Cherished Memories: a TEFL Teacher’s Most Prized GiftOver the years that I taught English as a foreign language (TEFL) in Central America, Africa and Europe, I had students of all ages who were kind enough to give me little tokens of thanks at the end of the semester or year. I typically got candy, T-shirts, or souvenirs of the country, and once even a bottle of wine from a parent of one of my kindergartners (she knew I had earned it!). But the best gift I ever received was more of a memory, and to this day I still cherish it the most.
The gift I received was from a class I taught in Morocco. To convey the real significance of it, I should preface this story by saying that my year in Morocco was a learning experience in every sense. The classes I taught were large and made up mostly of teenagers, which made it tough for me to connect with the students at first, since I only had experience teaching small groups of adults. And although I loved the beautiful country, with its stunning architecture, deeply felt religion and passionate people, life in reserved Morocco was a major cultural adjustment after my years spent kicking back as a teacher in Central America. Completing my year-long teaching contract in Morocco was a challenge that left me with a major sense of accomplishment, but I wasn’t emotional about leaving until I got this gift.
Toward the end of my last semester there, one of my classes threw a little goodbye party for me, mixed with a birthday celebration for one of the class members. That in itself was a very touching surprise, and one of my most outgoing students, a graphic design major, took photos of the party as we ate cake, listened to music and generally goofed around. It was the kind of relaxed, fun atmosphere that I had wanted more of throughout the year, and I count it as one of my best days.
On the very last day of that particular class, the student who took the pictures presented me with a DVD she had made, using her design skills. We popped it the player and all watched her artfully edited creation. Flower-bordered photos of us laughing and having fun overlapped and faded in and out within a montage of heart-shaped graphics and inspirational words. Best of all, the video was dramatically set to a background track of I Will Always Love You, by Whitney Houston. The video was sugary-sweet and over the top, and I loved every minute of it!
The best presents are definitely the ones from the heart, and this emotional video from my student in Morocco made me realize that just because my students took a while to warm up to me, didn’t mean we hadn’t connected. The DVD was a gift that made all the challenges of the year worthwhile.
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