Cuenca's famous landmark, The Catedral Nueva.
Cuenca’s famous landmark, The Catedral Nueva.

Anyone who has been following me on the missing teacher or who knows my story, knows what a uphill road it has been back to teaching. After a few attempts to stay connected with the force-field known as education, I gave in trying to get through.

So I pursued writing. I shifted my focus. And for those who have tried to do something for an extended period of time with bad success knows shifting, sitting still and pausing is necessary for sanity and mental health.

When I was hired as an ESL teacher here I don’t think I appreciated what I was getting back into. I mean, it was exciting to be going to South America! And teaching was the side salad. At Waldorf, I made the mistake of making teaching my main course and I wasn’t about to do that again. I was going to be involved, but removed, cautious and careful. Actually, I have no idea how I was going to be.

*Sigh* But teaching took a hold of me again. This time though in a good way, I held fast to those pesky lessons of the past and moved forward as I had always hoped I would.

As I get ready to leave this continent, I am touched by this opportunity and only now understand what this really means to me. This was an important moment that allowed me to free myself from the heavy chains of the past; a past that had colored my teaching world a little darker.

Although, I still made the mistake of caring for my students again, I don’t know why I do this! They are not just warm bodies that fill the cold rooms of classroom learning, but vibrant personalities that make me laugh and grow.

Here’s my salute to the 7 different types of ESL students:

The Grammar Queen: This student will know more than you and will be happy to say, “But teacher isn’t the present perfect has/have + past participle?” It’s best to stow away your pride in the overhead bin and announce, “Why yes. I believe you are right. Thank goodness you are here.”

The Button Pusher: Ah, one in every class. This student knows how to make you count to 10 and relishes it. Speaks in her native tongue and from the sound of it, it ain’t good. You don’t know if it’s “cultural” or “personal” but you do know that this expletive is a “problem”. *Note: dangerous in numbers.

The Tower of Babel: This student speaks in complete and coherent sentences. Sometimes. Other times, they are, you are convinced, speaking in tongues and you are wondering how they got into this level. You are an utter failure.

The Writer (aka The Talent): These geniuses make you wonder why you are doing the teaching. They are creative, modest, and have been known to love The Beatles. These students are not known to be button pushers, but water testers. And because they are the talents, crushes are likely to develop.

The Slider (aka Wallpaper Jorge): This student does – just – enough to get by. They write the shortest essays and speak the least amount. They magically disappear and reappear Harry Potter style. Possibly members of the Order of the Syntax. Known to whisper.

The Beauty & the Beast: She’s looking at her tiny mirror and he’s looking at her. She’s applying lip gloss and he’s copying her homework. She’s color-coordinated and he’s looking through her purse or playing with her cell phone or anything he can that belongs to her. She’s got him on her lead and he knows it.


So fare thee well Ecuador. Thanks for letting me in. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to fall in love with teaching again without the drama and without the distractions.

I know I’ll miss the beautiful mountain landscapes, the architectural beauty, Tutto Freddos and the friends I’ve made. I’ll miss my students, too of course. And I have a feeling I’ll miss this place a lot more when I leave. So I’ll be back. After all, Cuenca desperately needs a Thai restaurant.

The ever popular Barney. Weird, right? Had to snag him for a photo op.
The ever popular Barney. Weird, right? Had to snag him for a photo op.

6 replies on “Goodbye Cuenca (and the 7 types of ESL students)

  1. Great to meet you, Lani! This is JR from “The Drifters Blog”…I’m glad you left me that message on my post.

    I really enjoyed this post, all of those types are so true. Funny how universal personalities are, whether it’s Thai, Taiwanese, Ecuadorians or whatever, kids are all the same! I know what you mean about falling in love with your kids, it’s hard not to do, especially when you hear them saying the craziest things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks JR 🙂 I’m thinking I might have to revisit this idea and think of new ‘EFL types’ now that I’ve been in Thailand for awhile.


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