not ready but I feel I must do it anyway
SCROLL DOWN TILL THE VERY END FOR A SHORTER VERSION
Sir, Madam, heed this friendly warning and take a cup of something warm and turn on some music, for I don’t want to feel guilty for taking your time. This way, even if there’s nothing here that benefits you, we can both agree that it was time well spent. Because who doesn’t like a break with a nice drink and a lovely tune?
It means a lot to me to tell the story right, but then, is everything that I want to tell you meaningful?
Let’s take the story that set the scene for everything else. In my second year of university, full of doubts about the future and dead set on finding answers, I decide to go for a walk and not come back until the answers come to me. With my earphones on, I set out on what I thought would be a journey within me and end up giving directions to a foreigner, who, I later find out, is a co-owner of a career consulting company. ‘Teaching won’t satisfy all of your needs’, he says.
Now, I know we’re not supposed to base our self-worth on our job, and I agree our job doesn’t define our identity. But it just so happens it’s my personality that took me on the teaching path in the first place. And at the time, though the money was small, I was already getting paid for what I’d been always doing and who I’d always been. Yes, like most other passionate teachers, I had been one long before I got my diploma. And that statement, it hurt a little bit.
I thought he was right though. In a way he was. If he hadn’t been, we wouldn’t have met in the first place. He showed me how to hunt for answers to find the ‘best fit’. But I didn’t use his advice to change the job. Instead, I felt inspired. Once again I saw teaching as an all-in profession that it is – the only job that can help me serve others while following all of my other passions, including psychology, writing, coaching, instructional design, research, and even childhood dreams like dancing, drawing, and making designer bags.
It took some time to sift through different ideas and all those limiting thoughts that were never mine. But the truth is, I wasn’t just looking for the right job – I was looking for a life path to commit to. All lessons were necessary.
And you know, I’d been trying to live up to the expanded, favourably pieced together vision I had that evening, back in 2011, until I realized that all I wanted is just be. Exactly that, but here and now. Living the vision, not trying to live up to it.
To me, teaching is authenticity, creativity, learning, variety, growth, independence and the freedom to create and teach the way I see it and the way that aligns with my inner drive, my ‘why’ and my values. When I say I love teaching, everything else is implied. Since I’m usually the only person who fully understands the implication, I’ve decided to lead with this story.
Are you still drinking that hot chocolate or cinnamon latte? You might want to order another one – it’s promising to be a very long read. Writing this page might be one of the most vulnerable things I’ve ever done. How do you tell the whole truth, knowing anybody can read it? Bruce Lee said, ‘I fear not the man who has practiced 10, 000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10, 000 times’.
Born in a small Ukrainian town, deeply in love with teaching and learning, and slightly under the perfectionism spell, as an EFL teacher who wants the best for her students, I used to be insecure about being a non-native English speaker. To be honest, there are times when I still am. But here is a funny thing. If I were a native English speaker, I’d be teaching something else.
I’ve been learning and teaching English with an athlete mindset, which I now find to be a cornerstone of language learning
There was something about learning the language from scratch that excited and motivated me to stay committed to learning English. I practically trained myself, practicing that one kick ten thousand times. Initially inspired by Nathan Scott, I’ve been learning and teaching English with an athlete mindset, which I now find to be a cornerstone of language learning.
Are you insecure about being a non-native English teacher? Don’t be. Teachers are first of all learners. Saying that non-native English teachers can’t teach English because that’s the language they learnt is absurd. Don’t you agree there’s enough place in the teaching world for every kind of teacher?
What kind am I? I strongly believe that the juice is worth the squeeze. When learning a language, taking the stairs is the only way. It will serve you more than a fast but time-expensive escalator ride. You need to do the work, or it won’t work. Just recently I came across the quote by Tim Kennedy, ‘Everything you want is on the other side of hard work’. I couldn’t have said it better. Learning is not supposed to be easy and fun all the time. You can make it more fun. You can and should take the necessary steps to make it easier. But it’s not supposed to entertain, amuse, or distract you, please you or cater to your laziness or your every capricious need, which might be harming in the long run. Achieving mastery requires deep focus, deliberate practice and sometimes discomfort. It requires self-discipline and consistency. As my school English teacher said, ‘Try again, and again, and again, until you can do it’. Making mistakes is okay. But so is working hard to learn from them.
What do I mean when I say ‘hard work’? I mean *effort*, *conscious learning* and *flow* rather than doing a task here or there if inspiration strikes – it doesn’t. Inspiration comes from focusing deeply on the task which is challenging enough to make you put in the effort, see progress and make you feel good about yourself once the task is done. The more effort you put in, the better the payoff, for there are no shortcuts to true pleasure and gratification. No shortcuts to flow. Hard work is a joy. And your mindset is everything. Yes, just like happiness, hard work means something different to everybody. But I believe you’ve got to be willing to work hard to feel like you don’t work at all. Think, what does ‘hard work’ mean to you?
I take much pleasure in mastering my craft. Though, I’ve been teaching since 2011, I consider myself to be an apprentice of some sort. But the one that is paid better and learns from the master within. You have the master within. You know what I’m talking about – the continuous learning to become a better self. For years I’ve been waiting to be ready, to be enough. But it turns out when it comes to teaching and learning, it is both never enough and it’s already enough. It’s never enough to ever stop learning or improving teaching. But what you have here and now is enough to tackle your teaching dreams and big ideas. It is enough to start. And when you do, the learning begins all over again – through discomfort, self-discipline and deep focus. Nothing worth having is easy, but everything is possible.
teaching is not self-imposed slavery
That’s why I think learning must be taken seriously. I’d rather foster personal responsibility in learners so that they themselves could find a way to make learning more fun than entertain them or lower my standards just to make a learner learn at least something, which, without consistency and a lot of practice, will soon be forgotten anyway. While all work and no play makes learning unbearable, all play and no work contributes to the lack of potential opportunities, lower self-esteem and future incompetence. Setting high standards is as important in learning as it is in life. One cannot exist without the other – life is learning. And teaching… Teaching is not self-imposed slavery.
Nowadays, many passionate teachers are mired in work and barely manage to survive emotionally. Still, they are often the ones who put in more effort. They rack their brains for a way to entertain and please students and practically beg the students to learn for their own sake. Yes, I was and on some it’s-not-the-smartest-choice days still am that teacher. But, over the years, I have learned the importance of and now believe in teamwork – in consistent hard work on both sides. Learning and teaching being a huge commitment, it is supposed to bring meaningful results to all – the students, the teachers and the committed parents. Don’t you agree?
Now, when knowledge and skills have become the most valuable currency and teaching has become a luxury, it is high time teaching was taken seriously too. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that good teachers work hard and take full responsibility for their students’ learning success and failures. What I’m saying is that it is not enough.
Let me explain. The focus is on the student because it is the student who holds the power to transform. Teachers merely facilitate and accelerate the transformation. This means that the best way for the learners to have the desired outcome is to create it themselves, with or without a teacher. If they do choose to work with a teacher, they must commit to the learning process and take responsibility for their choice and their part in achieving the goals they’ve set.
My goal is to guide learners to their inner teacher and show them the beauty of taking responsibility for their learning success. My dream is to help students believe they are worthy and are worth the effort that it takes to achieve success. My mission is to inspire teachers to opt for win-win situations, set high standards and believe that they have the right to expect their students to do their best on the journey to a better self.
the student is also an artist who is continuously working on building a living masterpiece
I believe this passionately that when students do the work properly ‘for class’, they are actually doing the work on themselves. The student is not only an artwork in progress. The student is also an artist who is continuously working on building a living masterpiece.
My school English teacher once taught me the words of Samuel Johnson, who said, ‘Language is the dress of thought’. We, teachers, don’t only train brains to understand and produce a certain language, we help our students learn to dress up their thoughts and emotions. In our tailored lessons, we help them achieve their personal and professional goals. In our speaking tasks, we give them food for thought. We see opportunities for growth and our students’ potential, and we use that to set goals together and work on creating a masterpiece of their life.
a love based cocktail
That’s why I believe teachers need to be their own boss and deliberately design their own career. Yep, I am for independent teaching. It gives you the freedom to teach, create, and manage the way that will benefit the students and not the system or the business.
This makes EFL teaching a mixture of art, coaching and entrepreneurship. To me, it is a love based cocktail. This reminds me, refill? I’m about to have some more coffee…
Here goes the important. Just because a certain way is the only way for me, it does not make it the only right way. All teachers bring something of themselves to the job, and so do I. Therefore, I’m on a mission to promote the idea of giving more freedom and independence to both teachers and students. I want to do my part in normalizing hard work when learning and bring back respect for a teaching job. I believe there is the teacher and the learner within everybody. And both deserve variety and the freedom to choose what serves them best, in and out of class.
Why? Caught up in the mundane hence out of love with teaching, I found my way back by turning to the meaning again. To me, if there’s meaning, there’s a spark. And we are the ones, who assign the meaning, aren’t we? It’s interesting how it took me nearly ten years to understand what that man really meant when he said ‘it won’t satisfy all of your needs’. More freedom. More independence. More creativity. Are you with me?
Now, when I’m back in love with teaching like nothing happened, with the old and new ‘why-s’, I’m here to teach, write and create, and, hopefully, to help you and make your teacher/learner life a whole lot easier.
Just like you, I’m a work in progress. Maybe, what I’ve learnt and am still learning can serve you. But even if doesn’t, but I still manage to put a smile on your face, that’s enough for me. I hope you are smiling right now.
Consider this first letter to you a trailer to what’s coming.
There, I’m about to finish this text and I bet you’ve finished that drink.
I don’t know who you are. Maybe you feel like you’ve never started living at all, or maybe like you’ve already lived a thousand lives. Either way, I’m happy to have shared this moment with you.
Look, I know it took quite some time to read this all, but, before you judge me, remember I’ve been meaning to write this for ten years. I’m happy I finally gathered the courage to do that.
Oh, one more thing before you go. I’ve noticed it to be a common pattern to say ‘I’ve come up with a new method’ and then state the obvious. I’m in no way trying to do anything like that here. Chances are, ‘We might be of one blood, You and I’. And if that’s true – hi, I’m thrilled to see what difference we can make together.
PS Totally irrelevant, but I’ll let you in on a little secret – my real name is Ira, though I write and create under Bria Kim only.
A MUCH SHORTER VERSION:
Hi, You. I’m Bria, a passionate non-native EFL teacher, entirely self-taught teacher coach, ‘background’ writer and instructional designer. I’ve been training brains English and helping dress thoughts since 2011. Avid learner. Slightly hyper active. Lone wolf most of the time but if we’re on the same page, I can be a good team player too. I believe both teachers and learners can benefit from a little bit more freedom, independence and variety. I’m also a huge believer in baby steps and having fun while working hard. I have always been in love with the idea of independent teaching. Can you relate? Just like you, I’m a work in progress. I set out to work harder on myself and hope to be of service to you. See, I told you I’d keep it short. Much love, Bria