A few weeks ago on holiday in Spain, I was stopped on the street by a young woman. She said to me, “I don’t expect you remember me but I could never forget you or your crazy lessons”. Her face was definitely familiar and I knew she was a former student but couldn’t think of her name. “It’s been seven years,” she continued in perfect English. I asked her how she was and what she was doing now and congratulated her on her English being so good. “I’ve just completed a master’s in English and translation and now I’m looking to travel for a while, maybe to live in the UK and then when I’m ready, maybe become an English teacher,” she said.
For a moment I stood there speechless, trying to comprehend that seven years ago I had stood in front of a class of young adults and began teaching them the basics of English (and acting like a clown), and now one of those very students was telling me that she wanted to be doing exactly that.
She hugged me and asked if we could keep in touch. Of course I nodded ‘yes’ and gave her a business card. She rushed off before I’d had a chance to say how proud and how incredibly moved I had been by what she’d just done.
I’ve always known that teaching is a rewarding career; you get instant satisfaction when a student grasps what you are trying to teach them. However, the realisation that you’ve actually made even the smallest difference in someone’s life outside of the classroom doesn’t very often register (or at least hasn’t for me!).
After this brief encounter, I was overcome by pride that I’d altered the course of someone’s life for the better and given them the tools to succeed. I don’t think there are many other jobs where you can have that feeling.
I started to think back to the teachers who had made the biggest impact on my life and career and wondered if they know how important they were in my life and how grateful I am to them for their passion, patience, commitment and support that have enabled me to get to this point.
The ability to pass on knowledge or skills that positively impact the receiver is a truly special gift and one we should all be grateful for. Whether it’s a parent teaching a child how to read, a grandparent making cakes with you, an inspirational professor, a driving instructor or even a crazy English teacher, please take a moment to reward them with a thank you. It’ll mean more to them than you know… believe me.
Ross Clarke is a freelance lifestyle journalist and education advisor based in Spain. He has taught English as a foreign language to learners at all levels in the UK and Spain and advised on all aspects of higher education in the UK. He teaches ballroom dancing in his spare time and specialises in CLIL (content and language integrated learning).