Teaching English as a Foreign Language can be a case of the blind men and the elephant, because it can mean so many different things in different contexts: someone who teaches children in Asia and someone who taught adults in Latin America (as I did), will have much different ideas about what it means to Teach English as a Foreign Language. Even the name is a matter of debate. Do you know the difference between Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and Teaching English as a Second Language? Because if you were ever wondering about the difference, or even if you weren't, there is someone out there waiting to tell you at length. And also why these words must always be capitalized, which I am going to not be doing from here on out.
But for me, do you know what the best part about being an English as a second language teacher was? I was a celebrity. My most prosaic of skills, something that I take for granted like talking and walking, was suddenly something that made me employable. I had an identity at parties. Remember that French foreign exchange student from high school, and wondering why all the girls were cooing over him? Suddenly, because I knew that only was an irregular adverb, I was that guy. The type of corporate executives who would normally only deign to notice me long enough to tell their butler to release the hounds were suddenly fixing tea and enthusing about Megadeth or The Wu-Tang Clan with me. If I was to go up to a pretty goth girl and suggest I come over to her house on a Sunday and play 20 Questions with her, she would probably not even laugh at it. But, when I was teaching, I was being asked to do this. And getting paid for it.
This might sound superficial. And a little bit exaggerated: it was more markers and grammar than rock 'n roll. And that tea was mostly good at keeping me awake after having before morning light rides in wet clothing on the Santiago Metro. But: the truth is, something that I had taken for granted suddenly became a key for people. Just my presence and some well-timed trivia could open up a world for people, and I felt my life shimmered just a little.
And in the United States? The other day, I called someone about maybe, possibly, being a conversation partner or helper in some volunteer capacity, and they responded that with college now in session, they were kind of full of volunteers at the moment, but maybe I could call them back next week. I am back to being non-special again, and I am staring at the pumpkin and mice that are being an English speaker in an English speaking country.
But, of course, like the sailors of yore, I have signed up for a hard life, and one which, when I find the courage to leave my home port again, will lead me to...more adventure, of a type I have described here, only totally different.