When students snog in lessons (yes, it's been known to happen) or wander out of the room to smoke the cigarette tucked behind their ear, I repeatedly ask myself why I choose to teach English in the state system.
But then all I need is something small like the comment left by Andrea Deidda on this blog yesterday and I remember why teaching can be so rewarding.
Andrea and I met back in the summer of June 2006. He was 19 and in the last year of high school and I was teaching English to him and his classmates for two hours a week for three weeks. As with most students taught by Italian teachers who can't pronounce words in English properly and don't have a wide vocab, they had a low level of the language. But they were keen and they were disciplined. We made progress.
My last lesson with a group always follows the same format: talking in English about dreams and plans for the future and discussing inspirational quotes. Italian kids don't get career advice, don't do work experience and no one tells them that the world is full of opportunities for them to grab. Their chocolate brown eyes should be alive when they talk about the future not dulled with sadness because they've only got a life of unemployment on the island to look forward to.
I always tell them that unless people know what they want, no one else can help them. My students hesitently begin sharing their hopes and dreams for the future and, together, we discuss what they need to do to get there. In Andrea's case, he shyly said he wanted to become a foreign correspondent but he didn't think he'd get there because he didn't have any contacts. He didn't know I used to be a journalist so I explained how I started out writing for my local paper when I was 15 and even got a stint working for a French regional newspaper when I was 17, thanks to my French teacher knowing how desperate I was to become a journalist. I told him if he started writing for local papers while he was still a teenager, by the time he graduated he would already have a huge 'bagaglio' of experience which would impress future employers.
The article Andrea referenced in his comment was written two years ago when he was still 19. He regularly writes for the paper now. If you understand Italian, then you'll know how special his talent is. Not many 19-year-olds can write like he does with no formal training.
I've finished teaching in high school for this year but I can't wait to be back next year.