“Yesterday’s schoolboy will not teach anything”, “you cannot reach Advanced without living abroad”, “top knowledge is given only in top universities” – why all these are stereotypes, says Maxim Streletsky, a teacher at the Skyeng online school.
Change five teachers and not be able to connect two words in English
Yes, I’m 22, but I’ve been teaching English for three years now and have taught over 3,000 lessons. I am a teacher, although I had no intention of becoming one. This is how it usually happens: first, you help your friends and neighbors, schoolchildren, nothing serious – and suddenly you realize that you like it. And the stereotype that only women teach is just a stereotype.
I understand how much a good teacher means, because I changed five at school, but I still could not connect two words in English. But then I got to the right teacher – and everything changed: she inspired me to study.
My classmates and I were teenagers, Olga Stepanovna is already retired, but she showed by her example how cool it is to learn new things. She taught us that a teacher is not a machine, but a person. She was not afraid to admit that she did not know something, she laughed at our jokes, found new American books.
Of course, learning English in Chicago is easier than in Kremenets, where I lived. Immediately only you, your teacher and your computer communicate in English. But it is possible: a province, a no-name university – all this does not matter if there is a desire and a goal.
You don’t have to live abroad to speak the language
I also thought before: you must definitely go abroad, and then I realized that a small town and a university are even a plus. Here they can pay attention to you, unlike huge branded universities, in which no one means anything to anyone. And besides, American volunteers came to us, there were conversation clubs, the teachers spoke excellently – I never felt slighted.
I got to Skyeng when I was in my second year – and I hadn’t taught online before. I studied with students in a cafe or at their home. It was a completely new environment for me and a new approach. Well, and panic, of course! What if I forget something? What if your voice trembles? Here the adaptation helped a lot: I had a workshop, a test lesson with a methodologist, which went off with a bang – and only then did the first student.
In general, the nerves of the young teacher help: the more you get nervous, the better you prepare for the lesson. And then very quickly and the fear disappears. In addition, my first student Anton was very capable – he grasped everything on the fly, and this gave me confidence. By the way, we worked with him for a long time in the end – and got to the level to which he was striving.
I still remember my first lesson. Now I have a good desk and a comfortable chair, but then I put my laptop on a pile of shoe boxes. It was awfully uncomfortable! So it quickly became clear: everything should be grown-up, even though you just come to work in another room. Now I keep an eye on everything: even so as not to sit up and do push-ups between lessons.
I earn enough to rent an apartment in a big city
Without coffee in the morning, this is already an attribute of the first lesson. I wake up at 9, shower, breakfast, coffee. Then the first lesson at 11, and the last one may end at 10 pm, and in between there are a couple of breaks. I teach 4-5 lessons a day, and then I can still check the student’s essay at two in the morning so that I can meet in the classroom in the morning and sort it out.
Now I have about 20 students and I earn enough to rent an apartment in a big city in Ukraine. In the summer and New Year’s holidays, there are “seasons” when students arrange vacations for themselves, then the income, of course, is slightly less. I reached this level because I wanted to make good money and was ready to work. And the students themselves motivated not to stop there.
Each lesson is like the first one for me: I carefully select a topic for each student, watch homework, build the course of the lesson in my head. My students have different hobbies, different language problems. I explain blockchain to one in a lesson, and discuss Guy Ritchie’s “Gentlemen” with another. Now I not only teach, but also work as a proofreader – I want to participate in the development of lessons.
The biggest problem in learning is “English for myself”
I enjoy watching people develop. I like to go to the goal with them. With one student, we have already 264 lessons together: she came to prepare for an interview in English – and in the end she got a job. And now we have taken a special course on the platform: Irina works in a pharmaceutical company, she often needs specific vocabulary.
When the disciples say “it’s all thanks to you,” I say, “no, it’s thanks to you and our teamwork.” The biggest challenge in learning is English for myself. You should always look for goals – well, at least watch the same “Breaking Bad” in the original, and then you will practice in a completely different way. Well, to treat mistakes with optimism: read instead of housewife – it’s okay, just a reason to smile.
My age makes it easy to adapt to a student, I have no idea “I am a teacher, I am always right.” True, I am against it when they want to switch to “you” – I prefer to keep friendly-formal relations. I try to be flexible, understand trends, choose the latest materials. Now many students are interested in IT, artificial intelligence, and I myself began to study all this. Received a second education in applied linguistics.
I am glad that I have an interesting and challenging job, where you should never stop. In teaching, you will not get away with what you learned at the university. Therefore, next to me now lie a bunch of books in English, in order to go from Advanced to Proficiency. I watch TV shows and copy accents, read the Guardian, go to the British Council, take Cambridge IT courses and go to conferences. And I communicate in English – with those American volunteers whom I met as a schoolboy.
And if suddenly the students say “yes, I will never learn English”, I let them listen to the recording of their speech in the first lessons. And I say: “Well, if you don’t see the difference, I am powerless.” This is usually enough. You have to understand that there is no limit to perfection, there is no such thing that you have learned 500 words – and it will be easy in the future. No, it will always be difficult. But it’s worth it – because before you thought it was difficult even to say “My name is Masha”.
My advice to a novice teacher: do not be afraid of something “not to know”, this is natural. Always be interested in what the student wants and what his emotional state is. Sometimes a student comes overwhelmed after a hard day at work, and at such a moment it is important to show that learning English is fun and interesting.