In late August 2013, Happy Days School was about to celebrate 25 years in business. 25 years of, as the school motto wisely puts it; “Education To Change Lives.” I was fortunate to be around to witness the celebrations at the time, to see former students come flocking back to the school that laid the foundations for their success stories.
Although it was never technically my school, in some ways I think of myself as one of Happy Days’ success stories. This school has taught me invaluable lessons about my dreams and capabilities, on top of basic self-belief which my own high school experiences destroyed so long ago. The flaky Internet and occasional indigestion issues literally feel like a small price to pay for living in the place that makes me happier than I feel anywhere else.
When I am faced with crowded places or intense unfamiliar situations, my anxiety has tended to flare lately. Those underlying feelings of panic were put to a huge test last year, when I applied at my former college to complete the part-time CELTA course. With it I hope to earn the certificate to be qualified to teach English to foreigners, wherever that may be. The three month duration of the course itself was some of the highest stress I’ve experienced in a very long time, preparation workloads combined with severe social anxiety which made speaking in front of the class endlessly terrifying. Every week the necessary evaluation and judgement from my course leaders made me doubt myself and I’m still not sure how I got through the whole thing.
But being back at Happy Days for my second extended trip, I can now feel the difference between Rina Didi, who taught the 2013 literary hobby group German they still remember, and Rina Ma’am. It used to make me feel awkward to be around these insanely polite kids, adorable though they are, because three years ago I didn’t feel worthy of their respect. It sounds strange to say that teaching at Happy Days is like coming home, since technically it is home. But that’s exactly what it feels like, if I’m completely honest. In every class I’ve coached or taught here, whether it’s the sweet third grade hostel boys this year or the seniors before their exams earlier in February, I try to instill how proud they should be of their school.
Whether I technically reach Cambridge’s very high standards or not, my time at Happy Days has given me what it does every time I set foot in the place: A sense of belonging, acceptance and joy. That, in my humble opinion, is the most important thing in the world and I already can’t wait for my next visit. The flowers my sweet students bring me every day will wilt, but the memories and happiness I felt around the kids will carry me through whatever the future throws at me back in Switzerland. Thank you Happy Days!