Why teaching English makes me smile every day

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When I was young, I was very interested in mechanical engineering and studied it at university. But I’ve also always had other big interests, such as different cultures, languages, photography and travel. While I was carrying out research in a lab, I often thought about taking a long-term break from engineering to travel and see more of the world. A former classmate of mine had left the field of engineering and was teaching English at a public school in South Korea. He inspired me and I decided to do the same. I went to Incheon, South Korea to teach English in an elementary school.

The experience of living abroad and the high level of job satisfaction made a lasting impression on me. After teaching elementary school classes, I accepted a job teaching English to adults in Shanghai. Soon, I decided to complete a CELTA (Certificate in teaching English to speakers of other languages) course in Toronto. I learned a lot of useful teaching techniques and got to apply these methods in classrooms. After completing my CELTA, I returned to Shanghai then transferred to Seoul.

One time, I met a student called Leo. He was a young engineer and was studying English to further his career. He was, however, dissatisfied with his current position and unsure about his future as an engineer. Very much like myself a few years earlier, he was considering a change in field. We spoke easily with each other and became close friends.

Leo was under a lot of pressure not to change his career path, and he was worried that his academic background would make him unsuitable for the job he wanted in a sales team for an international company. I was able to share my experiences with him, explaining how I had managed to adapt the skills I had learned as an engineer so they were useful in my new career as a teacher. Armed with this new perspective and plenty of preparation, Leo secured a job offer and was very happy with his new opportunity.

Helping Leo made me remember that there are many opportunities out there. One day I was specialising in mechanical engineering and now I teach English – and that puts a smile on my face whenever I take the time to think about it.

I have many more highlights from my time as an English teacher – here are just a few of the stand-out moments for me…

  • While I was a teacher at the elementary school in Incheon, I ran an English camp, where ‘Max Teacher’ (as I was known at the school), trained young superheroes as ‘Mask Teacher’.
  • Teaching online English classes to students across China.
  • Visiting the Ordos Desert in China with other teachers.
  • Celebrating my 30th birthday in Chengdu in China, where students treated me to a hotpot that included duck tongues and a pig’s brain!

How does teaching or learning English make you smile? If you want to tell your story, let us know in the comments section below…

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