Why I became a teacher now, not then

I recently got certified as an adult ESL teacher, more than a decade after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English. Although teaching had been an option in the past, I decided to pursue other avenues—and I’m glad I did.

image source: Svjetlana Vrbanic

Over the years, I had many great experiences, learned many things, and acquired skills that make me a better teacher today. There truly are many different roads to teaching and I would like to share mine.

My Journey

Coming out of university, I felt like I had nothing to offer. I lacked confidence in my abilities. I wanted to be the kind of teacher that had an answer to every question and I could not help but feel a little green.

After pursuing a couple of things, I still had a hard time figuring out what to do. Then, I visited Labrador City and decided to avail of two important opportunities—working as a supply teacher and freelance reporter. I worked hard and learned a lot, but ultimately decided to become a journalist.

After some time, I considered returning to teaching for better work opportunities. I eventually found myself teaching ESL to teens at an international summer camp in Toronto. The experience was so satisfying that I entered a TESOL program. Now, I am looking forward to starting a new career as an adult ESL teacher.

My journey was long and winding, but I do not regret a single detour. Every day offered new experiences and opportunities to learn and improve my skills.

What I Learned

Working as a supply teacher showed me that I cared about students and their education in ways that I had never considered. As soon as I took an interest in the students, I found myself fascinated. Interacting with them became a pleasure and not a chore, and I could not wait to come up with new ways to share my knowledge and engage them. I also learned to pace myself and to try to understand students in order to better relate to them.

Likewise, working as a journalist exposed me to many different people and I learned a lot about various subjects. I learned about community and the connections that bring people together. I came to appreciate the unique stories that people tell and what it means to be a part of many community events. I also gained a large sense of accountability–where before I had made sure to tell people’s stories in the most accurate, considerate, and engaging manner, now I make sure that my lessons and materials are of the highest quality.

When I finally started working at the international summer camp, I found that my level of confidence in teaching in front of a class was so much higher because of my experience working as a journalist and talking with strangers. I could also talk about a variety of topics and use my knowledge to create more engaging lessons.

Now that I am an adult ESL teacher, my experiences inform the way that I teach. I am confident and adaptable. I know I have something to contribute and hopefully inspire students to do the same.

So, my advice is to explore the paths that capture your curiosity. Go down ways you never considered. There is no such thing as a wrong turn if you learn from your experiences. Be bold and live life with no regrets. What experiences have made you a better teacher? What interesting paths did you take before teaching adult ESL?

My name is Svjetlana Vrbanic—Lana—and I am a newly certified adult ESL teacher. I completed a degree in English and worked as a teacher and newspaper reporter/editor. Work has allowed me to travel from Labrador to Alberta and enjoy many great experiences. I was born in the former-Yugoslavia, but lived in Toronto most of my life. I can speak Serbo-Croatian, but primarily use English and love sharing what I know with students from all over the world. I like to have a good time and enjoy pursuing interests like cooking, running, volunteering, learning about health and psychology, and spending time with my niece, two rambunctious Jack Russell terriers, and a shy, but loveable cat. I am excited to blog about my experiences which will hopefully inform and entertain, as well as help support a vibrant teaching community. Wishing my colleagues many happy adventures in teaching.


4 thoughts on “Why I became a teacher now, not then”

  1. I really enjoyed reading the article as it made me go down memory lane of my teaching journey. I have been a teacher since I was in grade 6. Our teacher wanted us to help the weak students in our class. I not only sacrificed my break time to help them learn the language, but also gave them ‘progress reports’ with comments on their success! The journey continued with acquiring a university degree, teaching in my country of origin, and then traveling to Canada for better opportunities. As soon as I graduated from TESL program, my teaching journey again started in Canada with many soul searching, challenging and gratifying moments with my adult learners. My life is enriched with their unique experiences and stories. I don’t have to work a single day as I love my profession!

    1. Hello Anjum! Good to hear: I don’t have to work a single day as I love my profession! You and most of us, teachers, are fortunate in that respect. Becoming a teacher can be a winding road, but I believe that you learn along the way and gain invaluable experience that informs your teaching. Also, put things into perspective and develop gratitude toward what you achieve. Good luck in your future teaching!

  2. Very interesting and thoughtful. Yes, I too have gone down other paths and returned to to teaching this time in the school add at a french immersion school. I’m truly at peace and happy teaching children important social skills while I do ECE online. At 60, the course only costs 4. So after this I I’m do an M.A. It’s never too late and always a refreshing perspective to go down a different path. So much for being a doctor! Teaching or assisting children is my forte!

    1. Thank you for your input, Jennifer. Yes, it may take some time to figure out what is the right fit. Most people can do several things and that’s what makes them versatile and adaptable in life. However, we do some things better than others. We are fortunate when we find the right fit and do, not only, what makes us happy, but also what contributes the most good. Good luck in your teaching–and learning!

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