One and one is eleven? (My family and other questions)
The first day of my new life came ineluctably like fate. I went into the Upper intermediate Serbian class and I introduced myself in Serbian. ‘Hello! My name is Sneza, and I am an English teacher, I have been..(oops, old habits die hard, correct yourself!) I am also a Serbian teacher. So I teach English and I teach Serbian as well. I teach these two languages!’ I could hear myself talking very fluent Serbian and the part of my brain in charge of teaching Serbian played its part brilliantly. The idle part of my brain remembered a funny episode with my little son.
Last year he broke something while he was playing football. When I asked him what happened he started telling one of his tales, he is good at that. And in the middle of it, he turned his innocent eyes to me and asked: ‘ Mum, am I lying now?’
That was exactly the question I wanted to ask somebody that day! I told the students I was a Serbian teacher but that day I definitely didn’t feel like one. My brain assured me I was in the right place but my heart said ‘no’ . I almost felt like an imposter. I didn’t feel I deserved the title. I felt there was some hard work yet to be done before I could call myself a Serbian teacher.
In the months to come I tried hard to be a good Serbian teacher. I sometimes even asked my daughter for help. She was an expert on Serbian grammar in our family as she had just passed her entrance exam and she excelled in Serbian - 100% score.
I must digress a bit by telling you how she changed from hating Serbian classes in primary school to considering studying Serbian language when the time comes to choose. What does it take to make Serbian somebody’s favourite subject? Nothing more and nothing less than an inspiring teacher, and that exactly happened to my daughter. A friend of a friend agreed to help my daughter to prepare for the entrance exam. And what a Serbian teacher she was! It took her some six weeks to perform a miracle! Her approach was fabulous, her explanations were so clear and memorable and she knew everything about the language. I wish I had sat somewhere at the back of the room just to take notes!
Knowing what a good Serbian teacher with a university degree knows and being fed up with my questions, my daughter asked me one day: ‘ Mum, why do you teach Serbian at all when you don’t know it?’ After a couple of moments of silence during which my brain was desperately searching for a good explanation I slowly explained: ‘Well, you see, I am an English teacher, I studied to become a teacher, I took a lot of exams and I have a lot of experience. I am also a native speaker of Serbian. As you see, I am a teacher and I am Serbian so I can be a Serbian teacher.` I congratulated my brain on its great work. My daughter just muttered in the irritating way teenagers sometimes speak. `Yea, yea, yea like one and one is eleven?`. Her reply made my brain think hard, again.
Is it enough for somebody to be a native speaker to become a teacher? If the answer is yes, then there are 7 billion teachers in the world, all being native in different languages. So the answer here must be no. What does it take to be a teacher? Being a native speaker, a university diploma, a crash course in teaching, a piece of paper or desire and ability to light fire in your students`s eyes? (to be finished tomorrow...)