Teaching in Mexico

Old black leather suitcase with books on the floor. Retro stile. Vintage accessories for business. Checkered suitcase. Summer vacation
image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

After a seven-year hiatus, I am teaching ESL again. I am in Los Cabos, Mexico and this morning’s class will be at a non-profit college aimed at giving underprivileged kids an opportunity for higher learning.

My sister K., who lives here half the year, instigated this.

I’ve been looking forward to it. I even managed to fit in a few of my old ESL books from my teaching days into my suitcase. 

I drink my morning coffee and look out at the tranquil Pacific Ocean. I’m hoping that this view will calm me, as now that the actual teaching day is here, I’m nervous.

It’s been so long since I’ve taught.

“Do you forget how to teach?” I ask myself. “Or is it like riding a bicycle?”  

And this is team teaching with my sister. I can only imagine how I would feel if I were going up there in front of the classroom alone. But I’m also excited to be doing it again. Considering how much time has passed, how cool is that?

I take a deep breath and remind myself that teaching ESL is something that I did every day for over 25 years!

I also remind myself that I have been helping my sister prepare her ESL lessons over the phone.  This has been very satisfying.

Today, we have a good mixture of conversation, reading, writing, and grammar exercises. I put the materials in a turquoise beach bag. Even though we are teaching this morning, I want to keep that vacation feeling alive.

We walk into the classroom. It has a lot of natural light shining in.

My sister introduces me to the 12 students who are sitting around a table in a semi-circle.

“One day we want to visit Canada,” one tells me from the group. The rest nod.

“We’ve never seen snow,” they tell me. “It must be very beautiful.”

“Yes,” I reply. “It is.”  It is mid-February, but I try to sound enthusiastic. K. and I start the lesson. We have them ask their classmates four mingler questions and write the responses on their work sheet. There is a lot of talking right away. I can tell that these students are enjoying each other’s company. With a new set of students, this is always a relief.

Discussion centres around the question, “What would your friends say are your best qualities?”

One student, A., is modest. He says that he doesn’t want to presume what his friends think about him or would say are his best qualities. The other students, by contrast, are eager to share the wonderful qualities that A. possesses: intelligence, kindness, drive.

Near the end of class, the students talk about trips that they have taken to Mexico City and La Paz.  I hope to visit these cities now that I’ve seen these places through their eyes. I am reminded about how this is another wonderful thing about teaching ESL:  the students teach you as much as you teach them.

At the end of class, the students bring out a carrot cake.

“Welcome Judith!” is written in pink icing on the top.

“We asked your sister what your favorite cake was,” they say.

It is a delicious carrot cake with raisins and cream cheese icing. Yum!

No matter where you teach ESL, food will be an important part of the class and a great bonding experience. As I eat the tasty carrot cake off of a paper plate, I recognise that feeling from past LINC days: the day is over; the job well done.

“Thank you,” K. and I hear over and over as they line up for good-bye hugs.

I arrive home a few weeks later to –22 degree weather in Calgary.  My memories of Los Cabos warm me though: the sandy white beaches, the palm trees, the blooms and cobble stone paths, and most importantly, my time with the students, their kindness, and their hospitality.

I book a flight and make plans for my next team teaching class with K.  I feel less trepidation this time, for teaching is indeed like riding a bicycle. It may feel like an uphill pedal at first, but it does come back.

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