Ten years a teacher; what my students and teaching have taught me


At the beginning of 2004 I was working for a well-known UK bookshop chain.  I had been there since graduating from university but the time had come to move on.  I had initially rejected teaching as I didn’t fit the description of an outgoing, confident person, which I had read a teacher should be; it was therefore a coincidence, some might say fate, that I became one.  I had previously decided to train as a counsellor, but when the course I was hoping to do was cancelled, I looked through the local adult education brochure and was drawn to an introduction to EFL course, which according to the prospectus, had already started.  However, when I called the centre to ask if they were planning to run another one soon, I was told that the dates were wrong, and it was actually starting the following week.  I signed up immediately.

Despite my initial reservations about being ‘right’ for teaching, I realised it was for me.  I left bookselling and joined the next full-time course to become an EFL teacher.  It was a one month intensive and we were thrown in at the deep end, teaching from day one, albeit only for ten minutes.  I was terrified.  My legs wouldn’t work, my mouth was dry and all I could feel were the eyes of the expectant students and my peers at the back of the class watching me.  I often catch myself now and smile at how far I’ve come from those initial fearful steps into teaching.

Ten years later, I still wouldn’t describe myself as outgoing but my confidence has grown considerably, and that is all thanks to teaching.  Through my work I have learnt so much about myself and people in general by observing my students and fellow teachers over the years.  My students have taught me about their cultures, given me a different view of the world and made me laugh on a daily basis.  I have great admiration for them because they have bravely left their family and friends to come and temporarily live in a country so different to their own.  Contrary to what many EFL teachers do, I haven’t travelled with my work, precisely because I felt I couldn’t leave my home.

Teaching has also provided a welcome escape from my troubles and worries over the years.  When I go into the classroom, regardless of how I feel on the inside, I have to be friendly and happy on the outside, however hard that might be.  Having pretended to be cheerful for two hours, I often feel a little lighter when leaving the classroom than when I entered it.  This is often thanks to my students, who wouldn’t have known how much they had just helped to lift my mood.

So after ten years of teaching, I have to say thank you to all my students and fellow teachers.  And if there is anyone else who thinks they don’t fit the teacher mould but want to try teaching, I would say, go for it!  I am naturally introverted but like being around people, most of the time!  I wasn’t confident when I was younger but teaching has brought me out of myself more and given me greater strength as an individual.  I think my life would be much smaller if it were not for a quiet, yet insistent voice in the back of my head saying ‘teach’.





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