This week reminded me of the greatest perk of being an ESL teacher: student love. After final exams, I looked my classes in the face for the last time, thanked them for being great students this semester and, of course, posed in hundreds of bunny-ears photos. As this chapter of my life closes, I’m realizing how much I’m going to miss these students.
There is an immeasurable sense of satisfaction that comes from creating a relationship with one’s students that is difficult to explain to people who’ve never had a similar experience. Teaching ESL reminds me of a sentiment that I have long lived by: a rich life experience has nothing to do with money. This is the lowest paying job I’ve ever had, but its rewards are priceless.
During the past seven months, we’ve met every week, and many of my students never missed a single class. I’m blessed to have so many great pupils with a consistent desire to practice English and build a relationship with me. Together we laughed, struggled, and destroyed the language barriers between us. There were so many occasions when I had to calm the class down from laughing too hard during funny speaking activities.
I recently got into an argument with another foreign teacher—a guy teaching children aged 4 to 12 in a language center. He said that, between us, he’s the only one who will ever make a difference in his students’ lives, not necessarily because he’s a better teacher, but because my students are already fully developed and his students are still young and malleable. While the dude made a good point about learning a language early in life, he will never grasp the concept of truly relating to his students. That’s one of the reasons why I prefer to teach teens and adults over young children, and one of the reasons why my classes and I connected so well.
Now that it’s time to say goodbye, I’m realizing how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to guide and inspire so many eager learners, even if I was only with them for a semester and a half. It’s usually easy for me to say goodbye to people, but this time around, it’s a struggle. I’m not just saying goodbye to students. I’m saying goodbye to friends.
I’ll end this post with a big-hearted goodbye note I received from one of my students today.