Teaching English In Turkey: Reflections

I’m official done with teaching English at British Culture. Looking back, I’m still in disbelief that I actually taught English and fulfilled this long time dream of mine.

I have always held a deep admiration for those who had gone abroad to teach English. The idea of trying to find employment in a new country to me seemed to take a lot of self-reliance, and most importantly courage. I had studied abroad in Poland, and although it was definitely a life-changing experience, working abroad seemed to hold a bit more responsibility.

Back in January this was my plan:

1) Use my savings to sign-up for an online TESOL certification course (that was offered by an actual ESL school called Transworld)

2) Save up money for my airfare to Turkey (plus a little extra) by working temporary jobs

Taking an online TESOL course was a lot harder than I expected. I had this silly notion that since I was a native speaker, that I would have no trouble with this course. Turns out I really don’t know the difference between conditionals and modals, and my elementary grammar lessons hardly measured up to the grammatical intricacies of the English language. Some days I literally felt like I was learning a new language.

For the final week, I was required to come into the actual school, and teach six 30 minutes classes. I hate public speaking in any form, and honestly I was wondering if I could stand in front of a group of ESL students, without melting into a puddle. The first time I was incredibly nervous, but then it got easier, and by the sixth class I was able to focus on improving my teaching, and not worry about what I would say or do.

Finding a job was one of the easiest steps of this process. The director of Transworld, gave me some helpful consultation before I left for Turkey. She gave me a list of schools that were reputable and also gave me a teacher contact in Turkey. I also searched through forums (Dave’s ESL Cafe was really insightful), and learned more about the reputations of the schools in Izmir.

I had a few interviews, one with English Time that paid a good salary, but had a bad reputation on the forums about poor teaching conditions, and payday issues. The second interview was at British Culture, which I had three interviews (one to just tell me in person that I needed to prepare a demo lesson). After the interviewing process, and meeting some really interesting characters (if these guys are teachers, than I should have no problem), I received an email that I had gotten the job.

Teaching has been an interesting journey. The management at my school left a lot to be desired. Although, their marketing skills for prospective students was really convincing. The moment I walked into the school each door exterior looked like a traditional red English phone booth. The office on the fifth floor blared BBC News, and each room was named after a famous Brit or landmark. I taught in the “Thomas Hardy” room on the very top floor, right next to “Utopia,” which was anything but, since it was always felt like 100 degrees on this floor.

Despite the faulty management, what really made it worth coming to school every day were the students. I enjoyed conversing with them on different topics and learning about their lives and Turkish culture in general. We talked about everything from marriage to living abroad. Education was always reciprocal in my classroom.

Most of the students were in their early twenties, and it was so fascinating to talk to them about their lives, their studies and the beginning of their careers. I met one guy who was a highly-ranked boxer in Turkey, another who was a ship engineer and had traveled to places like Dubai to Houston. A girl who was in the middle of medical school, and, a man in his mid- forties who enthusiasm and dedication to learning English was unmeasurable, even for those half his age.

Teaching English for me was such a big accomplishment, and back in January it just seemed like such a crazy dream, but looking back it has given me a large boost of self-confidence for facing all my future endeavors, big or small.