What pre-ELT jobs and/or experiences most ‘primed’ you to not just dip into English language teaching for a year or two but stick it out actually become/think of yourself as an ELTer? What do you look back on – beyond the training space, before any classroom contact, even any notion or knowledge of ELT – and say ‘hey, that’s kinda sorta where I learned to do and like this; hey…I could say that something of the core part of what I do/who I am as an ELT person…that comes out of here.
As for me, I often find myself connecting the source of ideas/perspectives/attitudes in ELT back to two past experiences: my dedicated study and practice of meditation between the ages of 18 and 24 and 2 years of work as a door-to-door canvasser for environmental causes during a break from university.
The former, I think, gave me a grip on or a ‘feel for’ the basic psychological ground of language. That is, mind. I wasn’t a ‘great meditator’ and of course landed a long, long, loooong way from enlightenment…but not for lack of trying. And in all that effort, I became an ‘inner’ type, a ‘within his mind’ kind, a ‘third eye’ guy (ok now I’m just rhyming stuff!). And what I now know as the ‘inner workbench’ thanks to Adrian Underhill, I was already quite focused on via my time in retreats and weekly sittings and the Buddhist section of the library. Focused on the mind-space – much less so the world of products, competition, and career.
The latter gave me my first taste – and a relatively intense one – of what maybe I’d call ‘dialogic combat’ and, well, using language in a strategic, manipulative way. As canvasser and fundraiser and later campaign manager I had to guide conversations and gauge reactions, dropping hints and floating info Just so could refer back later as I leaned harder against a particular soft spot in my attempt to connect beliefs to action and induce giving. I needed not just to monitor my thoughts, but, carefully my words. I stopped mumbling. I started looking people in the eye. I ran from house to house; I got really into it. Throughout my 9 years in the classroom I felt like I was, in some sense, still on a porch, trying to be as efficient as I could be with my words, aiming for a target with a linguistic arrow.
I was never a language nerd, nor did I ever really see myself as a classroom teacher. But after graduating, realizing I wanted (needed!) to get far, far away from my usual, and ending up as a volunteer English teacher in rural Sri Lanka, I came into something that felt somehow…right. Maybe I could say: somewhere between the silence of the zendo and the chatter of the charity pitch…there was a space and I fell right into it. 😛
How about y’all?