On Becoming a Teacher

Autumn in Moscow

The school year is about to start. In Moscow, several schools located near the Grand Mosque will be closed this Friday, September 1st, because of a Muslim festival. As for me, I can’t wait to see my English and French students again. There’s so much to do this year!

I qualified as an historian and a History teacher 15 years ago, upon graduating from the MSU. Some of my unimates immediately went on to teach, and a few have shown spectacular results as tutors. My English friend Ian who I worked with at the BBC in Manchester asked me once if I thought about teaching. He was sure I would make a great teacher. I disagreed. At the time I was all about Journalism and Literature, but that wasn’t the reason why I refuted the idea then. I was convinced that my task as a teacher had to go beyond explaining the theory and giving a bit of practice. I didn’t feel I was ready to share the lessons of life or profession.

When I started teaching in 2013 (and at first I did teach History – in English!) it was a completely different thing. I work privately, both with small groups and individual students, which allows to provide attention to every single person. You see, it was never enough for me to just share my erudition. I have always thought of a teacher as a role model, and by 2013 I had felt ready to serve as one. Today it’s hugely pleasing to hear the students want to be like me, to know the languages like me, etc. However, this also increases my responsibility, and we thus depend on each other. We grow together. I suppose, if anyone manages to forge this kind of relationship with their students, he or she creates endless opportunities for both professional and personal growth.

With each passing year, though, the students become older, and eventually they leave. I have got a few school graduates this year, so I really hope I will be able to teach them something valuable (that is, apart from English!). It will be sad to see them go, but this is life. We have to let go of something to have the new doors open.

Ralph W. Emerson said that a teacher is someone who is capable of making difficult things easy. While I entirely agree with him, this isn’t about an actual subject of teaching. Students, both young and old, will always ask questions about life; or perhaps a question about learning will be, in fact, a life question. Today I know that I wasn’t ready to teach in 2006 because I hadn’t yet figured out how to make complex things in life easy. Now I do; that’s why I teach.