Cool People I’ve Met Via TEFL: E And A

I met E when his sister, a colleague of mine, mentioned that he was looking for English lessons. After a bit of a slow start, I wound up providing lessons to both E and his wife A, together, sometimes at their home and sometimes at a local coffee establishment. Our lessons started out with conversation, usually based on a reading, and ended with some discussion about vocabulary. As husband and wife with the same native language, I’m sure it was strange for them to speak to each other – with me present – in English, but I think they also enjoyed challenging each other (who can come up with the best example or most challenging word).

We discussed a number of social issues, including a reading A brought from The European Dream; other topics included Slovak national hero Janosik and the history and myths surrounding him as well as different topics connected to way of life, national identity and customs.

More important than the interesting content of our lessons though was that A and E became friends. They made me feel like a grown-up by attending my very first solo Thanksgiving dinner, making it a tri-national event. We met at the Christmas market and they introduced me to some of the local specialty foods and, ahem, drinks.

More than once they invited me and other guests to meals, and went out of their way to explain what each dish contained and to assure me that it was fine not to eat it if I was concerned, one time even saying “This isn’t a Slovak food, so it doesn’t even matter if you don’t like it!”

I make it sound as if our relationship was based solely on food! In a sense, yes, we did tend to meet over either a meal or coffee, but I don’t think this is so unusual (or maybe it’s because I’m American). However, the nice part of the relationship was the exchange we had. It was also nice that a couple of locals who really had no obligation to opened their home and lives to me. There are situations where it can get awkward socializing with people who also pay you for lessons, or where people’s social interest in a native speaker transpires to be an interest in conversation practice. Not here. Despite the different challenges of TEFL, it’s friendships like these that make it worthwhile.