Interview with writer Ruth Kozak

WCR: I’m sure our readers would like to know about your experience as an ESL teacher in Greece, back in the 80’s. 

RK: When I went to live in Athens, I had to figure out something to do for a living. I had worked with multicultural families in my daycare job here, and part of that was teaching ESL at pre-school levels. So I took my books with me, got in touch with Greek families of means and soon I started picking up lessons. I was teaching children through art classes, using bingo cards, a lot of conversation about everyday things. That approach is now common, but it was unconventional in those days, and many parents were surprised at it.

WCR: Were they curious about Canada, about your life here? I wonder how much they knew about it in those days before the Internet.

RK: Some of my pupils were. I remember this very bright little boy who just loved to read from National Geographic, so I would use it a lot in our lessons.

A funny incident comes to mind: you may not know, but, in the early 80’s, brightly-coloured sweat pants and tops were very much in style here. I had brought one with me to Greece, a neon-yellow sweatsuit, and I wore it to one of my ESL lessons. The pupil, a little girl, started shouting at her mother: “Mommy, Mommy, Ruth’s wearing her pajamas!”

WCR: I’d probably say the same even now, but you can’t fight fashion trends. Did you also teach in a language school?

RK: I didn’t want to work in a school. I preferred private lessons, because they gave me a chance to go into people’s homes and see how they really lived. They also helped me get to know Athens very well, because I was running around all day long. NEXT PAGE