Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Way back in March, when Betsy and I were cavorting with other prospective candidates at the Boston job fair, we had a crucial meeting with Tom Cangiano, head of ACS, and Maria Angelova, assistant head.  During this meeting, we were offered a position in English (for Betsy) and English as a Second Language (for me).  This was not exactly what I was expecting, so I balked.  And Tom picked up on this.  Very quickly, he and Maria explained to me the benefits of teaching ESL.  First, the school only accepts students in 8th grade, and then they spend half of their curriculum learning English, so that they can take a full-on English schedule 9-12.  So it's vitally important to their education.  More appealing to me, however, was their description of the 8th graders.  

According to Tom and Maria, the little cherubs are the most enthusiastic students in the school.  They have emerged from a highly competitive selection process, and now face five years at one of the best high schools in Bulgaria.  They are excited to have the opportunities that ACS provides.  And despite having to leave friends behind, the public school system in Bulgaria is deteriorating, and far from progressive.  I said I'd think about it.

That night, I began to embrace the idea of teaching a highly enthusiastic group of kids who were just thrilled to be there.  Very few entitlement issues, just gratitude for this chance.  The next day, when we met again, Tom mentioned that he had spoken with folks at the school, and that if teaching ESL had become a deal-breaker, he would put us both in English.  By then, however, I had begun to wrap my head around this idea.  I fondly recalled my days teaching ESL to 8th graders in Japan.  I remembered the complete loss of pride that an ESL teacher must develop (to teach what a cow is, you don't explain it -- you get down on all fours and moo), and also the mutual dependence that develops between teacher and students as they rely on each other to 
understand their respective languages.  I remembered the kind of non-verbal communication that takes place, often playful, that seems to suit my style of teaching.  And I also thought about how every other major part of my life was changing (marriage, country) -- why not my job description?  So I told Tom that they could put me wherever they needed me most.  ESL it was. 

And then I met my classes.  It is possible that Tom and Maria underestimated how enthusiastic these kids are.  I am genuinely excited to go to school every day.  The only issue of classroom management is getting them to pipe down so I can hear one person talking.  I have decided that 14-year-olds (the kids are one year older here) are definitely my demographic.   

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

SOOOO glad for you, Brett. JM