Thank you and goodbye

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Dear students,

The time has come to say goodbye. This is my last day at EC Boston and my last day as a teacher.  Though it might be weird, and though I feel a bit sheepish, I wanted to write you guys a letter because you all have been a significant part of my life the last 2 ½ years and I am truly grateful.

If you’ve ever taken my TOEFL class, you know that one of my mottos is “fake it until you make it.” In TOEFL, this is mostly used when students are practicing speaking. Faking confidence and assurance until you are able to answer a question. If you fake it enough, you’ll eventually make it. When I think about my students who struggle to speak, who feel shy speaking English, or who feel a lack of confidence in general, I often think about this motto. Some of you guys might think that you don’t want to be “fake,” because it isn’t true to yourself. For me, when I think about this phrase, it’s about doing something you never thought you could… it’s about believing in yourself, trying new things, overcoming fears, growing, and conquering your fears. By the way, if you want to watch an awesome Ted Talk video on “Faking it,” here it is. It’s great listening practice too! 🙂

http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are.html

Anyway, I want to tell you my own “fake it until you make it” story. I know that this might come as a surprise to a lot of you because of my charming and sociable qualities (sense sarcasm here), but I am a very shy person. I can be awkward. I never thought I could be a teacher. The thought of public speaking still frightens me. How could I possibly do something that required me to stand in front of an “audience” every day, let alone be good at it? I remember my very first day I taught at EC Boston. I. WAS. SO. SCARED. I thought I was going to throw up. I rehearsed my lesson many times. I still remember the first class I had. My first group of students. I walked in and tried to pretend I had been teaching forever. And I continued to do this for the first few months while secretly working away, researching those tricky grammar questions, watching grammar youtube videos, and thinking of ways to make learning fun. When I first started teaching, I literally worked 80 hours a week for the first 6 months. The next 6 months, I worked for about 70 hours a week. My roommates, family, and friends always remind me of the nights and weekends I spent lesson planning. It’s not enough to fake it, but if you want anything badly enough in life, and if you want to succeed, it takes hard work. You just have to suck it up for a little bit, and eventually, it will get easier.

And it did. I can honestly say that I love teaching. I love advising. And most importantly, I LOVE MY STUDENTS. I have loved every moment in the classroom. Okay, maybe not every moment. In many ways, you all have brought me back to life. I know that might sound strange, but let me explain. Teaching wasn’t my original career choice. I studied social work and I had always worked with not-profit organizations or NGOs. When I came back from South Africa, I couldn’t find a job. I had been unemployed, temping, and working random part-time jobs for one year. My sister supported me financially during this time. It was one of the lowest times of my life. I’d been rejected and ignored from many companies. I felt like I didn’t have any value or worth. (I know now that that wasn’t true). And so I decided to get my teaching certificate because as I was looking for jobs, I saw a lot of opportunities in the ESL field, and I wanted to keep the international door open. Reluctantly, I got my certificate and I started to teach. In the beginning, I resented the fact that I wasn’t able to work at a place and in a position that wasn’t my first choice. This was my “backup choice.”

So as I first started at EC, I was not in a good place. I was coming out of a time of unemployment, a time where I had applied to so many jobs, received rejection letters, and just didn’t feel good about myself.  I thought this would be a temporary position until I found something different. Within a month of teaching, I started feeling life being slowly poured back into me. There were so many special moments in class. You know, the CRAZY taboo games, laughing until your stomach hurts, seeing students’ confidence grow, green smoothie parties, my first tiny TOEFL class to my final TOEFL class. I don’t even remember when it was that I realized I wasn’t faking it anymore. I don’t remember when the darkness lifted and something inside started to awaken. I guess you could call it the joy of teaching. I’d always heard about it, but never really understood. But it just happened. And I am so incredibly grateful. I’m grateful that I had this opportunity. I’m grateful that I wasn’t able to find the job I thought I wanted. I’m even grateful for the time that I was unemployed. I know that sounds weird, but I never would have discovered this job had it not been for rejection. I’m grateful that my backup choice ended up being one of the best things that has happened in my life. And I know this sounds incredibly cliché, but it really is true that every cloud has a silver lining. It’s really true that whenever one door shuts one window opens.

To be honest, I still don’t know what I want to do in life. I’m exploring right now. I’m taking detours and I’ll figure it out as I go. Who knows, maybe I’ll go back to teaching. I share this because I know that there are some who are in a similar place that I was a few years ago. Some of you are in a dark place, a season of waiting, figuring out, and finding out who you are. Or some who will experience something like this in the future. It’s inevitable. We don’t always get everything we want in life.  But sometimes that ends up being one of the best things that can happen to you.  I hope you remember your time at EC Boston, and for those of you who are still at EC Boston, cherish every moment. What other time in your life will you have the rare opportunity to be in a classroom with so many cultures, languages, religions, and backgrounds? Make the most of it. Learn from one another. Respect one another.  Say hi to the student who is sitting by himself/herself in the common area.  Be nice to your teachers. And stop complaining about the level tests. J Just kidding (but not really).

Thank you for all of the memories. Thank you for inspiring me and motivating me. I will miss you guys. Maybe, hopefully, I will bump into some of you in the future.

With love and gratitude,

Shelly

P.S. For any teachers who are reading this, I know that there are probably tons of grammar mistakes, ok? Stop judging. And can you tell me what they are?

 

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