by Rose Bard
I guess I’ve always felt that I had to work harder to compensate for my lack of formal education in language teaching. That has left a mark on my family. I was never really able to tell them exactly how I felt about feeling as if I didn’t have enough education. I realised based on what they had to say while I was preparing to write this post, that I have left an impression that my working harder has always been about money. It hasn’t, but that is how my family seems to see it. Or maybe that is the way we have found to convince ourselves that it was ok for me to spend all that time dedicated to work and learning. Even I am guilty of it, excusing myself with “If I didn’t need the money…”
I wouldn’t be taking this course.
I wouldn’t be working this late.
I would work less hours.
I wouldn’t be awake at this time of night studying or correcting tests.
And yet, even if I didn’t need the money that badly, I believe I would still be doing all of it. Because it wasn’t—and isn’t even now—only about the money after all. It was, above all, about my own pride.
You see…when I was young I lacked confidence, but when the opportunity to start teaching came along, it was too good to turn down. I had just come back from England. My English was pretty good. My daughter Hanna, who is 18 now, was less than a year old. My son Sean had been born in England and was 5. I felt Sean needed to stay in touch with English. We found a way to pay for one semester of language classes, but I couldn’t pay for the next one. When I decided to cancel the course, I was asked why and the owner of the school called me in for a chat. After speaking in English with each other, the owner invited me to take a written test. I passed the test and she nudged me to take a teaching position. She offered training and a semester for me to get used to the job. One of the teachers at the school had to leave one of her groups in a few months and they needed a substitute.
That is how I ended up watching classes for a group of 9 and 10 year-old students. I also studied the materials and the school methodology. Then, when I felt comfortable, I took over the group and the original teacher observed me and gave me feedback. But before the semester ended, I felt like I wasn’t cut out for the job. I went to talk to my boss about giving up, but she showed me a petition signed by all the students in the group demanding to have me as their teacher for the next semester. I often refer back to that single moment, the moment that made me stay and pursue a career in language teaching. To live up to others’ expectation, I have always worked hard to continue learning and developing myself.
My very first methodology book came a year later. I heard that someone called David Crystal was going to give a lecture in the Federal University. He had written this wonderful book, English as a Global Language, often cited as very important for anyone in the profession to read by people taking a degree at the time. I did not even know where the university was and my husband accompanied me to the lecture. During the break, they were selling books. Penny Ur’s training book was there for a very good price. My husband agreed to buy it and we used all the money we had to get it. It was the only book I had for many years, until I could afford to start my own library. My husband was always very supportive. But even so, I could not even think of attending university until I moved to this city and I got the job I have today. And although we were faced with sudden family issues which required all our money, I was fortunate enough to be able to start a major in Education in 2008. Studying Education has broaden my view of learning and teaching. I’m graduating this year. In addition, my husband’s 9-year-health battle finally ended in victory last year. Now, we can finally look towards the future.
But the ghost is still there and it eats me up sometimes. The challenges we faced weren’t anyone’s fault, but it broke my husband’s heart to see me working so much to prove myself to others all the time. So, I guess I understand why my family expressed their views about me as a teacher in a very negative way. I have included this background story in order to frame my family’s feelings in an honourable place.
My son Emanuel said that he loves that his mom is a teacher and loves learning things with me. He even listed the things he likes doing together. For Emanuel, I’m not only his mom, but partner in crime. We paint, draw, read, write, play with doughs, investigate nature, tell and discuss stories, and above all we share our love for the English language.
My daughter Hanna stressed that my lack of time for them has always bugged her. She said that although my knowledge helped her get through school many times, and not only in English, she wished I had never become a teacher. Even though me being a teacher enabled me to help Hanna develop her academic goals, for my daughter, it was still a price too high to pay.
My son Sean understands that money has always been in short supply in our family due to my husband’s long health battle. Sean says that although he can’t really talk positively about me being a teacher, he knows that all I did was for the family.
My husband, as I mentioned above, always felt bad for me. He was my cheerleader, my support and advisor. If I wanted to give up, he encouraged me to continue. If I was tired, he would do anything to take some of the burden off my shoulders. If I felt lost, he would help me see things through. Although I didn’t believe in myself, he always assured me I had what it takes to be whatever I wanted to be. And like Emanuel, he loves the things I know and that I share with him. But, like Hanna, he misses me too. And like Sean he understands the sacrifice we’ve all had to make as a family.
Regardless of some of the negative feelings they have, my family all believe that being a teacher is a noble profession and they can’t imagine me doing anything else. They assure me that I am very dedicated and good at what I do. But at the same time, if they could have chosen it, I would never have become a teacher in the first place. I owe my family their patience, support and love. I never realised that they had suffered together with me, but totally in silence, making sure as not to make me feel worse. I owe them a great deal for who I am today, for their encouragement and respect for the professional I have become.