It was a usual first day: the students could not grasp the idea of the classes having started and the teachers were all anxious to meet new groups or to see the students from the previous year. Pleased with my relaxing time-table, I spent an utterly enjoyable morning drinking coffee and planning a class with the group of intermediate students, whom I had taught before and was looking forward to seeing them in the afternoon. Six boys and five girls, all in their late teens, cheerful, noisy, not very hard-working, and as all teenagers, very independent with a strong sense of personal space and a typical “we-do-not-need-any-preaching-teachers-to-stick-noses-in-our-life” attitude.
For our first class that term I had chosen a communicative activity aimed at fluency and focusing on the idea of the first experience. I had written a long list of “firsts” starting with the first trip abroad or the first childhood friend and finishing with quite personal “first kiss, first date, first craze” options, which I had very little hope to discuss successfully and had only included them for the sake of prolonging the list. My idea was to distribute the handouts, give time to choose three points and invite my students to share their reminiscences and ideas with a group, which would possibly lead to a discussion on the important components of a successful first class.
When I entered the room, my students seemed happy to see me and started chatting immediately, interrupting one another, asking questions about our course prospects and other details. Gradually, we proceeded with the activity and they seemed quite pleased with the idea. We started talking and then something absolutely wonderful happened.
One of the boys, the shyest and the least talkative, suddenly looked up at me and said that he would talk about his first kiss. At this point my mouth fell widely open. And I could not believe my ears. But Alex definitely meant it. He told the group about the day when he had taken his first girlfriend to the School Prom, how they had been dancing, and how he could remember the song Don’t Speak by No doubt and how enchanting the night had been, and how sweet and soft had been her lips. I listened to him and was afraid to destroy the mysterious spell that made my least talkative student speak so much on such a personal issue. There was no laughter, no jokes; they were all listening very carefully, sometimes smiling kindly and reassuringly.
Suddenly, it came as a revelation to me that that was one of the most important moments in my life. What happened proved that I was a good teacher who had managed to create the atmosphere of trust, respect and warm emotional climate. They trusted me and they trusted one another. They even asked for a homework – to write a paper of one of that “firsts” topic I offered. When I returned to the staff room, I was overjoyed and told my colleagues immediately about the experience. But they did not seem to be impressed. Some smiled politely, but some said it was a trifle. I agreed that it was, but it was a trifle that mattered such an awful lot, that resulted in my desire to take a master degree program and pursue the career in teaching.