Next Wednesday, the 31st of July, I’m celebrating an anniversary quite unlike others in my life: fourteen years of teaching English as a foreign language. I was 17 when I first started as a volunteer teacher at a local youth club, an experience that follows me to this day and each time I’m reminded of it I smile with the biggest smile I’ve got.
I’m usually asked why I got into teaching at that time, when I could be having fun and preparing for further studies.
Did I know all along that I wanted to become a teacher? My answer is always no. I simply knew nothing back then, I was testing myself, trying things. And I didn’t consider my work as ”teaching”, it was a lot more like ”sharing”. Sometimes I think that those first years at the youth club totally defined me as a teacher. I’m not much different today really. I still see myself as more of a motivator and a guide rather than a teacher. I’m still a student, even though there are things I know well and practise well, and which I share with others.
When I became a professional EFL teacher and started teaching at language schools, I found my comfort zone. I knew the ropes, I could handle the pressure and I could anticipate difficulties. It was easy to sit on the educational side of the table. Not to mention how much I enjoyed it.
Things change, however, and so should we. Taking a step out of your comfort zone and into the unknown might not always be the preferred choice, but it might be necessary to guide you towards what’s best.
In my case, it’s not a step out of the comfort zone, it’s a push. That’s the problem with comfort zones, you feel confident in what you have and forget to look around to see what’s happening. I’d been devoted to the teacher and had left all other parts of me behind and it took a series of some fortunate and some unfortunate events to wake me up from the slumber of assurance.
I thought it over again and again; at this time in my professional life I’m prepared to take steps that will benefit me, for a change. As things become more challenging around us (Greece being a prime example of a challenge right now) and my level of tolerance seems to be reaching a new low every month, I think I’m ready to open the door to the unknown. I’ll give a try at freelancing for a while, to see how it suits me. I’ve never done that before with teaching, so it will be a learning opportunity, in the very least.
So a big step, or push, out of my comfort zone takes place now as I’m making my way as a freelance teacher.