Friday, 21 October 2011

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Blogoversary & Blog Challenge: What's Your Story?

Last weekend it was my first blogoversary. A big thank you to everyone who has stopped by, retweeted the links, added me to their blog roll and RSS feed, and commented. The following post is part of Vicky Loras’ blog challenge and it seemed to fit with my first proper post from just over a year ago. In the challenge she asked us to reflect on one of the options below:

  • Have you made a big move?
  • A career change?
  • Have you been teaching and living in a country for a long time, but have seen changes in yourself as a person, educator or both?
  • Are you thinking of a change in the future?
I’ve written about a moment when everything changed for me. I hope you find it interesting (and not too self-indulgent!).

Time to decide...
I studied Media Studies, specifically television production, at university. I studied it because I was, and still am, an avid consumer of the media and the arts. I also am very interested in the interaction between the media and society, and how their complicated relationship affects our daily lives. The fact is however, that academically I wasn’t a great student and in the end, due to a number of factors some of which were my fault and some which were not, my final grade reflected this. This experience has undoubtedly influenced my current belief that there is something fundamentally wrong with how we approach our education system, but that’s too complicated to explain here.

I worked on films for the year after I graduated, and while I enjoyed the work a great deal, I didn’t feel particular comfortable in that world and with those people. I was a shy man in a world of self-aggrandisers and show offs and it wasn’t for me. (I did meet some very nice people too, but they weren’t generally the ones who could get me work.) I also wasn’t prepared to spend years without any money, waiting on the slightest glimmer of a break. I just didn’t feel cut out for it. The problem was that I didn’t know what it was I supposed to be doing instead.

To pay the rent, I took a temporary job. It wasn’t interesting at all, but the money was pretty good and I could keep myself supplied in records. Somehow, and I still don’t know how, I ended up doing that supposed temporary job for three and half years. As I sit here and type this I still find it completely inexplicable that I worked there for that long. I know we’re not supposed to have regrets, but I can’t help but wish I’d made more of that period of my life.

And the question remained: “What am I going to do with my life?” After a mercifully brief stint in a bank, I got a job in a massive central London music, film and video game store. I enjoyed it there, largely, working my way up to the position of buyer, but it didn’t fulfil me. It was a job, I didn’t hate it and it paid enough, but I hadn’t found what Sir Ken Robinson calls the Element.

The fact is that I was searching, like so many of my generation, for a job that satisfied us creatively, morally and professionally. We wanted to do something interesting, worthwhile and valuable, but those jobs are not easy to come by or even to define. The idea that I would become a teacher and live abroad was so remote in my thinking, I hadn’t even considered it as an option. It just didn’t figure at all, for reasons I’m still not sure about.

But move abroad and teach I did. For personal reasons, I had the opportunity to move to Brazil and I lept at the chance without a seconds thought. That really isn’t an exaggeration either, I literally said yes to moving there without any pause for reflection or time to think. I didn’t need a couple of days to mull it over, or to ponder over my decision with a cup of tea. I didn’t speak to my Mum or my friends, I just said yes and it all hinged on that moment.

I think my lack of hesitation came down to the fact that I was searching for something and an opportunity presented itself. I was craving a change, an adventure, something needed to take my life by the lapels and shake it around. I didn’t know what I was going find, but I knew it was definitely going to be different from what I’d left behind.

Moving to Brasília, I had no choice but to become an English teacher and luckily for me, I adored it. Everything fell into place and I could look back on the previous ten years and see how everything should have gone, how I should have read the signs and studied English Literature at university, how I should have gone to a far flung corner of the world when I graduated to teach English to a room full of exotic kids, how should have got the bug and taken my CELTA and started along the unpredictable career path that is TEFL.

Unfortunately that never happened, but if it had, I wouldn’t be here now and I wouldn’t be half as grateful for discovering my Element, the thing that I love doing more than any other, which is teaching English.

If you’d like to read about my first ever class, read this post from October last year:

Read more entries in this challenge by heading over to Vicky’s blog:


  1. Hi James,
    great to read your story. I have to say that without the ten years you spent not teaching and the other jobs you did, you probably wouldn't appreciate teaching quite so much. One of the reasons I love it is because it's NOT door-to-door sales, factory work or filing, all of which I've done before. also, I'm sure your students would appreciate the fact that you got real-world experience before you became a teacher.
    great story and thanks for sharing it!

  2. Hi James!

    Thanks so much for this post for the blog challenge - happy Blogoversary and all the best to you!!!

    It was great to read your story and how you found your way into ELT - luckily, as education got another great teacher like you! I really liked reading more about your previous jobs which we also had the time to discuss here in Zug. I feel very fortunate to have met you and made a new friend!

    Thanks so much and see you soon,

  3. Thanks Sandy. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who's done their share of 'unrelated' work!

    You hit the nail on the head because that's exactly how I feel about it all. I wish it'd happened sooner, but I know that because it didn't, I enjoy it all the more.

  4. Hi Vicky, thanks for commenting, for creating this blog challenge in the first place, and your ongoing support and enthusiasm. We all really appreciate it.



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