The Joys of Confusing the Crap Out of Your Students

People keep asking me why I came to Berlin, so here goes. The condensed version.

Ultimately, I want to be a translator. I want to be in Germany long enough to have a good command of the language. Apparently, it’s hard to find enough clients to make a living when you first start out as a translator, so my plan is to get licensed to teach English. With that, hopefully I’ll be able to find some sort of job and not get kicked out of the country.

Why Berlin specifically?

I loved it when I came here three years ago. Also, the school is in Berlin. But mostly, I like it here.


It’s a British school called the Berlin School of English. It’s primarily a language school for people who want to learn English, but they also have a teacher training program which, so far, has been amazing.

Yes, it’s true. I’m going to a school where teachers are teaching me how to teach in a school.

I’m also one of two Americans in the program. There are a few people from other countries, but most of my classmates and teachers are from England. That means I’m hearing nothing but British English all day, Monday through Friday. I’ve decided to study them so I can replicate their accent when I go home.

I taught my first lesson on the third day of the program. I was extremely nervous. I probably got two hours of sleep and all day I kept going over and over my lesson plans, to the point where I wasn’t even seeing the paper when I read them. When it was time for me to teach, this is what happened:

I stood up in front of the board and said, “Da jia hao! Wo men xian zai shuo han yu!” I then drew this on the board.


I turned back to the class and said, “Ni men hui shuo yi diar zhong wen?” Then I waited for them to answer.


All of my students stared at me with wide, horrified eyes. The sheer “What the fuck is happening” was deafening.

I will treasure this memory forever.

After a few beats of silence, I smiled and said, “Just kidding. I just had to make sure you’re paying attention.” Then I began the lesson.

A classmate told me afterword that I seemed completely in control and comfortable in front of the class. That meant a lot to me, because I was actually terrified. I was scared that I would play my little prank, and the teacher observing me would be appalled. I was scared that during the feedback session, she would glare at me and say, “What the hell were you thinking?”

I did it anyway because I thought it was funny.

Again, priorities.

I wasn’t just afraid of the reaction to my joke. I was also scared that I wouldn’t be able to explain things well or that the students would get bored or that they wouldn’t want to talk and the room would be completely silent as they looked at me and expected something intelligent to happen.

None of that happened. I felt good about the lesson afterword, and my teacher and classmates all had very positive things to say about the way I handled the class. I’m so glad I chose to do this. I feel like, once this program is over, I just might make it as a not-terrible foreign language teacher.

This entry was posted in Living in Germany and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Joys of Confusing the Crap Out of Your Students

  1. Eric Salazar says:

    I’m so glad you are doing well in German!!! That is BEYOND hilarious! I would die if that was my teacher. You’ve got this. 😛

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