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Confessions of an English Teacher in Paris – First Impressions

Mr P was a man, obviously, in his mid to late thirties, possibly a little more. That may seem inconsequential now, but at the time he was likely almost twice my age, and so yes, he did seem older than me, even if most of my students were even older than he was.

Perhaps age is not the best way to start a post or the best thing to describe people with, but then again, everyone was older than me back then. I was consequently always looking for ways to essentially tell people what to do while avoiding that glare of ‘who do you think you are’ beating down my neck. Time was of the essence because I had to establish the context for any exchange at the very first meeting.

I tried many things. A firm manly handshake, looking them straight in the eye. Tailored, well-fitting suits to look just that extra bit je ne sais quoi. Tying my long wild hair into a tight well placed bun, kind of old school ma’am style. Even carrying a posh looking briefcase into every class.

And then one day I dropped it all.

One day I discovered I could teach. And that I could teach well. That my students were actually embracing the madness of my methods and asking for more. I realised that I no longer had to hide behind a charade of external appearances and first impressions. I was there to teach and that was what I was going to put to the front. It was what I was going to let shine.

And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

(This started out as a story about Mr P. But there you have it. At times we do get sidetracked. I will just have to save that story for another time!)


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