Chunk of the day: baptism of fire

If you’ve been following the series of blog posts I did about the World Cup, you’ll know that I love football. Now that the World Cup has finished, I’m suffering withdrawal symptoms. Like a lot of other fellow sufferers, I’m basically waiting for the second week of August, when the Premier League kicks off again. More specifically, I’m waiting until 4 o’clock on Sunday the 12th of August when my team Arsenal start the season with a home game. It’s been quite an eventful few months for Arsenal supporters as our manager of twenty-two years, Arsene Wenger, announced his retirement back in April. In all honesty, it had been a long time coming and most fans felt it was time for a change.  The club moved quickly and announced Arsene’s replacement within a matter of weeks.

Unai Emery may not be a household name, but he has a good pedigree (=his past experiences and achievements show he’s good and has been successful), having taken Sevilla to three consecutive Europa League triumphs between 2014 and 2016. He then managed the French giants PSG and is clearly a force to be reckoned with. He is, however, going to need to be as his first two games with his new team are against the current champions Manchester City and then away against our bitter London rivals, Chelsea. It’s hard to imagine two tougher games. It truly is a baptism of fire.

Baptisms of fire occur when you start a new job or find yourself in a new situation and immediately have to deal with a lot of difficulties and obstacles. For instance, I first qualified as a teacher back in 1993, having only done a one-month CELTA course as preparation. The course had been pretty basic, and had presented a particularly rosy view of teaching. To say I wasn’t fully prepared for the reality of everyday teaching would be an understatement! I was completely clueless. I was about to go through a real baptism of fire.

After finishing my CELTA course, I somehow managed to blag my first real paid teaching job at St. Giles Central in London and had a lovely Intermediate-level class that I was doing every morning. They were predominantly Asian, with students from a wide range of different countries. The first week or so went really well and then the evil effects of continuous enrollment reared their head the following Monday when the door opened fifteen minutes into class and in walked a medallion-wearing, living, breathing stereotypical Italian male, complete with unbuttoned shirt and such a copious amount of hair on display that I’m prepared to believe it may well have been a chest wig. “Francesco Celotto from Milano”  he announced, as though this in itself merited a round of applause. “Come in” I smiled, before adding “You’re late!”

He then surveyed the room a couple of times with a look of increasing unease before uttering the immortal lines “Ma dai! But it is all the Japanese in here” It was at this point I realised we had what could only be termed a situation. It was one of those moments where you suddenly sense just how much is riding on what you decide to do next. Say nothing, and you’re essentially colluding with this ignorance. Come down heavy and you’ve got one very pissed-off new student who’s lost face and who now hates you. What to do? What to do?

In the end, I smiled and said “Not quite Francesco. This is Dilokpol. He’s from Thailand. And this is Henu, from Indonesia. This is Lily from Vietnam, and this is Chen Chen from Hong Kong. This is Agnes from The Philippines, this is Nan-Joo from South Korea and oh, this is Kenzo, who actually IS from Japan, so one out of seven. Not bad, not bad. And which part of Spain were you from again?” – a question which caused Francesco to look incredulous and to insist on his Italian origins. “Exactly”, I pointed out. “Where you’re from is important to you, right? And it’s the same for everyone else in the class, OK?” Firm but friendly, my smile tinged with just a tiny touch of menace. Move on.

Somehow or other, I managed to come through it unscathed.

I can only pray that Arsenal under our new manager will do the same next month!

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  • Have you ever faced a real baptism of fire? Did you get through it all OK?
  • When was the last time you suffered withdrawal symptoms? Why? What were you missing?
  • Can you think of anyone else who has recently announced their retirement?
  • What do you think is good / bad about schools that have continuous enrollment?
  • Can you think of a time when you lost face – or someone around you did? What happened?
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