After a disastrous first lesson where I left my students gaping with open mouths, I was told by my assessor that I was not understood by the class. “Not understood?” What language was I speaking I wondered? Till we had our own Unknown Language class with our teacher speaking only Swedish all the time – I realised where I had gone wrong. Next class onwards I was speaking slowly, not using idioms, checking if my instructions were understood and doing very good with my mimes. I had just about acquired a level of comfort and started to enjoy my lessons with this class, when we were asked to switch levels and were put up with the Intermediate group. Although here the students’ English was much better, this level came with it’s own set of limitations. Dealing with housewives and professionals in the age range of 25-35, this all-ladies group wanted to chat more with each other than listen to the teacher!
It’s over. (Please note the absence of an exclamation mark). I feel strange. I had expected elation – a heart-leaping, mind-boggling kind of joy at finishing my course. And yet I feel nothing. What I do feel in large measure is the feeling that one gets after a long period of mental stress, anxiety and lack of good sleep – ‘exhausted’, yes just that.
First of all a big thank you to those of you who had been following my Facebook page updates, ‘liking’, responding, holding my hand, giving me support when I much needed it. Now sitting back when I read all those updates I wonder if any one of you might have thought So what’s the big deal? Who is forcing her to do it? That’s true, this course was completely my doing. I was the one who went and made the enquiries, submitted the application form, passed the interview and made the payment (well with a little help from the husband for this bit). Compare it to a boot camp where fitness-seekers go willingly and put their bodies happily through the intense workout, the initial excitement slowly changing to discomfort as the body starts slowing down with the rigour. That then slowly changes to an over-powering desire to shoot the trainer, and then when you think you can bear it no more, it ends. Suddenly, just like that. And with that comes the adrenaline, rushing in to tell you just one thing, to prove a point – “I have done it!”
A little about the course. Trinity CertTESOL (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) equips one with basic skills and knowledge needed to take up the role of a teacher teaching English as a foreign language. A good mix of classroom training and practical teaching this course filled with English grammar, phonology and assignments, was aimed at blasting our minds with new information at the speed of 2500000 characters a second! We had our first teaching lesson on the third day of the course, facing an eager and enthusiastic group of 15 adults, with the capability of understanding very basic English. That we were supposed to teach them, using all the approaches and stages taught, while being observed and assessed, on our 2-hour sleep pattern, was a matter of discussion (trouble was there was no time to discuss!).
Assignment submissions, making lessons plans, doing learner interviews, preparing for the exam – kept us occupied from one deadline to the other. After a solid day in class packed to the brim, the only time we could cheat on and borrow was our sleep time. So working late into the night, our what’s app group constantly beeping, work went on and on.
When I signed up for this course I thought I was prepared for the challenge, as I was warned about the intensity of the course by the TESOL coordinator and also by a dear friend who had been through the rigour. My mother-in-law who flew all the way from India to support my decision was much appreciated only after the course started. Day by day I slowly started delegating each and every of my household and motherly duties to her. Three days into the course I barely stepped into the kitchen or helped with the cleaning any more. I felt strange and guilty not being able to do my routine. But of all the things the one thing that I missed the most and felt most guilty about was that I couldn’t be there for my children. I couldn’t pick them up from school, take them for activities and even after I came back home everyday I couldn’t do much as my mind was always filled with pending work. As the weeks progressed I had no time to feel sorry as one deadline merged into the other and I worked on a short 2-3 hour sleep schedule. I must say that the strong support of my family – my mum-in-law, my husband and my children, were the only reason I could pull through. That and the support of my team – the close bond that we had formed – was the reason for my success.
So I am a qualified teacher today teaching English to speakers of other languages. An internationally recognised course it is in high demand in most countries specially in Asia where everyone wants to learn English. Local schools, tutorials, English language learning centres or one-on-one tuitions – there are lots of openings floating around. However I am still very clear about my priorities – happiness first. I need to work things around my children. The rest will fall into place eventually.