What Teaching in Switzerland Has Taught Me

Zug, Switzerland

This August, on the 9th, will mark my first year since I came to Switzerland to live and work here. I plan to throw a small party to celebrate the occasion!

Well, there are so many things that have changed in my life in general, like adapting to a new country (which was very fast and smooth, thanks to the wonderful people), a new way of life, but I have realized that my teaching has changed a lot as well.

Here are some of the changes I have noticed:

* I have only taught Greek people in the majority, as I taught in Greece previously, in a small city not so diverse. Here I teach English to people from all over the world, which is my favourite thing: incorporating culture in the classroom in practice – real people who share their stories about their beautiful countries and cultures, food, art, history – you name it! They are so interested in learning about my background as well (they like the combination of Canada and Greece) and they come up with great questions and comments, which get them thinking about the next ones. And they learn English in the process too!

Vicky teaching a group of enthusiastic youngsters about Greek Christmas!
  • I am now officially in the shoes of the language learner. With English as my first language and Greek as a near second (I started learning it properly at 8 years old), I also speak satisfactory Italian and have a pretty good understanding of French. Living in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, I have decided to learn German out of respect for the people and country who have so warmly welcomed me, but also because I would like to learn another language and improve as every day goes by. I still make a lot of mistakes, learn from them and most importantly I have to practice what I have been preaching all this time – try to think in the language you are learning. Which is easier said than done, I must admit! I do come out with some really awkward-sounding sentences as I sometimes translate from English in my head. And then I remember what I have been insisting on with my students these ten years: try not to translate and try to think in the target language.
  • Switzerland is a great place for professional development for teachers of English. There are so many great workshops, seminars and conferences going on everywhere. For teachers who constantly want to improve and be informed and see great speakers, it is essential to keep up with these events. This is what I used to do when teaching in Greece and here I can continue, given the endless opportunities of such events. Another positive point is that Switzerland borders with countries where great conferences are held, so in the future I look forward to attending events in these countries as well.
Zurich
Zurich

I am very excited to be living and teaching in this beautiful country! I am even more excited to see what more I will learn here… and when I will be able to speak German well … and at the prospect of many other things to come. Danke viel mal, Schweiz! (“Thank you very much, Switzerland!” in Swiss German.)

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18 thoughts on “What Teaching in Switzerland Has Taught Me

  1. What a great post, Vicky! It’s awesome that you have the unique opportunity to put yourself in your students’ shoes and understand the challenges and processes they are going through as language learners. I wish you another great year of teaching and I look forward to hearing more about your experiences as an English teacher.

    1. Hi Elle!
      So nice to see you here – thank you very much for reading and for your wonderful comments. I am glad you liked it. This year is so interesting for me, as I am learning so much. I am learning about people from every corner of the earth, their countries, their traditions and I am also learning many things about myself – weaknesses and strengths I did not know I had!
      I am very happy to be a teacher and very glad to have moved to this country.
      Thank you very much again, Elle!
      Kindest regards and many thanks,
      Vicky

  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences in Switzerland, Vicky. Viel glück mit Deutsch (is that right?) 😉

  3. That’s a great post Vicky – and makes the point that the best teachers are themselves learners very eloquently!
    Zug! One day I must tell u about the casino and the bells there!

    1. Hi Jeremy!
      What an honour to have you on my blog – thank you so much! Thank you for your wonderful comment.
      We are so fortunate to be in a profession where we constantly learn (if of course, we want to improve and be good models for our students). I love that!
      I would love to hear your stories about Zug, about the casino and the bells!
      Do you Skype? : )
      Kindest regards and many many thanks,
      Vicky

  4. Εσείς με μάθατε να μη μεταφράζω κάθε λέξη αλλά να προσπαθώ να καταλάβω από όλο το κείμενο ή, έστω, από την πρόταση. Αρχικά μου φαινόταν αδιανόητο. Αυτό το “every single word” που μας βάραινε από μικρά, σε άλλο “συνάδερφο” -πρρρρ! αγωνιώ να ΜΗ γίνω έτσι ποτέ!- έπρεπε, και τελικά επετεύχθη, να καταρριφθεί!

    Μια ερώτηση: Σε ποια γλώσσα, απ’ όλες, σκέφτεσαι; Και μια… απειλή: θα συνεχίσω να γράφω ελληνικά, για να σε βάζω στη διαδικασία εξάσκησης! χαχαχαχαχαχαχα!

    Φιλιά πολλά (και στις δυο σας, καλέ!) 😉

  5. Καλημέρα Μαριλία μου, από την ηλιόλουστη Ελβετία!
    Ευχαριστώ και πάλι πάρα πάρα πολύ που διάβασες το μπλογκ και άφησες και ωραίο μήνυμα! Προχθές διάβαζα το δικό σου μέχρι τις 1 η ώρα τα ξημερώματα – τέλειο!
    Όσο για τα αγγλικά, εγώ θα έλεγα να αφήσεις και σχόλιο καμιά μέρα στα αγγλικά – είμαι σίγουρη ότι μια χαρά θα γράφεις.
    Στην πλειοψηφία, σκέφτομαι στα αγγλικά, που είναι και καλό, για τη δουλειά μου, το μπλογκ μου και διάφορα άλλα που γράφω, αλλά είναι ταυτόχρονα και κακό, γιατί στα γερμανικά προκύπτουν κάτι αλλόκοτες φράσεις ώρες-ώρες, αφού κάνω αυτό που λέω τόσα χρόνια στους μαθητές να μην κάνουν: μεταφράζω από τα αγγλικά στα γερμανικά. Καλά να πάθω όμως, γιατί τώρα καταλαβαίνω πόσο δύσκολο είναι να μην το κάνεις αυτό! Τώρα πραγματικά καταλαβαίνω όσους διδάσκω. Κι επίσης δεν κάνει καλό και στα ελληνικά μου, τα οποία μπορεί γραπτά να είναι καλά ας πούμε, αλλά έχουν γίνει ένα μίγμα ηπειρώτικης και αγγλικής προφοράς…. ένα θαύμα!
    Ευχαριστώ και πάλι που πέρασες από εδώ και θα τα ξαναπούμε σύντομα!
    Φιλάκια (και από τις 2 μας),
    Βίκυ

    1. Hi Carol!

      So nice to see you here!

      Well, my story is this: I had an English language school with my two sisters in Greece for ten years. We were doing very well and we loved every minute of it. Last year, my older sister’s husband was offered a permanent position here. Unfortunately and after a lot of discussion, insomnia and tears, we decided to close down the school – the crisis was also on its way so with my sister who was the DoS being away, it would not be a brave move to keep it running.

      I decided to come here after having researched a lot the educational system, which I love as it reminds me a lot of the Canadian system and I also love the country! I have been here on holidays before. And here I am! I love it here, I love my work, the people, the country, the art and culture everywhere around us…

      I hope to meet you soon, Carol. We are in the same country after all! See you in January, at the convention in Luzern (one of my favourite places in Switzerland)?

      Kindest regards,
      Vicky

  6. Hi Vicky,
    Thanks for sharing this.
    I was still keeping a hand-written journal and writing letters after my first year in Japan, which actually wasn’t all that long ago. It’ll be 13 years on the 22nd of this month. Amazing how things have changed in such a short time. Nevertheless, your post reminded me of my tenth anniversary in Japan. I posted about it here: http://liten.be//VX8XL
    I was delighted to read that your students are interested in you, and your multicultural upbringing. My students used to be interested in me too, and that’s why I posted things about myself on my blog. Increasingly, however, they aren’t so interested. Evidently, young people in Japan are increasingly uninterested in the world outside them. I hope we can change that.
    I also smiled when you admitted that it was difficult to practice what you preach. Me too. I can think in Japanese when I’ve acquired the Japanese required for the particular communicative purpose at hand. Otherwise, I often translate in my head first, or I utilise my knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary to help me express myself when I’m pushed beyond my competence. This is natural. I wonder if we shouldn’t perhaps stop telling our students to think in English, because I think perhaps they do, when they can.
    All the best!
    Michael

    1. Hi Michael!

      Thank you so much for your wonderful comment and for sharing your story. It is fascinating that other people around the world feel the same as I do, have the same language experiences and above all, love their work and the country they are living and working in. I also liked how you describe your experience of learning Japanese.

      I loved all three posts you wrote about your Japanese anniversary – they are so beautiful and I love how you write about details about your homes, the places you frequented when you first arrived….and I absolutely loved the pictures! Writing in such detail and taking photos of places and parts of your house means how much you love them, I believe. It is wonderful that you are so happy there! (Sometimes I hear bitter stories about people living in some countries and they go on living there. The first thing I ask them is if they have even tried to love the country they are in and my second one is why they continue staying there, if they do not like it.) I believe every country has its own beauty and it depends on us to become adjusted and love it.

      Thank you so much Michael for your comment and for sharing your beautiful three-part post on your first days in Japan, celebrating the anniversary of your arrival!

      Kindest regards and many thanks,
      Vicky

  7. I am an educator here in the United States and am extremely interested in moving to Switzerland to teach as well next school year. I have searched online and am completely stumped on how to transition to becoming an international educator. Would you mind assisting me? Thanks you 🙂

    Arlene Ovalles

    1. Hi Arlene!

      Thank you for stopping by!

      I wish you all the best in your new venture – Switzerland is a fantastic country with a great educational system. Would you like to e-mail me at vickyloras@yahoo.ca so we can discuss more extensively? I would be more than happy to help!

      Kindest regards,
      Vicky

    1. Hi James!

      Thank you for the link you posted – in fact, Ken Wilson and his blog have been the inspiration for my blog as well! I owe him a lot. Talk about coincidences, eh?

      Kindest regards,
      Vicky

  8. Hi Vicky,
    I am a Canadian French-educator and am very interested to teach in Switzerland. I have done some online search but I did find so many things about but nothing really helpful. Please, could you help me? Thanks so much.

    Dino

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