The Faculty of Philosophy, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki where I spent four years (Image taken from http://www.auth.gr)

First lessons, first lessons…. do I remember my first one ever? I sure do! I have not kept my lesson plan, or have any photos or any other things from that day – I just remember that I was 19 years old and a student at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece.

As a part of a course called Teaching in Secondary Education, we went several times to observe a high school class before we were actually asked to (gulp!) teach the kids. Imagine that our age difference was so small, I was 19 and the kids were 17. Thoughts that went through our heads? (We were a group of four who were going to teach individually on four consecutive days.) Will the kids like us? Will they think that we are too young to teach them? Of course, the students knew why we were there, but still… In addition, the school was in one of the most underprivileged areas of Thessaloniki and some of the kids were in gangs, some were taking drugs, which made it even harder.

I do not remember which coursebook we were using (perhaps I have all this material in Greece, I have to check next time I am there) but I do remember it was a lesson on graffiti. I was to do a listening task with them, which I thought I could expand into a speaking task as well. I have no recollection of anything else. The night before I did not sleep a wink – I was constantly getting up and looking at the book, practising what I would say and thinking the worst scenarios, that they would laugh at me. My clothes were hanging on a chair. I was going to wear a bright blue cardigan and jeans (it is so strange what our brain manages to keep as a memory!).

I went in the following morning to a group of twenty or so very chatty and hyper-energetic 17-year-olds and I was thinking “How will I ever get their attention?” so I suddenly blurted out “OK, who likes soccer?” They suddenly stopped talking and started shouting out only the names of their favourite teams and commenting later…in English! (Thessaloniki has three very popoular soccer teams, PAOK, Aris and Heracles). I was thinking, oh no, their teacher (who was sitting at the back) is going to be so disappointed I did not start immediately with the book (little did I know back then!). I slowly pulled them into the lesson with graffiti (I connected it to soccer, as the walls in Thessaloniki were covered with sometimes really beautiful graffiti related to soccer among others).

I cannot remember too many details and it is a shame I have not found my notes or plans of the day. The teacher liked how I managed to get their attention and the kids said they liked it at the end! I was a happy 19-year-old (and I learned successful teaching does not mean open the book to page 34 at the beginning of a lesson!) – I was so encouraged by this experience, that I started teaching as a private teacher after that.