Hi, welcome to knitting and to Knitting Help. You say you have pretty thick yarn so I'm wondering if your needles are an appropriate size for your yarn. What size are they?
Can you post a picture? That might help figure out the problem you're having. If the long tail cast on isn't working for you, you might try the knitting on. http://www.knittinghelp.com/video/pl...on-continental
You say you're working Continental, which is fine, but it's neither better nor worse than English. I knit Continental and it works well for me but don't be afraid to try English, you just might like it better.
I understand your saying you feel a little dumb, but really, there's no need to. Few people can do much with needles and yarn the first time they pick them up. We each have our own learning curve.