I recently began a new regular interview series. There are always lots of “hot spots” around the world — places where there are natural disasters, political upheavals, etc. And English teachers can be found in most of those places. If you are an EFL/ESL teacher in one of those areas, please let me know.
Today, Ayat Tawel, an English teacher in Egypt, has agreed to answer a few questions:
Can you tell me a little about yourself — how and why did you end up being an English teacher, where do you teach, what do you like about it?
I’m Ayat, an EFL teacher from Egypt. I have always liked being a teacher since I was a small kid !! When I was a child, I used to act like a teacher at home when I’m alone in my room! It seems that I was born to be a teacher!! As a student, I have always had good relationships with my school teachers and especially my English Language teachers. I started learning English when I was 5 years old. All my English teachers liked me, as I was committed to my work , and I’ve seen them as my idol ! That’s why I have always wanted to be an English Language teacher. After graduating from the faulty of arts , English Language and literature Department in which we don’t study special courses to do with teaching English, I applied for a diploma in applied linguistics in which I took courses in teaching methods, SLA, testing and others to qualify me to be a teacher ! I insisted on being a teacher though I was qualified for many other good jobs!!
I have been teaching for more than 10 years now. I have taught all levels and age groups. I’ve taught general English, conversation and business English courses. Now, I teach Young learners in a private Language School. The most important thing I like about it is that it’s a job to enjoy !! My main interest as an EFL teacher is enhancing creativity in the classroom. I work hard to make my students enjoy learning the language in an authentic way & I enjoy it too !!!
What were your experiences and feelings during the Egyptian Revolution?
The Egyptian revolution was unexpected at all. It started with a Facebook group criticizing some aspects of corruption in Egypt. After some time, and specially after The Tunisian Revolution, they decided to go out in 25th January and say it aloud, but peacefully, that there must be a change and corruption should be stopped. Many people thought it would be just for one day and the government will suppress them and punish them for saying it aloud !! But their extreme courage and strong will were greater than any other power !!
We spent nights of great fear and terror in the first days of the revolution when the police started using tear gas bombs in all places around the country to stop anybody from going out or joining the proteters in Tahrir square !! They even started shooting people and fire spread in many places, esp. police stations and prisons. We have never witnessed such conditions in the recent history of our country !! After the police left their places and prisoners were released, all young men in all families all over the country went out at night to spend the whole night protecting the neighborhood with all simple self defence tools such as wooden sticks, knives ,…..etc. As there were curfew hours, we spent most of the time at home, but with no means of communication except some landlines and no media except TV and some newspapers as the government stopped all cell phone services and all internet connections. Besides, some TV channels were not honest enough in showing the reality of what’s going on out there!!!
Despite all these events, I had a special time on those days taking some online courses (after internet connections were back) with EFL teachers from all over the world. I had soo many friends sharing every moment with me, supporting me and giving me a nice unforgettable experience. They made the first big PD change in my life with the revolution!!
After the ousting of the ex-president, I joined all the Egyptians going out to Tahrir square !! This day will be engraved in my mind forever as I saw all classes and ages of the Egyptian people going out with brooms, gloves, rubbish bags, and all necessary tools to clean Tahrir square and all places around, celebrating their great victory with loud speakers playing all wonderful songs of the revolution!! We were actually cleaning all wastes of the previous regime !!
How has the Revolution affected your students?
My students were depressed as they spent the whole mid-year vacation at home in great fear, watching the news all the time at home. However, they came back to school fully knowledgeable about all the events and political changes that happened. They had memories of totally new experiences !!
In the English class, they kept asking about the English equivalent of words they became familiar with in Arabic such as; curfew, tank, regime, constitution, tear bombs, martyrs, armed forces.
They were very proud of themselves. They had greater respect to the Egyptian flag which was with every person in these days. They organised camapaigns on FB to clean the streets of their neighborhood as a way of showing their love to the country and showing that they can do something. I think their sense of responsibility is getting better as they have confidence they can make a change in their future and in the future of their country. They are more aware of politics and more interested in following the news.
A very common effect of the revolution on my students is that they asked for changes in the school as they wanted to change their uniform, class schedule, canteen prices, school playgrounds, ..etc. They wrote a paper with their suggestions and submitted it to the school owner !! I would like here to quote David Deubelbeiss (2011)’s words that it’s all to “Teach how the powerless should meet power and teach that every person counts.”
What do you think is going to happen in Egypt in the coming months and years?
I think in the coming months people will gain more awareness of their rights. There might be some economic problems, but people are working hard to overcome any obstacles that might appear and things are already getting better.
In the coming years, All the people and specially young people will have a big role in the political life. I think we will have more democracy and all decisions will be the people’s. The wide gap between the rich and the poor will hopefully get less. I hope all our economic and social conditions get better. A revolution is an everyday fight so we have to keep fighting all kinds of corruption and remains of the old regime. People’s attitude and sense of responsibility should keep on changing positively too !!