A Teachers Story, How I Started Teaching

  • How did you find out about English Teaching?
  • “Now that I had decided I was going to stay in Madrid, there was only one problem, how the heck was I going to stay here when my Swiss bank account had enough money in it for two more months. I calculated that it would run dry sometime in early January of 1990. I found a room in a shared flat in the popular and multicultural neighborhood of Lavapiés, and the guy whose room I inherited, when I confessed to him about how I longed to stay permanently in Madrid, but didn’t know how, said to me, “Why don’t you teach English!” I looked at him in a confused way and said, “Teach what?” He repeated, “Teach English, our language.” And I replied innocently and a little astounded, “you can do that?””
  • “I had never even heard of teaching English as a Foreign Language before and it had never even occurred to me that someone, without a degree in Education, could teach English. And that was how it all began. I went to a phone booth on the second floor of Telefonica (Spanish Phone Company) in the Gran Via, opened up one of those old phone books and started calling the English academies to see if I would have any luck. By the end of the day, I had three jobs lined up”.

 

  • How did you learn how to teach English?
  • “I was truly the nowadays much-frowned-upon backpacker turned English teacher. I hadn’t the foggiest notion of how to teach an English class, not a clue about grammar, yes, a cat thrown in off the diving board at the deep end, but with an intense desire to learn how. After getting through my first class on a wing and a prayer, I started to figure out how to become a good teacher, but there was no TEFL, no handbooks, no internet, no manuals, nothing to teach myself how to teach English other than a ragged first edition of Raymond Murphy’s English Grammar in Use, which became my adopted bible and which saved me from many a faux pas. So my first English classes were like someone learning how to cook in a huge, shiny kitchen with all kinds of delicious ingredients, but not knowing how to fry an egg, let alone make spaghetti. They were a little bit like a sometimes botched laboratory experiment with a mad scientist trying to make gold out of lead. Each class was a new trial and error investigation and my long suffering students become guinea pigs to be dissected with new, self-invented methods that sometimes produced the alchemy of an amazing class and others, a black, smoking short circuit and a fire to be put out, which once ended up in me being fired. After a few months of an intense learning process, I finally came up with what I considered as a modus operandi that worked with students and I started to become, in my opinion, a decent teacher.”

 

  • To be continued…

 

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