Vicky Loras is an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) educator whom I hold in the highest esteem. Not only is she an excellent teacher, she is extremely generous with her time and takes huge pleasure in sharing her knowledge with her colleagues in the ELT (English Language Teaching) community.
In 2011, she launched the “What’s Your Story” Blog Challenge where she encouraged her colleagues to write and share their story. We could write about “anything you consider important in your life or career, that has helped shape you as a person or educator.” The challenge is up and running again, and I’ve decided to rise to this challenge and share with you my story of how I became an English Language Teacher. So here goes.
A long time ago in another universe….
When I graduated from Southampton University with a degree in Politics and International Studies, I stumbled into the world of insurance and financial services. I’d like to say that it had always been my ambition to be a life assurance salesperson (!) but I would be lying. The truth is, it was the first job I secured and not really knowing what I wanted to do I thought I’d give things a go.
Well, this “let’s give it a go” attitude lasted 20 years. During that time, I changed sectors within the financial services industry from insurance, private client stockbroking, investment management and wealth management. It was a good career in that it allowed me to earn some good money, go on lovely holidays, live well and be financially independent – the latter being important to me.
However, throughout that time I lacked the motivation to develop professionally. I didn’t want to learn more. For me, my career was a job – a means to a good lifestyle. Nothing more. Deep down , I had no passion, motivation or ambition to do better. In a nutshell, I was BORED, but unwilling, or perhaps lacked the courage, to change.
The life-changing event…
Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2007. After eighteen months of various operations, a gruelling course of chemotherapy and suffering various complications, I returned to work in February 2009. By then, the credit crunch had taken its hold of the financial markets and the atmosphere back at work was extremely tense. We knew we were going to lose our jobs. We all sat around and started discussing our options.
I remember one of my colleagues asking me what I might do if we were made redundant. My immediate response without thinking was: “Oh, I’ll just go off and teach Italian!”. Where on earth did that come from?! I had never ever thought of being a teacher, so why now? To this day, I still don’t know what made me say that.
All I knew for sure was that I did NOT want to remain in the world of finance. I had had enough of the people, the industry and the way companies treated you.The problem was that I couldn’t picture myself in another role.
After 18 months of ill health, I knew EXACTLY what I did NOT want. It’s a cliché, but when you’ve been through a serious illness you realise how precious time is and the idea of wasting it becomes unbearable.
However, the challenge was deciding what I did want to do. After 20 years doing the same thing, what are you good for? You are that much older. It will be difficult to learn something new and who would employ you at the tender age of 40 something?
Anyway back to teaching Italian. I started looking into this and soon realised that the market for Italian Language teachers was rather limited and to be honest, my level of Italian wasn’t good enough (in my opinion) to teach higher level learners.
I went on holiday and met a lady – a university professor of Linguistics- who suggested that with my background in business and finance, I would be a good fit as a Business English teacher. She said that the EFL market was huge and that there was always demand for teachers. She recommended that I take the necessary qualifications and explore this possible career.
So following my usual “let’s give it a go” approach, I decided to embark on this career. I researched the schools where to take my CELTA and opted for International House in London. I must have been one of the oldest students there! Everyone was fresh out of university, with great plans to travel and with fresh, young minds. I felt OLD! Nevertheless, I persevered and qualified.
I decided very quickly what I wanted to do. Contrary to what all my tutors advised me, I decided to go straight into 1-1 teaching (no group classes for me!), teach adults and concentrate on Business English. I didn’t want to lose 20 years of whatever experience I’d gained. After all, I did enjoy the world of business and meeting different people. The freelance option was far more attractive than being employed by a school. My need to be independent and free to do what I wanted and when I wanted was too strong to be ignored. If my illness had taught me anything it was that if I couldn’t control what happened to my body, I was going to do my utmost to control this new career.
I am now into my sixth year as an English Language Trainer and what can I say about this career other than I simply LOVE it! I have never lived so keenly and passionately as I have done these last five years. Every new experience is different and exciting. I have learned more in these five years than I ever did in finance. I have met the most wonderful and amazing clients, some of whom have become lifelong friends. They have taught me so much more than I could ever teach them. I have created a special and invaluable Personal Learning Network (PLN) with my EFL colleagues around the world through social media and through whom I have learned and continue to learn incredible things. I’ve discovered the wonders of blogging through which I have also met new clients and teachers. Through blogging I have discovered my passion for writing which I didn’t know I possessed. Through teaching I have rediscovered my love for learning.
Notwithstanding the incredible things that my career change and teaching have given me, I couldn’t have achieved any of it without my husband’s love and support. My husband was my rock during my illness and gave me the self confidence I’d always lacked before meeting him to believe in myself and my ability to do anything. Thank you, sweetheart.
So there you have it. My story so far. With a bit of luck, I will keep going, keep developing professionally and fingers crossed, keep living this life as passionately and keenly as I do now.
Thank you for reading.