As I was walking to school today, I had to walk around some huge pallets of blocks that someone had offloaded right in the middle of the lane. Ohhh…the smell of cement! Nostalgia crept up with its 5 billion arms and tightly wrapped around me. The smell of concrete happens to be one of my most favorite smells in the world. Its got my childhood, my teenage, my university, my entire career memories attached to it and one whiff of it after 2 months this afternoon took me back to several different places!
Anyway this post was meant to be about life as an English teacher but it would be impossible to write about it before paying homage to the profession that has made me who I am today. Construction. If you could describe an industry as a person, then I am everything that the building is. Innovative, determined, on-time…I could use up all my adverbs and adjectives here but I suppose you get the general idea! Simply put that is where I belong. Then why one would ask all this whoop de la to teaching? As a fellow teacher put it out there and I couldn’t disagree that –
We don’t do this to actually teach, we do this to travel!
Coming from a culture that puts education and teachers or gurus in the highest regard, this concept still doesn’t sit well in my stomach and I sometimes feel like I might be accumulating bad karma. But the fact of the matter is, I’m hardly in the education business. What I am doing is teaching people a skill. English in Turkey is not regarded as a language. It is a skill and a proficient level on your CV would mean a pay rise and higher position. For some its their passport to migrate to greener pastures (though America has lost its greenness of the late.) So if you’ve been reading me for sometime and when I said moving to teach english had you thinking that I might be teaching in some village school to 30 or 40 children, you couldn’t be more wrong! So far in my numerous classes, I am teaching a doctor, textile manufacturer, accountants and several Turkish Airline representatives. Pretty fancy bunch. They all come in their suits and and impatiently wait for break times so they can respond to the red blinking light on their BBs. The classrooms are ultra-modern and higher the paying student, fancier the room they get. So am I cheating the institution of education. No. Its simply a business transaction where we both are benefiting and where the other actually thinks they are getting the better deal! Am I actually enjoying teaching? Yes and no. Sometimes its very painful to work through a really stupid listening exercise and I can’t wait for the class to finish however some classes keep me highly entertained and I really enjoy meeting people from all walks of life and I definitely enjoy interacting in our limited language capacities. I must tell you though there is no joy like one when a student remembers what you had taught last week and actually applies that in context. My heart usually swells up like a proud mother! I’ve had my share of problems and complaints to management from students however that comes in part and parcel of life and when you come from an industry like construction sometimes class mixes and cancelled schedules are like nothing. (having your concrete truck breakdown in the middle of a floor pour..That is a problem.)
However the life of a traveling English teacher is not as exotic as it sounds. My biggest transitional problem is the size of the pay packet. I have now truly begun to understand the plight of teachers when they say they are under paid. The pay is nothing to write home about ..actually its nothing to send home! I am constantly watching my spendings. Little everyday things like daily latte fixes are now a luxury. I don’t splurge on clothes and the only time I go to the salon is for the bare necessity. Goodbye pedicures and facials.
However the things I now am able to do…I can meditate longer (I try!), I linger over my breakfasts, I sit for hours in a spot watching the things nature does without us knowing, I actually communicate more with friends far away than I used to when I lived near them! I finally have the time to write at my leisure and best of all I visit places that I once used to sigh about.
Have I seen the end of my construction days? No. You cannot see the end of something that is ingrained in you. However change is an universal law and for the time being, I’m happy as an English teacher.