When I start teaching a new set of students I write a few individual words on the board relating to my life; the idea being that they have to guess the question to the answer. It’s a nice GET TO KNOW YOU GAME (GTKG) to break the ice. In teaching books it’s called The Ice Breaker! I scrawl on the board in my spidery handwriting words like Bristol (Where are you from?); 23 (How old are you?); Leeds Utd (What’s your favourite football team). Admittedly, we’re talking trivial stuff, but one of my answers is OGLEY and it’s always the one nobody gets. I’m either a town, an English dish, the name of my son, or a drink. When I tell them it’s my name we all have a laugh. For about a second.
That’s what I do in Lyon. On the old TEFL treadmill again ten years since it started turning. I remember doing my first lesson all those years ago in Warsaw. Faces staring blankly back at me as I explain the present perfect: ten years later, those same puzzled expressions are still there. It’s good to know I still have it.
Teach, eat, run, few beers, speak a bit of French – that’s me at the moment. Neither over-enjoying myself, nor under-enjoying myself. It’s from experience that I know that getting over excited in the early days will inevitably lead to disappointment further along the line – when the thrill has gone. Best option is to save the excitement up until you’re confident nothing can go wrong. Learn the language; understand the people, the city, the customs, the culture. Don’t think you’re the master of city walking around beaming like a big know-all when you don’t even know how to order a baguette. Lie low until the time is right. You can’t cook pasta in cold water; you’ve got to get it up temperature, stoke it up, add the salt, season it. Only when it’s ready you can add your tomatoes and ham. And once you’ve topped it all off with a fancy garnish, then you can take your cap and cape and stride off through the streets on a glorious winter morning.