Number one for English language teachers

Anecdote: First test

Type: Anecdote

Inara Couto tells us about her memorable first day, back in 1978.

In 1978 I was 22 years old and had just come back to Brazil after 14 months in England, proudly holding my Cambridge Proficiency and RSA III certificates. After nervously and less than confidently undergoing a training course at one of the most prestigious language institutes in São Paulo, I was assigned a Level 1 evening class in one of their branches. I arduously strived to give decent classes to my 12 students, all of them older than I was at the time, and I fervently hoped they wouldn't suspect how insecure I felt a lot of the time. I fared quite well, actually, until the end of the course and the night of the final oral test.

The test was going to start at 9 pm, and during my 10 minute break at 8:50, I locked myself in the teachers' bathroom to go over the test questions again, since I really wanted to learn the questions by heart lest anyone should suspect I was a novice tester. The problem was, I actually locked myself in the bathroom. I simply couldn't get out! The bell rang at 9 pm and I could hear the noise and the voices in the halls as the students went to their rooms. I desperately tried to open the bathroom door, but when the noise in the halls subsided I realized that my students were already in our classroom waiting for me to formally test them while I was nowhere to be seen!

I heard the canteen lady's voice and asked for help as quietly as I could. However, she wasn't exactly a discrete person, and started shouting at the the top of her lungs:

'Inara's locked in the bathroom!', while I felt nauseated.

Shame had descended upon me! Soon enough the course director, the secretary and some teachers were outside the bathroom trying to get me out, and, to my horror, my STUDENTS gathered outside too, happily saying things like:

'Aren't we lucky! No test today!' and 'Don't worry, teacher (which is how Brazilians call their teachers)! We'll get you out at 10 o'clock!'.

All I could do was wait while someone looked for a screwdriver, feeling miserable and utterly stupid. The door finally opened, and my entire class was waiting for me outside, naughty smiles on their faces.

'Don't worry, teacher,' they said, 'we know you are human too!'

It was almost half past nine. Looking as dignified as I could, I sternly commanded:

'Let's start the test now! We'll stay here for as long as it takes!' and marched to the classroom, followed by my smiling students.

They all passed their test, which was over at almost 11 pm. True to Brazilian style, we all went out for a beer afterwards, and laughed the whole thing off.

I'm now 48 and have been working at the same institute for 26 years, as teacher, branch coordinator, teacher trainer and course designer. I haven't got myself locked in the bathroom since that night, but I often double check locks and hinges.

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