Today we are honored to share another guest post from Laura Beth Eschbacher, a freelance English teacher and translator living in Kleinbottwar, Germany. While recounting the beginning of her work as an English teacher, she gives us wisdom about friendship, life, and the ways we can celebrate beginnings and endings.
Just over a year ago, I began my first corporate teaching assignment at an automotive garage supply company near Stuttgart. I remember I dressed very professionally that morning and nervously made my first 1.5 hour commute by bus, train, and then by foot through the snow and gray sludge to their office building. There were two students in the group: a round-bellied, jolly German sales director with kind eyes and grown children; and a handsome, thirty-something jokester sales manager from Macedonia with a 5-year-old son and a wife who likes to shop.
Over time, I would discover that they were coworkers and best friends – the Black Forest Jägermeister and his comedic, fast-talking sidekick, both very professional and both very bad at English.
As we wrestled with grammar over the next year, my own teaching skills improved and I got to know them better. We fought the never ending battle of simple past versus present perfect: “Did you go hunting in Sweden, or have you gone?” In the Marketing chapter, I walked them downstairs to the storefront and we discussed the underlying messages of cardboard cut-out pinup girls holding radiator fluid and showcasing the latest windshield wipers. In the Sales chapter, they taught me about gross and net profits while I corrected their if-clauses: “If we hadn’t met this year’s target turnover, we wouldn’t have had such a big Christmas party.”
I learned that both are devoted family men. I learned that they look out for each other; if the sidekick forgets a name at a company event, the hunter comes to his rescue. If they go out to dinner with a customer, the hunter tries the food first to make sure it is pork-free for his Muslim buddy. If a coworker is chatting aimlessly away to one of them, the other walks past and says, “Don’t forget our important meeting in five minutes,” offering a perfectly rational excuse to interrupt the conversation.
Last Friday, on our one year anniversary as teacher and students, the sidekick broke the news to me that he was promoted within the company and is moving up to Düsseldorf in two weeks. “We have one more class, and you can say to me goodbye.” I asked them who will finish each other’s sentences in the future. The hunter replied gracefully that the promotion was a good opportunity and that he was happy for his sidekick, but he would now need a new colleague… and a new friend.
After a year of this group refusing to see any teacher other than me, we are now unsure whether they will continue the course.
I’ve heard from other teachers that you never forget your first students. These two fun-loving salesmen were my first corporate class. They were the providers of many a humorous Tweet quoting non-native speaker mistakes. They were an inseparable pair of best friends who thought I was a great teacher before I even thought I was a teacher. If they are starting new chapters now, perhaps it’s time I began one, too.
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