On Monday the 29th I responded to an ad for a native English speaker on Turkish Craigslist.
On Thursday the 2nd I signed a contract.
I’ve spent the past two weeks interviewing, shadowing teachers, and generally trying to decide what to do with myself. There’s a school very close to where I live called English Time that offers a signing bonus, a really good wage, rent allowance, a residency permit, and upon completion of contract, a travel bonus of $600 bucks. In exchange the hours are kind of a pain- split shifts, anyone?- and the only pause I had was that I came here in part to finish the damned book and maybe try to launch a writing career, which is all but impossible when I’m working full time. (Maybe not impossible for my super-woman friend Brigid who is scoffing right now because she manages to crank out novels on top of working full time, a brutal commute, and being a wife and mother, but damnit Brigid we are not all you.) But the alternatives of working for a company that offered less or running around trying to hustle clients to privately tutor seemed more daunting, so although I was responding to any and all advertisements for English teachers, I was really pinning my hopes on English Time.
I’ve been on four or five interviews since I got here, and shadowed six or seven teachers. It is exhausting and rather stupefying to watch people teach first grade level English for hours at a time, let me tell you, but I got a fairly good idea of what kind of teacher I would be, or rather not be. One guy hadn’t read the dittos he handed out and didn’t know some of the answers himself. I will not be that guy. One guy had a really good, engaging presence and gave me some goodc ideas for games to play with a class, but he didn’t use contractions. At all. After a half hour it began to sound so unnatural. How are these poor people going to ever understand a native English speaker in a real world context? I will not be that guy. Correction: I won’t be that guy. And so on and so on.
After a week of watching people teach, staring at the clock and wondering when class was going to let out, I was still pretty convinced that I wouldn’t like teaching, and that I wouldn’t be a particularly good teacher.
But hey, I can do anything for a year, right?
I got a call back from the DILKO English school the day after I submitted my resume to them, asking if I could come in the next day for an interview. I said sure. Why not?
The next day I was rushed, and not feeling particularly well. For some reason the ferries have started making me dizzy for hours afterwards- maybe because I’ve started reading on them instead of staring in wonder at the horizon. I stumbled off the ferry and onto a tram and then a funicular, and when I got to Taksim square I spent a frenzied ten minutes trying to find the address. Late, I ran up the stairs. I was shown into an office with an intimidatingly tiny and chic woman, and an older man with big eyes who looked at me rather dismissively. As will happen when you’ve been rushing around on a cool, windy day and then are shown into a warm office, I turned bright red and started sweating.
I sat there, physically miserable and wishing I were home curled up on the couch while they asked me irritating questions like,
“So, tell us about yourself,” to which I gave really lame answers. I was fully aware I wasn’t doing a good job of selling myself, but all I could think about was my flannel jammie bottoms.
Finally the man cut it short and put me out of my misery by saying,
“Well, the only way we can really see if you’ll work out is to see you teach a class. Can you come back tomorrow?”
“Or,” said the intimidatingly tiny and chic woman, “could you come back later tonight?”
“I’ll come back,” I said. It wouldn’t lead to anything but it would be good practice. I shook their hands and left to entertain myself for a few hours. I got some montı at a cafe and drank endless cups of tea and read my book. I wandered back at the appointed hour and they put me in a corner with the students’ workbook and the teachers’ guide. I sat there and studied it. I was still dizzy and the words were sort of swimming around on the page. I wondered how much vocabulary the students had already. I wondered if anyone would stop me if I just got up and left.
The man with the big eyes came back, and asked me if I was very nervous.
“A little,” I said, “but not overwhelmingly so. Have they ever seen this vocabulary before?” I pointed to a section of the workbook. We talked about it for a moment and then he led me upstairs to the classroom.
“I’ll be there to help you,” he said. We walked in.
An hour later he said, “Okay, that’s enough. Thank you. Class, say thank you to Sarah.”
“Thank you, Sarah,” they said in unison. “Come again! Please!” some of them called.
“Thank you!” I said, and gathered my scarf and bag. That was fun, I thought, but I must’ve blown it or he wouldn’t’ve cut it short like that. Must’ve been the failed Mad Libs experiment.
I went downstairs, my mind already on the errands I would run on the way home. The man with the big eyes caught up with me on the landing and ushered me back into the office where he sat me down and just looked at me, and shook his head.
“You’ve never taught before?”
“No,” I said. I wondered if we were out of bread. I hate buying too much bread and having half of it go stale before it gets used.
“You were- you were imprecise, but you were just fantastic. You say you have no teaching experience? I’m very, very surprised. You have astonished me.”
I looked at him blankly. He shook his head at me again.
“I have to talk to my colleagues,” he said, “but we will be offering you a job. We’ll be in touch tomorrow.”
“Oh,” I said. “Thank you.”