Thursday, 13 June 2024
Back to school Back to school Osnovna škola Lapad

From Student to Teacher: A Journey Back to School for English Language Day

Written by  May 05, 2024

Did you enjoy your school days? For me it was a little of a mixed bag. Some subjects were interesting and some I avoided like the plague. But when you get older you probably realise that it’s the actual teacher you have who makes, or indeed, breaks the subject.

I really enjoyed English, and yes that’s probably the only subject were I remember the name of the teacher. Maths on the other hand was a living nightmare.

And looking back I often think how easy school would be now, with the life experience I have. But that’s the catch, you can’t have the best of both worlds.

“We would love you to come to our elementary school for a presentation we have for English Language Day,” asked a teacher of a school in Lapad. “Yes, of course,” I answered.

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So there I was 38 years after I left the classroom going back, back this time on the different side of the teacher’s desk. So firstly, a little background. English Language Day is celebrated annually on the 23rd of April 23rd. Why April 23rd, you ask? Well, it just so happens to be the birthday and death date of none other than the Bard himself, William Shakespeare.

Before I went into the class I had to meet the headmistresses, a little daunting as the last time I met one I was probably being sent into detention. Do they still have detention in schools? This time it wasn’t to be told off but for a photo shoot. Oh, how times change.

The teachers had pulled out all the stops, English tea, biscuits, handmade cakes that I hadn’t seen since my childhood, decorations and all the children had learnt poems. “We have all different ages and classes today,” said one teacher. And yes, like a conveyer belt they shuffled in and out of the room.

I am not going to lie; it was a little strange to see all these children without school uniforms on. But when I posed the question “How many of you would like to wear a uniform every day?” Only a few hands were raised.

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Although one girl did say “It would be easier, we wouldn’t have to think what to wear every morning.” She had a point.

I didn’t really know what to expect. What would their level be? And as they were differing ages I guessed it might be a challenge. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Each and every one of them read their poems and asked questions like they had been living in London for years.

I remember learning French for four years at school and probably couldn’t say more than a few sentences.

Of course I could see the influence of social media, the internet and gaming, but they had taken that all in and combined it with that their teachers had taught them and were chatting with me without any problem. I had fun! It was in a way humbling to see how much effort they had all put in to learning their poems. Whilst most of them read their poems a few had learnt the whole text off by heart, and I’m talking William Wordsworth difficulty.

To say I was impressed would be an understatement.

I think I was there for three hours and it passed by in the blink of an eye. I could have stayed all day.

“My mum says hello, your wife cuts her hair,” said not one but two pupils. Another said “You work with my aunt.” And one little girl even said “Say hi to your dog Toto.”

The smiling faces of the future generations was truly inspiring. Some of the pupils asked to take selfies. Not something I could have asked at school as mobile phones weren’t even invented.

And one little girl said as she left the classroom, “Can I give you a hug?” I’m sure that my former English teacher would have been proud of me.

I’ll leave the last word to Mr. Shakespeare “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.” 

Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to


About the author
Mark Thomas (aka Englez u Dubrovniku) is the editor of The Dubrovnik Times. He was born and educated in the UK and moved to live in Dubrovnik in 1998. He works across a whole range of media, from a daily radio show to TV and in print. Thomas is fluent in Croatian and this column is available in Croatia on the website – Dubrovnik Vjesnik


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