Let's be clear about one thing - I had absolutely no interest in being a teacher. None. Still on the fence about the whole thing tbh. I'd been firmly put off from childhood exposure to teachers who had entered the profession to impose their power over small and helpless minds; the beigeness of monotoned elderly matrons who droned out the same lesson for the last thirty years and were just clinging onto retirement. I'd heard, and believed, the 'those who can't, teach.' trope. And, most importantly, I still have a clear memory of the things my fellow school friends and I used to say about teachers behind their backs. I went to a fairly nice school too. A former grammar girls' school in a neat town with an over spill of affluent people either too poor to live in the nicer parts of London, or tired of the grimness of the capital. Us towny school girls dissected every part of appearance and performance of every teacher - even the nice and helpful ones. Did I want to know a job where I knew that I was being ripped apart behind my back? Did I want to guess the kind of things they said? Nope. Not on a teacher's salary. No thank you.
Yet, here I am. A teacher in the Netherlands. A TEFL teacher for God's sake, paid by the hour. A job reserved for students on a gap year or people having a mini mid-life crisis, who've rented out their apartment/house for a year and gone to Asia. How did this happen? This was not part of the plan.
However, I do consider myself fortunate despite my reluctance about my profession. It's not about the grammar and the phrasal verbs. The frontal adverbs can go take a long jump off a short pier. I'm fortunate because of the people I've met. My God, the people I've met. I thought private tuition would be for flunking school children or people going for job interviews, but it's so much more: the people you talk to; the exteriors who, through their broken English expose their raw interiors and insecurities. Their tears, their struggles. The feeling of inadequacy. My students are people that I should bow down in front of. These are the people who make my job as a teacher a humbling experience. I love them. I would take a bullet for them all. Even the teenagers who like to yawn in my face.
Today, I have a student from Asia. It's our second lesson (he wants to improve his English and that he is quite shy). The first lesson is a blessed relief when I realise that his English isn't too bad and the lesson won't be an hour filled of tapping furiously into Google translate and hand gestures. He tells that he hadn't told me the truth in our first lesson. Okaaaay. He then explains with half constructed sentences and google translate that in Asia he was promised a great visa and a fantastic opportunity in Europe working in kitchens. The reality was that they didn't deliver on the visa and the great job, his passport was taken away, he worked, without pay, for 11 hours a day in a Chinese restaurant in Europe. Each day for him ended with the sound of his co-workers crying in their beds. Life was tough but he managed to escape thanks to a man he met with a bible.
I then had to explain him what the word 'human trafficking' is.
Thank goodness for BBC bitesize - a great website that explains news to UK children. I read through the various terms and he is a bit confused and tells me that he wasn't sold. He is absolutely right, 'enforced labour' would be a better description and I'm not going to argue. He then tells me about his wife whom he hasn't seen in several years. She was probably human trafficked but he'll probably never know for certain, but she disappeared and no one has heard from her since.
I feel that my lesson plan about the present continuous isn't something I should talk about right now. To my relief, my student tells me in a future lesson that he doesn't want formal lesson structure. He just wants to talk. This isn't the first time that I have been told this. Sometimes, people just want to talk. It's quite awkward correcting someone's grammar when they are on the verge of tears. Sometimes, I just listen and let the class run late.