Where’s Her Medal? An EFL Teacher’s Decathlon.

Watching the great athletes compete in the summer Olympics in London, I wish there were gold medals for the rest of us. Teaching English calls for strength, endurance, and moments of brilliance. Where are our medals?

Let’s compare two days in the life of an Olympic decathlete and an EFL teacher.

Day 1. Olympian: 100 meters. Day 1: Our EFL teacher, Sarah in Buenos Aires has a quick sprint from the coffee stand, down six sets of stairs to the Subte, reaching it just as the doors close. The Olympian gets to sit down after his run, but Sarah can’t find an open seat.

Next comes the long jump. The English teacher flies past two students asking about tomorrow’s homework, one fellow teacher who wants her to substitute for his afternoon class, and a chatty receptionist to arrive in class with all her materials and two minutes to spare. Victory!

As for the shot put, Guillermo in her Fundamentals of English class may be a dull weight to others, but this teacher engages and motivates him to soar like an eagle.

In the high jump, Sarah’s intermediate English class pushes against gravity, as she provides a video to give authentic models, and students break into small groups to write scripts to continue story. Her mid-length 400 meter run is a stack of essays to mark in her 45-minute prep period. That’s a true mixture of speed and endurance.

Day 2. The Olympian begins with hurdles. Sarah is jumping her obstacles in her career by taking IDELT Online for her professional development. That means reading a journal article and writing a blog entry before her workday begins.

Her discus throw is planning a new activity for her English Fundamentals group. She is never content to just work through her textbook’s exercises. Today she assembles a bag full of role-play props, and it’s back to the Subte!

The pole vault and javelin throw are represented by two more students, Marta and Luis, catching fire in Fundamentals and leaving the class with a real feeling of progress.

Sarah’s long distant run is to keep planning, learning, teaching, and caring about students day after day, and month after month.

For all these reasons Sarah, our EFL teacher, deserves a gold medal in a ceremony in front of roaring crowds. Instead, she gets Marta’s shy smile of appreciation and Guillermo’s measurable progress. And you know, for Sarah and all her brother and sister EFL teachers, that’s an even better reward.