they were just being given advice on where to look to go and find out things for themselves.  Their background shows this method of teaching where someone stands at the front of class and tells the students A is A and B is B.  This is how they were taught (pretty much how I was taught too) and this is how they teach.

What was particularly surprising about the comment was that just 10 minutes before, everyone had agreed that this method wasn’t the best way for students to learn.  Being guided to discover the solutions for yourselves is generally a better way to retain learning.  At this point I realised that I could be a teacher.  If some of the people I met on the course were already teachers with years of experience I found myself thinking I could easily do a better job than them.  Whether I actually can or not in the future remains to be seen.  At least all these things put me at ease.

I was dealing with the stress of everything well enough, even as experienced teachers started coming to me for assistance with their plans and assignments.  The 50m swimming pool outside my window often begged my attendance but I rarely got chance to use it again.  I also found the best folks amongst my colleagues to ask for advice and guidance when needed.  One in particular, Iranian, London girl, Hedie stood out with her calm and methodical approach to everything, even as everyone around was in a spiral stress ball.  I was also lucky that she was teaching the same subjects as myself so we could understand and advise each other about approaches and develop ideas, whilst not just copying them directly.  Our own teachers were also very supportive with this and at one point our teacher jokingly challenged us to teach a lesson without speaking at all.  Fortuitously my next lesson seemed to fit the bill and when I told that I planned to have 0% speaking time she pulled me up and said she was only joking and that it would be really weird to not talk at all!  My hopes for the challenge slightly dashed I did however manage to keep my talking time around 10% and the class was brilliant.  I was really starting to get into the groove by this point and continued to push myself constantly, rising to the teachers challenges for the final lesson of the course, which unfortunately saw me come undone.  It was a slight bummer to end the 4 weeks on a less than positive lesson but again, I didn’t want to take the easy option and was just trying to push myself further.  All good learning experience.

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So it was, by the last day, everyone was now more relaxed and looking forward to their next adventures, whether continuing traveling or returning to teaching.  We headed into the city to partake in some alcohol, something I had purposely been avoiding this 4 weeks, but for me I couldn’t shake the sudden lack of stresses which resulted in a tired lethargy that saw me bow out earlier than the rest.

The final morning as a few of us walked up the road for a big breakfast I got a sudden feeling of Stockholm Syndrome.  I didn’t want to leave.  This place had been my life, fully consumed, for 4 weeks and now it was a return to reality.  That reality was now uncertain.  My head still spinning with 3rd conditionals and how to make a good reading lesson I would be thrust back into the world of gardening and job hunting.

There were many more stories, much more gossip and a whole host of feelings skipped over in this writing.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to approach this post and with time marching ever onward I wanted to get these words down before the memories fade further.

And the title of the post?  Some folks worked their way through their stress with meditation, relaxing music and yoga, some with alcohol.  I don’t know why, but the abrasive noise of Circus Lupus and Chris Thompson’s screaming put me right in the frame for writing lesson plans into the early hours.  Their two albums will now and forever be associated with this time.

“We’re all good people, all my people, just sitting around, drowned in sound,                        Open your eyes………                                                                                                                              Ennnnnnnd.”

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I got buckets full of time, I got nothing but time – 26th May 2018

“Time is such a deceiver.”

So, it’s been a while.  Who knows where the time goes? That was the original tagline but I got sucked in by the Leaving Trains instead.  In fact, there’s any number of songs that could be quoted for this post because… it’s been a while!

After the mad rush of Songkran, sobriety took hold out of necessity.  It wasn’t that I wouldn’t like to have had a drink it’s just that there wasn’t time.

I was secreted off to a rural location on the outskirts of Chiang Mai for a month of intense training in the arts of teaching English (CELTA – look it up).  Of course, being entirely ignorant of the subject, beyond speaking it for the past 49 years or so, I arrived early to get a little refresher on the witchery that is English grammar.  It was not nearly enough preparation.

I had been put to sleep many a time whilst opening a grammar book or watching videos on the subject.  Luckily we had a teacher who was a female version of my old pal back in Southampton, Rob Callen.  She was precise and accurate and even modelled some of the lessons that we would end up learning in the coming weeks, without realising it of course.

So, I said we.  I was joined by Tom, a recently retired American looking to support himself a little beyond what the pension there pays so he could spend six months living in his new house in Portugal.  Tom was also from an IT background so we bonded quickly enough around the bullshit that that involves.  We were both concerned about our abilities to be able to complete the course, knowing how intense we heard it would be.  Along with us was Victoria, from London, whose grammar knowledge shone in comparison.  Mid-30s, deciding on her future possibilities, whilst travelling to vacations and friends’ weddings around the world, she was a bright and bubbly counter to the two old blokes.

And so it was for the first 3 or 4 nights as we did a couple of days of grammar refreshing, in which I was mostly bewildered but also provoked.  English grammar does seem like the kind of thing I could get deep into and become the ‘grammar nazi’ amongst my friends.  Though considering we are about to learn how to teach English as a second language in a foreign country though, my relaxed attitude is more inclined to take precedence.

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Location, location…..

Our facility is structured like a resort hotel.   There are teaching rooms, a reception and a restaurant.  More importantly, our personal rooms are cleaned daily, there’s a laundry service and outside my balcony, there is a 50-metre swimming pool.  Oh yeah, there’s aircon too.  For some reason, the keycard in my room didn’t work properly so the aircon stayed on even when I wasn’t there.  What a blessing.

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With no pressure and performance ratings around the grammar refresher – we studied, we learned, we swam and we ate.  It was the calm before the storm.  Our little world was about to be shattered when all the other students would arrive.

And talking of storms.  One arrived about five minutes after I made it to my room on that first day.  There was a lot of damage to the surrounding gardens and it took the internet out for a while too.  Both storms and internet outages would become regular occurrences during my time there.

I guess the grammar refresher paid off a little as I can recognise myself switching in and out of different tenses as I write this but they seem to make more sense to me as I write them.

Anyway, the quiet was broken as other students started arriving, as well as our teachers too.  And this is where things sometimes got confusing as we were students, and we would be teachers so we had students as well.  On top of all the learning our brains were being jammed with, it was sometimes confusing to be calling home and talking about teachers (teaching us), teachers (us), teachers studying (many people on the course were already teachers), students (us) and students (who we were teaching)!

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Confused? You will be!  In the next episode of….. (Prizes for knowing where this quote comes from*)

* there are no prizes.

Watch out for the spiders of compulsion – 6th February 2018

As it was in 1994, my year of change is marked by death.  Then, it was my best friend Steve.  Steve would have been the first person I would turn to in times of sadness and self-doubt when trying to settle in Australia.  Now, it is my mother.

This is a bigger cultural change, a deeper more emotional challenge, moving to Thailand.  I wanted to share it with my mum and listen to her advice.  I know what her advice would be but I would still like to have heard it from her own mouth.  I will stay strong, continue to make her proud.

This afternoon I have a Skype interview for the CELTA course (English teaching) in Chiang Mai.  I have done one of these interviews before in Sydney and was accepted to do the course but that time I was under no pressure and was fairly relaxed about everything and I ended up not taking the course at that time.  This time I am more worried.  This is something I need once I get to Thailand so that I can find work legally there.  I am also, obviously, not in a particularly bright and cheery mood.

These days are dragging now,  I’m getting impatient to take my next steps.  Why can’t I relax, take everything in my stride, enjoy the free time?  I often seem to be striving for the next thing, constantly on the move.

The fear of numbered days makes them pass too swiftly.

You fight for your life
Held back by fear of falling
You fight for your life
Held back by fear of feeling
You fight for your life
Held back by fear of freedom
Your only fear
The fear of freedom

 

Nervous, I’m nervous, so nervous – 18th January 2018

Don’t complain about the weather.  Don’t complain about the weather.  Don’t complain about the weather.  It’s boring!

Faaaaark it’s hot!

It was 42 degrees today here in Adelaide.  Luckily I slept through it and it was only 41 degrees when I woke up at 5pm.  Dropped down nicely to 31 degrees when I went out for my walk at 10.30pm.

Yes, it’s boring to talk about the weather.  But when you live in Australia and plan to move to Thailand it’s quite a relevant topic.  I didn’t own a jacket for the first 7 years of living in Australia, and I only had one after that because it was a present from a girlfriend.  I do appreciate some warmer clothes during the winter here these days though, these old bones are getting creakier. I have seen frost in Sydney once too – about 12 years ago.

Amy has suffered through the Thai winter where there is a regular annual news item about how could it is each year.  This year the lowest overnight temperature was around 8 degrees.  Looks like I might still need a jacket then.  For the two weeks that it lasts anyway.  Kind of the reverse to an English summer.

I’m promising myself not to ever complain about hot it is in Thailand.  Let’s see how long that lasts.

Front

Amy has gone from bored-to-stressed in 24 hours, as she has been running around dealing with the people who will build our kitchen and walk-in wardrobe.  Figuring out who will build our bed base design and special wardrobe in the second bedroom.  Expanding the outdoor kitchen area and deciding to put the washing machine out there and renaming the laundry to Amy’s craft room.  Choosing the wall paints and figuring the guys building our fence deserve a bottle of rice whisky when they finish – to keep in their good books if we need any other help in the future.

Back

Hopefully, the paint goes on in the next few days so Amy can see how everything will look and change anything before it’s too late if she decides.  It’s still so weird for me to be here just looking at photos and only being able to visualise living in a finished house, rather than be involved with its development so closely.  I hope I like it!

Fence

I emailed off my application for the CELTA course in Chiang Mai, starting in April, after Songkran.  They wrote back quickly and I’ll need to do an interview with them sometime soon.  I want to do a video interview but need to make sure the internet is stable enough.  I also need to be on top form and with only have a day and a half break between shift changes again this week I can pretty safely assume I won’t be up for it.  As well as this, I’ll be moving house on Tuesday evening and there won’t be any internet connectivity for a week or so.  I guess by then though I should have a long enough break to be alert enough to what I already know will be a difficult interview.

I’m just a little petrified about my ability to do this course – it’s been so long since I’ve been in a study situation where I’ve had to actually care about what I’ll be learning.  I was sent on so many useless courses in my old job that I never really paid much attention. I know my focus and concentration is not as good as it used to be too.

But hopefully, with a more meaningful result and benefit at the end of the course as the reward, I will be motivated enough to push on through and do my best.  I really want to learn to do something that has more meaning, to myself and to others.  I hope that I can be a good English teacher, and a great mentor to those I will end up teaching.

Once done I’ll start investigating opportunities to work in schools and also to do some private tuition, which I think will be what I might end up doing longer term, once I’ve done a couple of years to get a good grounding on the best way to do things.

I’m still nervous though.  If I can’t pass the course, what will I end up doing?  I do take comfort in the knowledge that other of friends have passed so if they can do it, so can I!