We have all had hiccups in our life; failures, short-comings, things that we aren’t as good at as we hoped we would be. However, Basma Abd Elhamied’s story proves that no matter what the situation, we can flip it around and turn what seems to be a weakness into our biggest strength…
My sister told her 9 year old daughter Tota, “Study English well and get high grades now so you can be like your Aunt Basma in the future. Your Aunt was excellent in English when she was a kid and so she was able to grow up and become a reputable English teacher and English teacher trainer.”
“I was not excellent in English when I was Tota’s age. In fact, I was a failure in English.”
I will never forget how astonished I was when I heard this pep talk. But wait a minute…I was not excellent in English when I was Tota’s age. In fact, I was a failure in English; I could not even recognize the difference between the alphabet letters! It seems like no one remembers that except for me.
My English teachers were incredibly tough on me and thought that I was never going to pass the exams and they were partly right. I could hardly pass the English exams, and frankly sometimes I did not.
Growing into an adolescent, I was fascinated with an English series on TV. I was super into gothic literature and loved an actor who depicted a perfect vampire. I used to watch the episodes over and over and I even got their scripts because I wanted to take in every word and understand every detail. I became addicted to English movies and series, and reading all of their scripts, picking up the language as I went along. It seems like English was not impossible to acquire after all, but more than that, it was actually fun to learn!
Going to college, I chose to enroll in a language faculty and so the best thing I could find with my high school scores was the English department at the faculty of Education. But God forbid working as a teacher. I would never want to hurt people like that, like what my teachers did to me! However, it seems like fate had another plan in mind.
I will always remember the moment that I went into Teaching Practice at a prep school, my first time teaching in front of real students. I knew how ugly could an English class be so I decided I will try to humor them a little. I discovered that what was little to me was tremendous to them. How could some friendly gestures and humorous drawings and games make these little girls kindly give their attention to the class? They would listen and speak and forget for a moment there that this was a class in a school and would start getting involved in expressing their points of view and all in English. That was it, I fell in LOVE with English Teaching!
“A little girl who is hindered with many obstacles can always find a way to spread her wings and fly.”
How could I feel this after hating English and teaching for years? How could I simply love it so much that I still teach it for 10 years later and still feel as passionate as ever?
Well, maybe my sister should know the whole real version of the story, that her sister who is now doing very well in English, and is a passionate English teacher who has been working for 3 years on the first website for qualifying and employing English teachers in Egypt and the Middle East, was once a failure in English.
Maybe I will whisper the truth to Tota someday, so that she would know that nothing is impossible, that a little girl who is hindered with many obstacles can always find a way to spread her wings and fly. I will tell her and every little girl that I meet, that once upon a time, there was a girl who was bad in English ended up living her life doing all that she can to give better education to little girls and help English teachers become qualified.
Someday this once little girl will leave her legacy. She might not be remembered by her name, but by her actions. Someday her actions will give other English teachers the ability to become inspiring, helpful and kind to their students.
Basma Abd Elhamied
TEFL and English Instructor
Co-founder & Product Developer at TEFLship
Mobile : 01020049951