The Golden Gate Effect
In 2005 I wanted to teach English in Poland. I chose Poland because my grandfather was from Mazury, but really it wasn’t important which part of the country I went to. I put my CV on the international teaching website and had job offers from places I had never even heard of, like Tarnowskie Gory. I played email tennis with Golden Gate owner Rafal Drewniak for a few weeks and we spoke on the phone once or twice and, after consideration, he convinced this Gorol to come to Silesia and work for him.
It was the best professional decision I ever made.
I stayed in Tarnowskie Gory, working at the school, for nearly two and a half years. Why? It is simple – Polish women are generally much more attractive than British women and the beer was cheap. But working at the school was a great experience too. Different language schools have come and gone in Tarnowskie Gory in the past twenty years but Golden Gate remains because, honestly, it’s the best.
When I think of Golden Gate I think of ‘positive atmosphere’, and that is what the school always aims for. We’re learning English, not invading Iraq, so let’s have a laugh and a joke about it. In such an atmosphere the students talk more, loosen up and the lessons are much more enjoyable.
A very effective technique Golden Gate uses is ‘dual teaching’ where the students have a Polish teacher for grammar and a Native speaker for speaking, listening, reading and writing. This works because the Polish teacher will know the best way the students will learn English grammar and how it compares to Polish grammar (which is also known as God’s cruel joke on the world). This gives a strong foundation in the language and allows the native speaker to build on top of it with vocabulary and conversational skills. The two teachers can also support each other and share ideas about lesson plans and student learning styles, which is all designed to benefit the classes. And, honestly, if I had to teach English grammar every day I would have jumped in front of a Maluch long ago…
To me, Golden Gate is more than a school, it is a mindset. You can take the student out of Golden Gate, but you can’t take the Golden Gate out of the student. Ex-students who left the school long before I ever joined talk to me as if they know me because we both have a connection – we have felt The Golden Gate Effect. Not just ex-students, also people who have been to the famous Winter and Summer Camps too. The Golden Gate Effect is something to apply to the rest of your life - work hard and find the fun in what you do.
When I was working at Golden Gate I had offers to teach at other schools, bigger schools in bigger cities and more money. I had interviews with the owners or managers of these bigger schools and normally their English was worse than the average Golden Gate 14yr old. I never got a good feeling from these other people, so I always stayed with Rafal and Ania. By then we had also started the now-legendary Golden Gators so it would have to be an amazing offer to break up the greatest band Poland has ever seen.
I left Golden Gate in 2007 to become a policeman in Great Britain. I actually speak more Polish here than I did when I lived over there – ‘Nie pijemy w parku’, ‘Ulica to nie toaleta’, things like that. Some of my old students there have gone on to become doctors, engineers and even professional musicians. These little kids who had faces full of spots are now important members of society! Of course the wheel keeps turning and I’m sure the current Golden Gate students who have no idea who I am will be tomorrow’s doctors, engineers and so on. I like to think that whatever success any of us, teachers included, have in the future, a large part of it is because of the time we spent in an upstairs classroom near the centre of town, where we learnt more than just English.