3 Things Teaching (ESOL/TEFL) Taught Me
TEFL-Teaching English as a Foreign Language
Through AmeriCorps I was given the opportunity to teach English language skills to adult students. Teaching has been one of the best and most memorable experiences of my life.
I had never had a desire to teach; I always imagined difficult, short-tempered, short attention span children running about. However, through AmeriCorps, I was introduced to ESOL teaching and I fell in LOVE!!!
I joined AmeriCorps while I was still an undergraduate student and while my degrees, biology and psychology, had nothing to do with the teaching profession, I am glad the recruiters chose me!!
The majority of my teaching was with adult learners and many had the same goal, learn English now. So I taught English, while the students taught me skills that I consider more valuable.Through the AmeriCorps program, I met amazing students from all over the world who taught me humility, gratitude and patience.
1. I was taught humility because I made assumptions about the students before I knew their story. I learned that lack of understanding of the English language did not mean the students were uneducated, on the contrary, many spoke several languages and dialects; in fact, many of the students were accomplished professionals (doctors, teachers, physicist) in their home countries. I was just some young student that happened to be born in an English-speaking country. This realization was humbling, it made me work hard.
2. I was taught gratitude. Although the goal of learning the English language was the same among each of the students their stories were vastly different and sometimes difficult to hear. There were students who lost family in war, students who had seen their homes destroyed, and some who had experienced loss like I have never known. I was fortunate these student trusted me with their stories and I was extremely grateful for not having to live through their struggles. It seems unfair that my birth location is what separates my potential/possibilities from others born elsewhere in the world. I learned a new type of gratitude for everything I have and everything I don’t have.
3. I was taught patience. Teaching English is enjoyable yet difficult. As a teacher, I invested in my lesson plans but the students were investing in their life and sometimes their livelihood. The pressure!! It’s easy to think that once a lesson is taught, its learned but that is not the case at all. Many lessons require repetition and repetition and repetition. My own desire to learn Spanish requires the same. However, we are impatient humans and we want it now. This can lead to frustration. I learned that patience and a good attitude is required when teaching and learning any language.
I loved AmeriCorps and the person I became because of my experiences. If you are considering joining, please do so with a service oriented heart. The monetary pay is not great but the rewards you’ll receive that aren’t tangible are priceless.