“Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?” ― Garth Nix, Sabriel
I always go early to work and I always wait outside my room because I hate being late. That also gives me the pleasure and the opportunity to chat with one or two students that most of the times also arrive earlier.
Just before Christmas, I was outside a classroom waiting to go in and start my class. That day, N.T. ( one of my students) was there and we started chatting. He was telling me about his dreams, his expectations and how he was unsure about the studies he had chosen. One thing led to another and I started telling him how sometimes it is life itself that leads the way for us and helps us find ours. So, I told him my story.
My dream was to become an art historian. So, in the beginning my studies were mostly oriented towards that goal. I was not really thinking of being involved in teaching. For some reason, I was afraid of it. I thought of it instead, as something that I could do but not for ever. Something that would give me an income for some time until I could make a permanent income from art history.
So, I went to London, did my Diploma and then my MA in Art History at Goldsmiths (at the same time, I also taught at a Community College) and when I came back to Greece, I started working again as a language teacher and at the same time, I started networking with young artists in my home town. Everything seemed to go according to the plan ( I managed to have an income so I could build a career in a more challenging sector, in the arts) .Until I made a mistake….
A suggestion from a friend to invest in a language school seemed initially as a good opportunity that could give me financial independence , which I needed at the time. I had some money and I had to borrow the rest of it and work hard to get it back. I figured that I went on with that plan, I could combine the two : art and a business plan in a different sector. Inexperienced as I was, I went ahead with it…unfortunately.
It turned out though, business was not in my…blood!No, I wasn’t cut out to have a business. I also soon realised my partner and I did not share the same vision about how the school should be run. Five years later, I decided that enough was enough and I sold my part of the business. But there were…casualties : the stress had a serious toll on my health and my dream about my art history career had been abandoned in the meantime.
What seemed though, as a difficult and possibly self-destructive period, ended up being very apocalyptic to me in several ways. The partnership was difficult indeed, but I knew that I had taken the right decisions in several matters. I always made sure that there a ‘homey’ atmosphere for both students and teachers. The teachers functioned as part of a small community with a lot of love and respect. They were paid well and their opinion mattered. The students (mainly adults, University students and professionals) enjoyed coming to us not only for the quality of the lessons but also because of the friendly atmosphere. So, I knew I had done something right.. Most of all, I realised that being in a lesson made me forget every problem, it relaxed me. It was my consolation. Once I started teaching, my fears, my anxieties, all vanished miraculously . I found comfort and security when I was teaching! It just felt right ! That meant a lot to me at the time..
When I sold my part of the school, I never looked back. I never went back, could not see how it changed. All the staff quit also after me. There was nothing there for me.
After that chapter closed permanently for me, what I realised was mainly that teaching was not just a kind of comfort. I loved it. This was what helped me come out of a difficult period. I stayed home for the next 2,5 months, time I needed to rest and think, and then I went back to University. First, a PGCE in teaching adults and then a new MA, this time in Education.
It seems that some of us have to go a long way to find our way, even though the right path is there, in front of us. Even with all the detours though, this whole adventure remains very rewarding and it was worth every minute of it!