Aoife Hynes

Teach Enrich Empower

Toddlers and Teletubby Land (Po-Land)

New Year’s Eve 2017. I was watching fireworks burst over South Poland. This place was to be my home for 6 months.

There I was, a 20-year-old woman away from home for the first time. Of course, it was daunting. Three weeks earlier I was behind a petrol station till. After finishing my course, I searched online for positions. Then I was offered work in a kindergarten in Poland. I would be “Miss Aoife”, teaching 2-4-year olds. I had never taught before. They didn’t speak any English.

It was tough in the beginning. The most challenging part of teaching is learning to teach. I had to get used to the children as much as they had to adjust to me. To them I was a scary stranger speaking gobbledegook. They were tentative to try the language. And then there was an extraordinary change. It crept up slowly at first. A few children began to answer me, then others, confidence blossoming. At the end of 6 months they had come far. One child took to it like a duck to water and chattering in English at home too. Toddlers can show such intelligence it’s incredible.

Teaching offered wonderful opportunities, though it was a steep learning curve. I was challenged every step of the way. Whether it was a conference in Torun, parent-teacher meetings or organising Ireland Day I stayed on my toes.

“Being a TEFL teacher kicks open doors. It’s up to you to walk through them.”

It wasn’t always easy. Things go wrong. Toddlers throw tantrums, sometimes I swore they were possessed! Luckily, I didn’t suffer too much from homesickness. However, living abroad takes you far from friends and family. My brother completed his Leaving Cert while I was away. Family member’s birthdays were celebrated without me. And then my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Those times make Europe feel vast.

Despite this I have no qualms about my choice. The world is wide with too much to see in one lifetime. Friendships were forged, with people from across the globe. I can visit Poland and feel like I’m coming home. I picked up a small amount of a Slavic language. But the best part? Apart from the work? TRAVELLING. Eastern Europe was inexpensive and getting from one country to another was a veritable piece of cake. Within a month I had seen Slovakia, where I caught up with old friends, and Vienna, Austria, a city of childhood dreams. By Easter I was in Hungary and Czech Republic. Before the school year was out I had seen Belarus (my first foray beyond the EU). Never omitting Poland, herself. Krakow and Zakopane to the south; mountains, sheep’s cheese, hiking. The history in Warsaw. Torun with its medieval walls. Gdansk by the Baltic Sea and the Brobdingnagian castle at Malbork. Arty Poznan in the west. Drowning Marzana on March 21st.

Everywhere is distinct. So, once you have your TEFL Cert go see for yourself. Fall in love with customs or cuisine. Being a TEFL teacher kicks open doors. It’s up to you to walk through them.

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