Learn English | A new lesson every week
Book your course now

Danny's 'Where are you going now?'

Average: 3.9 (8 votes)

Have you ever looked back at your life and found yourself wondering how you got to where you are today? Ever noticed how every single decision you've ever made has, directly or indirectly, brought you here?

Amazing, isn't it, when you think about it...

Now, ask yourself this...how much of what you're doing now did you plan in advance, and how much of it just happened? Because I'm willing to bet good money that, no matter how many plans you made, no matter how many diagrams you drew and 'to-do' lists you wrote, most of the twists and turns that brought you to the here n' now probably came about as a result of either dumb luck and happy accidents.

I am an English teacher. After husband and father, it's how I define myself...Teaching English is a large part of my life and a big part of who I am.

I never planned on becoming an English teacher. But then again, who does? If I think back to the multitude of times in primary school that the various teachers asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, I can honestly say that amongst all the future policemen and nurses, firemen and ballerinas, not a single student put their hand up and stated boldly that the career choice of their dreams was to become an English teacher. Not one.

I wanted to be Spiderman when I grew up. When I was old enough to know that Spiderman was, in fact, a fictional character and that the likelihood of me being bitten by a radioactive spider and evolving into a wall-crawling, web-spinning superhero, instead of immediately turning green and dying a horrible death, were roughly twelve billion to one, I had to drastically rethink my future.

My second career choice: optician. We had just started science at school, and I was fascinated by the way the eye worked... cones and rods and blind spots and colour blindness, the retina and the cornea and all that jazz. But then we started physics, and it got difficult. Apparently, a Year 3 knowledge of optics and a B+ in a class project are not enough to become a qualified optician. Would you believe it?

So I sulkily decided that I didn't want to be anything when I grew up. I went through the succession of jobs that people do when they don't know what they want to do, but need the money - waiter, bartender, pool boy, etc. Then I spent two years learning how to be a chef, got a diploma, and spent the next four or five years being a chef. When the heat, sweat and the din of the extractor became too much to bear, I joined a small company and became a sales representative, selling brooms and toothpaste to various shops and supermarkets who really, really didn't want to buy brooms or toothpaste.

And then I became a teacher. I'm still not sure how that happened, but it involved some fairly twisty scheming and plotting by my wife and my father, who were both sick and tired of listening to me whinge on and on about how my job sucked, my life sucked, and everything sucked. My father happened to know a director of studies from a small English school, and together they ambushed me at my dad's hairdressing salon while I was getting a haircut and couldn't run away. Next thing I know, I'm doing TEFL and studying for an English A' Level, and walking into a classroom.

To teach.


That was ten years ago, and I still remember my first lesson as an English teacher - although using 'lesson' in this context may be considered a very optimistic choice of word. As for the word 'teacher'... well, that's more kind of dishonest than optimistic, but you have to start somewhere, don't you? You may not really be a teacher from the minute you take your first step into a classroom, but you sure as hell have to pretend to be one. At least the word 'English' is true, provided you take the meaning to be 'one who happened to have been born in England', and do not attempt to collocate it with the word 'teacher' in any way.

It was a person to person lesson. My student was Ukrainian, with short blonde hair, huge glasses, and he was wearing jeans and a blue and white stripy shirt. And I can't remember his name for the life of me. My lesson, with all its stages and activities and handouts, was far more important than some guy's name.

You should have seen the handouts! There were seven of them, with cut-out flaps that whatsisname could lift to reveal the answers, and folds and creases and strategically-placed staples and bits of string, and pictures and drawings and a ton of other extremely creative and incredibly pointless bits and pieces. I also had a back-up plan and a back-up-back-up plan, and a worst-case-scenario-plan (which involved me running screaming out of the classroom). It had taken me the entire weekend to prepare this ninety minute lesson. Nothing could go wrong...

"But I know the present simple!" Whatsisname claimed, two minutes into the lesson.

So did I. In fact, it was pretty much the only thing I knew.

So I put the handouts away (in the special containment envelope that I had designed over the weekend), and we chatted for an hour and a half, and I corrected him when he made mistakes, and when he left the classroom, he left happy.

Nowadays, I can walk into a classroom with my hands in my pockets and a plan in my head. Any handout that takes longer than twenty minutes to put together is probably neither worth putting together nor handing out. Because, and this is what I learned that day, what you should be teaching is the student, not the lesson. And rainforests around the world can breathe a sigh of relief.

How I got here, exactly, I have no idea, but it's a nice place to be. You'd better enjoy the job you do, because you're going to spend one third of your life doing it.

I'm done, and if you've read this far, so are you...

But how did you get here, and where are you going now?

key phrases

dumb luck: something which happened unintentionally and without planning.

a happy accidentt: when something unexpectedly good comes from what would otherwise be considered a mishap (bad luck).

to drastically rethink something: to completely reconsider or change your opinion on something.

...and all that jazz: everything else related to something; other similar things. "They sell televisions and all that jazz".

sick and tired: to be angry and bored because something unpleasant has been happening for too long.

next thing I know...: 'suddenly, the next thing that happened was...'

can't for the life of me: if you say you can't for the life of you remember something, you mean that you cannot remember it at all.

a ton of...: a lot of.

a back-up plan: a plan you can use if your original plan of action does not work. Also known as 'Plan B'.

a sigh of relief: if people breathe sigh of relief, they feel happy that something unpleasant has not happened or is no longer happening. Sigh means to let out a deep breath.

Link: Danny's 'Get' Phrases