March 14, 2008
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On the very first day of TEFL training, Sheena said, “For the next twenty-five days (yes, including weekends), your life will revolve around this program. When your training is over and you are certified, there is no possible way that you will leave this school without having been significantly changed in some way.” And even though the training is just barely half over, I can already see what she meant.
The last time I did any teaching was three years ago at Bennett High School in Buffalo, to kids who were there because they had to be and didn’t give a tinker’s damn whether or not they learned anything. I came to the Boston Academy of English knowing that on some level, teaching ESL would obviously be different from teaching English under the Buffalo Public School System, but the reality of it, though not very surprising, is that teaching ESL so much more than just being different. My year’s end review had me thinking that the circumstances in my life in the past year had made me grow up more quickly and profoundly than ever before — until I joined TEFL.
After days of preparing, worrying and panicking, and many hours of tearful breakdowns in bathrooms and to trainers Sheena and Cora, I survived my first week of teaching. It was the most difficult, and yet, in some strange, oxymoronic way, the most fun and fulfilling experience of my life, despite the occasional trips down the rabbit hole. The feelings of accountability and responsibility have never been bigger; to know that there are people who actually depend on you to teach them one way to survive in a foreign country is absolutely terrifying, but then to see them learn and actually put to use what you’ve given them is the most rewarding feeling in the world, even for a teacher in training.