It’s Tuesday. I have a steaming cup of black tea (with milk, of course) next to my right hand which is scribbling down the week’s schedule into my diary. Downstairs, the front door opens and closes. I hear footsteps climbing the stairs as I reach for some scrap paper. In walk two tall, 40-something-year-old men who smile not out of politeness but out of true appreciation for being here.
For the next 90 minutes, we talk about anything and everything under the sun (and sometimes beyond). One of the men tells jokes and, even when I don’t quite get the jokes, we laugh a lot. Sometimes, I pull out a game which usually leads to more laughter. Sometimes, I pull out an article about the benefits of proper sleep which usually leads to protests and intentional tangents (and, consequently, more laughter). Yet, every time the lesson ends, I find myself smiling involuntarily.
Later, in walks a 14-year-old girl, grinning ear to ear. I mirror this, unable to contain my excitement about the lesson we’re about to begin. We talk about school and traveling and family and TV series. We watch videos mocking the German language. We fill-in the lyrics of Ariana Grande songs. We play Whose Line Is It Anyway? games like Scenes from a Hat. After an hour, neither one of us wants the lesson to end but we take comfort in knowing it’s not the last one.
I’m not your typical EFL teacher. I can apply my quirkiness and creativity in my work because I focus on conversational English. Of course, I cover a lot of grammar as well but my greatest value to students is that I’m a native English speaker. In a small Czech town, 100 km from Prague, native speakers are rare. Sure, with modern technology, the English language has never been more accessible but, conversing face-to-face with a native speaker is something entirely different. Thankfully, my employers understood and built from this.
In lessons, my students and I explore the language in a fluid medium and natural environment. We’re not in a traditional classroom. We’re in a setting that looks and feels just like someone’s living or dining room. There’s a unique transformation that occurs. The language becomes more tangible; more relevant; more real. So, my clients aren’t simply learning the language. They’re living it.
The job isn’t without its challenges but I welcome them. As a result, I’ve become a better listener (sometimes, I doubt if I ever really was one). I’ve become more empathetic, patient, cooperative, assertive, and disciplined. At least, I’d like to think so. Regardless, I feel like I’m a better person and that’s thanks to the people with whom I work every day.
So, yeah. I get paid to have fun.
This week, I challenge you to reflect on your job. Why do you do what you do? How has it changed you?
Featured image: I was home for three weeks and visited a modern art museum called Dia:Beacon, a hidden Hudson Valley treasure. This photo captures Mel Bochner‘s Measurement Room: No Vantage Point, 1969/2019. Installation view, Dia:Beacon, Beacon, New York. You might be wondering why this is the photo I’ve chosen. Maybe it’s a metaphor for my job. Teaching has given me a lot of perspective but the honest truth is that I just think it’s a cool photo.