Want to know what it’s like to be an English teacher? See below.

Last night at 5:00pm, just when I was about to step into the classroom, my phone rang. Due to the random string of numbers I knew it was the Institute. I debated not answering. After all, I had a legitimate excuse, my class started at 5:00 and therefore I could be in class, even though I had technically not walked through the door yet. But then I thought that perhaps they were calling to offer me a class. One of my business classes ended on Monday, and the students told me they were going to request me again, so I thought perhaps they were calling for that.


“Abby, can you sub tomorrow from 8:30 to 11:00?” the secretary asked.

I don’t know why I said yes, but pretty soon I found myself in a two-hour battle with various secretaries from the institute trying to get them to send me materials. The work e-mail system is shaky at best, and the server is always down. so I called the secretary to have them send it to my personal address. This simple task resulted in the following conversation:

Me: “Mi correo es ah-kah-achay-ah-elay-elay dos arroba gmail.com” (My email is a-k-h-a-l-l-2 at gmail.com)

Secretary: “Que? No le entiendo. Mas lento. Ah-” (What I don’t understand. Slow down. A-)

Me: “Si, ah, kah….”

Secretary: “Ah-ah-kah…”

Me: “No! Hay solamente una ah. Ah-kah-achay-ah…”

Secretary: “Que? No le entiendo. No entiendo nada.” (What? I don’t understand you. I don’t understand anything.)

Me: (Getting peeved) “Ah, kah, achay-ah-elay-elay-dos arroba gmail.com”

Secretary: “Que? No le entiendo. Dame un segundo.” (What? I don’t understand. Wait a moment.)

Secretary 2: “Hello, please, Abby, your e-mail give it to me.”

And with the second secretary the above scene was repeated but even worse, because I could tell she wasn’t paying attention to me. She kept repeating my email like this: klla2 @ gmail.com which is not even close. I swear one time she thought the problem was that it was hotmail, not gmail. It was really hard for me to maintain my patience, but finally the neurons clicked and she repeated it back to me correctly. Then there was a problem with the famous e-mail server and they couldn’t send me the e-mail for one hour, and then complained that I wouldn’t be able to print it out, etc. It made my Friday evening very stressful and I was not looking forward to subbing for this class AT ALL. It was going to be a 30 minute ride on the metro and it was a kid’s class. The class list showed 17 8-11 year old boys. JOY.

But I tried not to think too much about it and went out with my friends and got to sleep at (kind of) a decent hour and it didn’t even seem so horrible to wake up at 6:45am. The metro ride down was pretty because it was early in the morning and the daily smog hadn’t settled in yet. I found the place despite being confused about Poniente vs. Oriente (will someone please teach my brain to distinguish those two words!?!?) and waited in my classroom for the rugrats to come in.

Halfway through the class, while we were shaking our sillies out and wiggling our waggles away, I realized something. I was REALLY enjoying this class. The boys were all relatively well-behaved and they were all nice to each other. I could tell they have a really good teacher because they knew a lot of vocabulary for their low level.

Then, right before the break we had a little Q & A session, first in English, then in Spanish so they could ask me harder questions. One boy shyly raised his hand and asked (in Spanish) “Have you ever been on TV?” I replied that no, although I had been in the newspaper. Then another one said, “Are you sure because you look exactly like this girl on this program.” “Yeah!” replied another, “Bailey from Zak and Cody.” “YEAH!” They all replied. Then they noticed my bag. It’s a disgustingly dirty LL Bean tote bag with my name on it. “LOOOOOOOK!” one yelled, “The Miss has her name on her bag! She MUST be a movie star! Miss you’re lying. You’ve been on TV.”

So despite several attempts to prove them wrong, twelve 8-11 year olds believe that Debby Ryan taught them English today. At least they’ll have something to brag about to the other boys at school.

I look exactly like her, don’t I?? (HA!)

So anyway, I guess the point of this post is two-fold. First of all, this situation reminded me why I teach English despite the fact that the administration at the institute is so disorganized and continually frustrates me to no end: the students. Also, it made me realize that sometimes when you think things are just plain going to SUCK, it turns out to be okay, maybe even fun. I need to try to remember that before spending so much energy getting frustrated.


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