In 2014, I went on a 1.5 year sabbatical, travelling around the world. One of my own conditions was that I wouldn‘t sit all alone in a hotel room all the time, but actually go out and experience „real life“ at least in some of the countries I would visit. For this reason, I did a „Teaching English as a Foreign Language“ (TEFL) online course before I left, to teach kids English with a German accent. A challenge for me, because so far, I don’t have that much experience with children, and whilst being a manager might prepare you somewhat for the job of a teacher, actually doing it is quite different, and it’s been some time since I went to school – whilst corporal punishment had already been abolished by then, methods are definitely different today.
My first job: Assisting at the Green Island Pre-School in Yangon, Myanmar. I had spent a day there in January 2014, and at that time agreed with Khaing Zar, the school’s owner, that I would teach ca. 5 kids (age 2-5) a few words of English every week. So I came back on the first of March, happy in the thought that I really should be able to manage 5 little kids, somehow. Start was to be on Monday.
My happiness held until Sunday, when Khaing Zar mentioned in passing that she’d founded a new free English Summer School for kids aged 7-11 years, Monday was to be the first day, and would I want to stop at 40 kids, or did I think I could take on more? What? 40 KIDS??? I literally felt my jaw hitting the floor. Nothing like a small challenge in life.
It didn’t help either that on Sunday night, I ate something my stomach didn’t agree with, and spent the night and day until the start of summer school in close proximity to the toilet, while food and drink went back the way they’d come in. The best conditions for a successful start into my new life as a teacher.
In the end, there were 46 kids, and Thank God (or someone) for Khaing Zar, who did most of the teaching, whilst I stood at her side, looking pale, wan and (perhaps) interesting, trying my best. The kids liked it, which counts. I didn’t even try to teach them how to pronounce „Gudrun“, therefore: „Hello, my name is Teacher Dorothy“ „Hello Teacher Dorothy! How are you?“ (Dorothee being my middle name).
The kids are great, by the way – hungry for knowledge, inquisitive, funny, they do everything we ask of them, even though they sometimes look at the strange woman with the yellow hair and odd name with a „what does she want now?“ expression in their eyes, but they love it all. Three times a week, we provided English lessons for the kids aged 7-11, and twice a week for the 2-5 year olds. And for the first time in my life I felt physically tall…
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