I always said that I never wanted to be a teacher. I would laugh when someone suggested it… “Why leave school to go back?” I would ask.
But then I went to India. I can remember the day like it was yesterday. I was in Mysore, in central India. It was the day after I had called my mum, in tears, sobbing down the phone, “I think he’s going to die”. My boyfriend was unconsicous and had spent the last half and hour vomiting, but today was as right as rain and had no idea of the ordeal he had put me through!
- We were walking down the road and I felt a tugging at my dress. It was a young girl, probably about 6 or 7 years old. She was gesturing for me to give her money. She moved her hand from infront of her, to her mouth; the international sign for “please give me food, I’m hungry.” Even though we had been in India for a couple of weeks now, and we had seen this everyday, there was something about this girl which broke my heart. At that moment, I realised that she would probably always be begging, and the only thing she knew for a fact, was that white tourists had money. She might never leave the city and would never experience my country in the way that I was experiencing hers.
It all sounds very melodramatic, but in that instant, it was like a lightbulb had lit above my head and I thought, “The only way she can change her life is through education! That’s it! I will be a teacher!”
And so my TEFL journey began…
10 months later, we arrived in Quito, Ecuador, eager to get to the school to start teaching the kids. We arrived at 1pm to meet with the headmisstress. We sat down in her office and she said:
“You are here to teach the children English?”
“Can you juggle?”
Silence. Did she just say ‘can you juggle?’? Maybe my Spanish isn’t as good as I thought it was… I mimed juggling, and she nodded. No, I couldn’t juggle.
“Can you sing? Dance? Do circus tricks?” (I really wish I was making this up!)
No, we couldn’t do any of the above. Were we in the right place?
“It’s just, I need someone to entertain the kids for a few hours.”
This should have been the first alarm bells to tell us to get the hell out of there, but we stayed, and were promptly thrown into a room full of 20 six-year-olds and told to “get on with it”.
Two days later, in the playground, one child ran up to me shouting “Teacher, teacher, that man on the other side of the fence has a knife, and the other man has a gun!” It turned out that a mesh wire fence separated us from the outdoor holding pen of one of the prisons in Quito.
A week later, we were gone.