Thursday, February 5, 2015

Eat. Play. Teach. Blog post #1 - by Georgina Selander

Inspired insights from a TEFL teacher 

I guess it goes without saying that the hardest part of any challenge is just getting started. And so, when tasked with creating a ‘confessions-of-an-EFL-teacher’ style blog, I spent several minutes staring at a blank screen, wondering where to begin.

But now that I’ve cleared my throat, got the first words onto the page, let’s start with the basics.

My name is Georgina Selander. I’m 23-years-old. And I’m currently working as an EFL teacher for The Knowledge Workshop.

Arriving at this state was a potluck decision. After reaching the end of my tether at a series of boring desk jobs, I decided that the 9-5 grind wasn’t for me. At least for the time-being. 

Yes, I’m young and still figuring it out. And yes, I have no idea what to say when asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” But who really knows anyway? It’s the journey, not the destination that makes life worthwhile.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a desire to explore; a thirst for knowledge and experience that, at times, took me to the limits of my sanity.

As a child, I spent hours swept up in imaginative games – hiding out in a dark cupboard pretending to be adrift in space or meticulously constructing ‘fairy gardens’ with an assortment of glittery trinkets.

And although the character of these made-up worlds varied daily, there was a common thread – an interest in the unexplored and a desire to visit places unknown.

Perhaps it was this, in addition to the rebellion towards office humdrum that brought me to the steps of an Observatory-based language school called The Knowledge Workshop.

In truth, it was also a longing for something fresh, and the promise of worldwide adventure. And although I’d never seriously considered a career in teaching before, once my three-week TEFL course was over, I was hesitant to leave.

It has now been five months since I walked through the door of this special school. Five months since I nervously climbed the flight of stairs and set foot inside. Five months since the school’s director asked me to “stay on to take some classes”. And I’ve never looked back.

I began teaching at The Knowledge Workshop in September 2014. Although having just completed my TEFL certificate, I had little idea of what to expect – of the life-long friendships I was to form with my co-workers and students, or of the unknowably enriching experiences that I would have.

Each day has brought a host of surprises. I have grown more as a human being and as a ‘working professional’, than I ever anticipated. And it’s a journey that continues to reward and amaze me, every step of the way. 

In the entries that follow, I’ll share with you the moments of triumph – but also the trying times, the – arguably hard-pressed – occasions in which I was once again a child adrift in space. But most all, I’ll try to capture, as authentically as I can, what it means to be an EFL teacher

Several months on, it’s hard to remember exactly those first few classes – or the first late nights spent vigorously planning. But I do remember feeling as if I’d found a perfect fit – akin to slipping on a ‘little black number’ that hugs in all the right places and instantly makes you feel like you could rule a small country.

When I look back on those first lesson plans, what I see is someone eager to please, unsure of whether I was ‘doing the right thing’. But I needn’t have worried – the relaxed atmosphere of The Knowledge Workshop and jovial camaraderie of the students soon set me at ease.

I do remember one of those first classes – a lesson (under the week-long theme of ‘hoaxes and conspiracy theories’) about the 1969 American moon landing. With a bit of prompting, I opened the floor to discussion – and was amazed at the level of critical thinking and insight given from a classroom of mainly high school graduates.

We soon found ourselves in rigorous discussion (and occasional fits of laughter as preposterous theories came to the fore) and, for the rest of the week, there was a keenness among the students to share their points of view.

It was that lesson that really broke any perceived barriers down – that gave me the feeling that this newfound family was the place for me to test boundaries, rouse educated discussion and really get my students talking. The intention was never a history lesson, or a study in anti-establishment feeling, but the playful nature of the class – and those to follow – masked the difficulty of the day’s challenging grammar (subject-verb agreement).

I came home that evening buoyed by a feeling of happiness and surety that I’d found that ‘perfect fit’. 

written for The Knowledge Workshop by Georgina Selander

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