Recently, I’ve felt increasingly cognizant of the fact that I graduated from college over three years ago. (Seriously, it’s been that long already? Geez.) This generally manifests when I see friends and acquaintances post about taking work trips and other related stuff, which in turn reminds me of the fact that I’m over 5,000 miles away home. One frequent question I get that isn’t related to Russia is about why I wanted to teach English as a Second Language (ESL), especially in a cold, enigmatic place with funny letters. It’s actually fairly simple, so without further ado, off we go!
Simply put, I like to think that being the son of a teacher whose native language isn’t English heavily factored into my decision. One thing I absolutely admire about my mom is the fact that she’s worked her tail off to be where she is, and that dedication rubbed off on me. Just talking to her over the many wonderful years made me curious to see how one so successfully learns a surprisingly difficult language. Seriously, my mom is incredible for the path she blazed! Not only did this pique my interest in ESL, but I essentially traced her steps by working as a substitute teacher for a fun two and a half years during college. Also in retrospect, the fact that I would casually help online learners with their English during this time, planted the seeds. Thus, the transition to becoming an ESL teacher was simply natural.
As much as I love, and fail to master, other languages, it is nice to be on the flip side of the coin. Remember in high school when you had to (or in my case, opted) take languages? Remember how you thought, “Boy, I wish I could spice up these lessons with my own plans”? That was partially what inspired me. Okay, I’m being somewhat facetious here, but not completely. As cliched as it is, one of my original goals was to make a positive impact by teaching English, in creative and engaging ways. Sure, it was, and still is, a challenge, but it’s fun try to come up with as many interesting tricks and games to make learning more entertaining. Russian kids can be a bit more stoic and poker faced when it comes to expressions, but it is absolutely worth it for the connections we make over the course of our time together; words cannot describe how incredible it was to see the progress each and every one of my students made! In addition to teaching English, I also wanted to be a cultural ambassador of my country, so to speak. For some of my students, this was the first time they got to meet an actual American/native speaker, and I wanted to make a lasting impression. So, the goal was to be able to make a linguistic and cultural impact, which I’m proud to say that this has been happening!
Less altruistically, I did want to see more of the world, and teaching did offer that. I think it goes without saying that most of us in this profession harbor(ed) that, which is completely fair. That’s not to say that I’m treating this stint as a chance to vacation with work on the side, because I put pride and honest effort to be the best teacher I can be. When I have some free time, I concede that I like to take advantage of my geographical location to explore and learn. For me, that’s the key-being able to learn. When I teach, I impart my knowledge to the students, but being an young, quasi-functioning adult abroad has taught me more about myself and the world. That alone is worth everything I’ve gone through, so thank you, life.
Three and a half years ago in my last semester of college, if you had asked me the difficult question of, “why would you want to pick up your life and move halfway across the world?” you’d have received a slightly awkward answer. In writing this I hope to not only shed light for everybody in my life, but to remind myself of the journey’s origins.