How teaching young people helped me improve myself
Eight years ago I started teaching English in private lessons for kids. It was a desperate attempt to earn my living and escape from my financial tragedy, as it was a trend for bosses not to pay, back then in Greece.
I had been working in bad conditions for about four years since I was a student. My psychology was bad, I used to meet rude people at my job, my options in relationships were very poor. Only my best friend was an oasis for me. But I didn’t talk to her about my feelings and situation.
I used to change jobs one after another first because of bad payment and because of my poor performance, caused by my long depression. Everything was wrong back then, and when everything is wrong, you always find difficulties on your way. Now I know.
One day, when I went to the bank for a task in my job, I found a kind lady working there. She used to know my boss, so we always had a talk about things. One day she asked me if I had studied English and I said yes. Then she simply told me: “ Would you like to teach one of my sons?” At first, I was reluctant, as I had never thought about it. But then I said, sure why not! ( I always need some extra money to pay my rent)
So there I was, two days later getting in a kid’s bedroom to teach him English. I remember telling myself (you are a jerk, you are an impostor, how dare you teaching an innocent boy without being a teacher! You will get caught! Try to be the best ). In the meanwhile, the boy was looking at me in such an innocent way that made me feel even more terrible.
However the results were good, the boy loved me so his mum recommended me to a friend of hers. When I accepted the offer I was frightened. I lived in a small city and I was always thinking “ You will get in trouble”, “ You will get to prison”. But they wanted me. And this was I could pay me food and house. So I said yes.
The next school year I decided to say goodbye to the lie that I used to call “Job”. To make you understand how awful it was, my boss one day called me in his office to ask me if I had a personal problem or matter that worried me. I didn't have the courage to tell him that I didn't have money for a long time. And he owed me those that I had worked for. So I just said, “ So I just said, I am fine”.
It was my comfort zone. I had convinced myself that I could do no better in this period of time. I felt safe there. Now I can see how depressed and wrong I was.
Anyway, I had found my temporary solution, at least for the years to follow. I had found students to teach and they were a lot! I could not believe my eyes! As the months went by, I became more confident and sure about my work. I saw results not only in the grades but also in their psychology.
My favorite students were the shy and the reluctant ones. Those kids that didn't believe in themselves. I was dedicated to making them believe in their strong and weak parts of their personality. I remember one day that changed my life. It basically changed the way I used to talk to myself. And this changed everything.
I had a lesson with a teenage girl. She was extremely beautiful and kind. She had decided to start English lessons late, just one year before finishing school. And that made her feel that she was too late, that she was not enough, that she was useless. Probably this is what she could see in people’s eyes. She thought she was stupid, as all her classmates had already finished with this. But she hadn’t. I saw that her memory was weak. So I started encouraging her even to learn two words a day. I used to tell her 2 is more than 0. Two words a day make us 10 words a week. 10 words a week give us 40 words a month. 40 words a month is more than 0.
As the months passed and I saw results basically in her psychology and then in her performance in English, I saw a spark and a difference in her eyes. This spark was delivered directly in my soul and gave me a spark of a feeling I hadn’t felt for a long time. A spark that something new could start. A spark that I could do the same to myself. And then I thought “ Why the hell don’t you speak yourself this way too?”
So I started being the student of my life. I talked to myself as I was a student of mine, a kid that now started. I talked to myself positively no matter how good I performed in something, I focused on the right aspect.
Until then, honestly, I would never talk to anyone the way I used to talk to myself. I used to bully myself in my mind. “You will never make it”. “You have never made it, this is not going to be an exception”. “You always ruin everything, why would you do something good now”. “You know you will never be enough, no matter what you do, you are broken”. And the result of this behavior was a boss that asked me why I was always sad. The result was people talking to me angrily and vomiting all their psychological problems on me. The result of my negative inner dialogue was negative.
The question is: “Why do we talk to ourselves in a way we would never talk to anyone else?” Not even someone we don’t know? How would someone react if we talked to them the way we talk to ourselves? Have you ever imagined their face?
I started learning things the way I taught to kids. Easy and calm. I started encouraging me and pushing me for a little bit more. I started letting myself being proud of the small things I accomplished. Languages, reading, painting, writing. Little by little every day. Then after mastering this beginner's level, I pushed myself for a little more. 2 pages are more than 0. 10 minutes walk is more than 0. And you always ask for more.
Have you ever seen a kid excusing themselves for not doing their homework? It is funny and no one believes them. This is how I see myself now when I say something stupid to excuse myself. I am the student and I am the teacher. I measure if I really have a reason for not writing, I measure if I have a reason for not reading or doing something that will be a benefit for my future self.
The reason for my depression was a lack of commitment and self-esteem. And then feeling guilty for not doing the job and I couldn’t party! I used to be depressed while being somewhere beautiful for not doing what I could at work. This is misery.
When kids told me I didn’t do my homework because of a party I encouraged them and told them “ Did you have fun?” “That’s all that matters”. “You deserved this party, you are a kid, have fun!”
The truth is we are not far away from kids. We, humans, are the only species that treat our adults so cruel! My dog is 7 years old and he still rocks! We can learn things all over our lives and still rock in our free time! Why do we treat our adults so cruel? We can work for our bills. But why don’t we play afterwards? Why do we do so much harm to ourselves and put punishments to ourselves without anyone knowing it?
I now want my future self to thank me for doing things in the present for me to find their results in the future. The reason for my depression was the fact that I just ended up with the results of the actions of my past self. That’s all.
Little by little. Ruining a decade cannot be fixed in a week.
Teaching to kids and seeing the results of positive talk and encouragement for any small accomplishment, even 2 words per day was the most valuable lesson for my life. And it came right at the right time for me. The time when I needed it. I helped myself by helping beautiful souls.
Never underestimate the way you talk to yourself. You are the teacher and you are the student of your life. Make your desk and let it last forever. We die when we let our brain in its comfort. I know it is sweet. I know it is safe. But this dying comfort almost killed me, my friend. Believe me.
I practiced my positive greed. And if this changed my life, it can change everyone’s life.
We are all together in this. No one is alone.