PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC – Let’s take a walk down Memory Lane.
That’s an English idiom that means, I’m about to tell you some nice stories from the past.
Specifically, let me tell you about my first year as a teacher.
It was 2004.
I flew from the U.S. to Prague, the Czech Republic.
I completed a one-month teacher training program.
And then I was ready to start teaching.
A Welcome Surprise
One August morning, shortly after receiving my TEFL certificate (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) I sat down in front of a big, old computer inside an internet cafe (remember those?).
From my bag I took out a list of language schools.
I started emailing them.
Copy. Paste. Send. Copy. Paste. Send.
And then something interesting began to happen.
I started to get replies.
From real people.
Inviting me to come in for an interview.
And I wasn’t even done with the first page!
My First Lesson
While I got many offers, I ended up choosing a language school called PLC (Prague Language Centre).
Immediately, I was given a full schedule of group classes at the school, group classes inside companies, and a few one-to-one lessons.
I tried my best to remember the grammar rules they taught us during my one-month teacher training (Even native speakers find grammar rules confusing!)
But I think I learned more that first year than my students.
The first lesson I learned now seems so basic.
But at the time, I had no idea.
My first lesson was:
English is a Hot Product
When you grow up in a country where people speak the same language for thousands of miles in every direction, you have a view of the world that’s not very accurate. You take it for granted that everyone speaks your language.
But now that I was living in a small country surrounded by countries that spoke other languages, I saw the value of English.
If my student wanted to sell a product in Berlin, he needed English.
If my student wanted to speak at a conference in Paris, he needed English.
And even if a teenager wanted to get a job selling shoes at the mall, he had to speak English.
For my students, English wasn’t about a love of the language or practicing a fun hobby, it was about making more money, selling more products, advancing inside their company, and giving more to their family.
Simply, it was a hot product.
And although I was a new teacher who made lots of teaching mistakes, I was still a native speaker in demand. And that felt great.