Thursday, 17 September 2009

My Life in TEFL

Where is TEFL?
"Where exactly is TEFL, my dear?", I was once memorably asked. I was giving a talk entitled "My Life in TEFL" at a local club in Oxford and all the attendees came from different walks of life, none from the TEFL sector, so this question did not really come as a surprise.

Well, TEFL is where my heart has taken me. It's in my blood. It's a universal place. It has no boundaries, no discrimination, no age limit. Everyone has become a part of this unique and all-encompassing world.
September 1979 is a very special month and year for me. I began my teaching life in Madrid, 30 years ago. I cannot believe how fast the time has flown. I have honestly enjoyed every single year of my professional career as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language. I have not wanted to do any other job nor been tempted to give it up at any stage of my life. It has truly been dominated by TEFL and I am very proud to still be here, doing what I love. The past year has been a mixture of studying and teaching, both F2F and online, interspersed with settling down in the beautiful region of Abruzzo.

Inspired by Karenne Sylvester's post called "What's a TEFL teacher?", I would like to go down memory lane and mention 30 reasons why I love TEFL. One reason for each year.

  1. I gives me a buzz, even after all these years
  2. It keeps me on my toes
  3. It's taken me to the most amazing places
  4. I have met incredible students, teachers, directors and school staff.
  5. I met my hubby -K
  6. I have had the priviledge of working for the amazing Lake School of English for over 20 years
  7. I have learned so much from my peers
  8. I have taught angelic 6-year-olds in Fuerteventura
  9. I have danced the twist with Sister Carla, a lovely nun from Italy
  10. I have taught a 70-year-old Japanese retired businessman in a class of teenagers
  11. I have taught 3 Libyan brothers in the same class
  12. I have eaten fresh fish caught by my fisherman student in Fuerteventura
  13. I was given a lifelong battery as a parting gift from my Thai student- I still have it!
  14. I have smashed plates in a taverna after drinking Metaxa with my class in Patras
  15. I have created many worksheets connected to slang, my fave topic!
  16. I have attended many fascinating conferences
  17. I have met fellow TEFLers and educators around the world
  18. I have taught FCE to 50 students in one term in Greece
  19. I have sung Karaoke with my students in Oxford
  20. I have 3 albums (retrieved today from Box 75) containing photos from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000-. I will treasure these forever- my link to the imminent future past
  21. I have made life-long friends with some of my students
  22. I have taught English as an existential subject to a young Italian university student interested in philosophy (I gemmed up on Nietsche and Sartre for the lessons)
  23. I have taught Shakespeare English to Yokko, a Japanese student and now a dear friend. We read through chunks of plays and discussed scenes at great length.
  24. I had fun using a Bandar machine back in 1979 (no photocopiers in those days!
  25. I have experienced many teaching styles, but realised it's all a circle! Trends come and go and are recycled with time
  26. I started my teaching career with "Briam's Complementary English Grammar" an in-house publication which I used in Madrid. It is on my bookshelf now. I am so glad I kept it.
  27. I had a Stasi member in each of my classes in Dresden. I was strictly forbidden to discuss politics, the monarchy and religion in my lessons.
  28. I smuggled in a copy of "Animal Farm" and "1984" for Uli in the GDR. If caught, I would have been duly expelled from the country. I will never forge the adrenalin rush I experienced when crossingthe East German border at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin.
  29. I have dressed up as a cocktail "Pink Flamingo" on one of the many brilliant parties at the Lake School of English.
  30. I have been a mentor for newer teachers and loved every minute.
TEFL has been very kind to me. It has been a non-stop teaching and learning fest.

My TEFL Future?
Where will TEFL lead me to next? I don't know. It is an ever evolving world, one which is at times frighteningly fast. I feel I am hanging on, but only just. It takes a lot of determination to remain in one job for most of one's life, but if it's the right choice and you love it, then it makes things much easier.

I would like to say a BIG thank you to everyone who has shared my life in TEFL, everyone who has helped me along the way, especially all my lovely students, all my fantastic co-teachers, all my wonderful bosses, all my kind mentors,all my new online colleagues, wherever you may be. Cheers!!!


Patrick Jackson said...

Loved this inspiring post. Imagine those 30 years worth of lucky students passing on all those positive vibes! Congratulations, Janet. I wonder what the next 30 years will bring (and what the profession will even look like then!). atb, PJ

Janet Bianchini said...

Hi Patrick
Many thanks for your very kind comments. I just wrote from the heart. I think the profession will be totally unrecognisable in 30 years time. Hopefully I'll be a sprightly 82-year-old, still teaching and doing what I love.

Btw, I looked at your "Potato Pals" blog and books, and I am very impressed with all the work that goes into them. They are a fabulous and fun creation.

Best wishes


Anne Hodgson said...

Dear Janet, so marvellous to discover your blog. Happy 30th teaching anniversary!
I'd love to hear more about your GDR adventure. I lived in West Berlin in 1983-5 and used to smuggle music cassettes (Fleetwood Mac!) across to a friend in East Germany in a special bra several sizes larger than my natural endowment. I love to think back how we duped those guys.

What took you to East Germany? Warm regards, Anne

Janet Bianchini said...

Hi Anne

Nice to hear from you. We just missed each other by one year in East Germany!

I had just finished my PGCE in TEFL at Leicester University and my tutor, Brian Harrison, asked if anyone would be interested in a one-year teaching post in Dresden, at the Technical University of Dresden. Nobody expressed an interest apart from myself,so I duly got the job due to no competition!

I remember everybody, friends and family, doing their best to dissuade me from going to the GDR. "You'll have to queue for food!!". "You won't be able to do what you want!! You will be monitored!" etc etc. Luckily, my instinct told me to ignore all these dire warnings and I am so glad I did.

Teaching in East Germany will always be one of the best teaching experiences of my whole life. Just last night, I was looking through my photos and mementos and I was so happy that I did it. I followed my gut instinct. It paid off. Memories like these are priceless.

I would love to hear more about your GDR adventures. Have you applied to see if you have a Stasi file?? I have been waiting 3 years so far, but no news yet.

All the best


cloud 10 said...

Inspirational post Janet! Congratulations and see you soon xx

Janet Bianchini said...

Thank you very much, Jane. Look forward to seeing you very soon :)


I love this post Janet and was so glad to come back and read it through again. You've had (are having) a wonderful life.

I really think we've got the best profession in the world :-) or at least at the end of our days, will have the best stories ever!


Janet Bianchini said...

Thank you so much, Karenne.
I agree our job is an incredibly exciting one, as hopefully we touch the lives of so many people from diverse backgrounds and we DO make a difference in some way.

One day in the future, we will look back on these days with great pride and happiness.

As Dan Walsh said "These are the days which should happen to you."

J x

eva simkesyan said...

Hi Janet,
It's a very inspiring post.I read Karene's post on What's TEFL and I liked it. Now I've read yours and once again I'm so happy that I'm an EFL teacher. TEFL enables us to update ourselves too often. WE can see the world in an other perspective and for me it is a privilage. We are a great community and to know that is a great relief. These days I use this quote very often, I like it and I want to share. ''We become ourselves through others''. (Vygotsky)

Janet Bianchini said...

Hi Eva

It is very kind of you to comment here. Thank you!

I love your quote as well. "We become ourselves through others" It perfectly sums up what we are doing in this great community we belong to.

For me, learning is forever. The day I stop learning is the day I am no longer on this planet.