In case you haven’t seen some of my previous posts, TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Technically it’s the name of one of many types of certifications – but its abbreviation is the most straightforward saying what it actually means.
Thinking about teaching English, it sometimes gives me goosebumps. Scared goosebumps and excited goosebumps – which I’m starting to think may be the same thing. I honestly think that I would love teaching.
Let me stop right there because some of you are probably asking, “Uh, well why aren’t you a teacher then?” Without getting on [too big] a soapbox, I think that Americans are ridiculously spoiled and do not value education. (This may be different in other countries, but I can only speak to what I know.)
I work in higher education right now (though not as a teacher) and was a student not too long ago. In my experience, most students don’t really care about education. College is more about putting off adulthood than preparing yourself for it. A friend once referred to it as “four years of government-subsidized daycare”. Don’t get me wrong, there are those that do value education, but they seem harder and harder to find.
Back it up to high school and education is even more of a joke for students sometimes. One of my closest friend teaches high school science and, truly, the guy has a gift. And he just has a weird personality that makes him hilarious and entertaining. The kids are lucky to have him.
Which brings me to point number one:
From what I’ve researched, TEFL classes are usually adults wanting to learn another language to broaden their horizons or as a business skill. But I say ‘likely’ as I honestly don’t know. This writer talks about her experience as an English teacher at a public school in Italy. But, ya know, students in other countries may be completely different from American students! And even more important: beggars can’t be choosers, and I’m sure I’ll happily take whatever job I can get!
If I was ever going to pursue becoming a teacher here in the US, know who I’d teach? Kindergarteners. And that brings up point number two:
2. I already do teach – and I enjoy it.
Off and on for at least ten years of my life I have volunteered as a kindergarten Sunday school teacher. K’s are my favorite age, and I love teaching them. I love preparing the stories. Trying to engage them. Having fun entertaining them sometimes in the name of learning. Helping them catch on to the really awesome stuff that God did. The most challenging thing is that there’s usually around 70 in my class! (Thankfully there’s a lot of adults.)
On a small scale, I teach at work, too! I frequently get called by co-workers to help them with a computer issue. (What can I say? I’ve got mad Microsoft Office skillz.) After I figure out what the issue really is, I show them how to do it, then ask them to do it themselves, and usually tell them about a similar process or application to empower them to do more in the future.
One of my favorite things to do in my job is teaching student ambassadors about our department. Not just the specifics of hours, services, et cetera, but “The university has this policy – why do you think they put that in place?” I figure that ultimately if they have to think about why something is the way it is, they will be much more likely to remember it later when a parent or prospective student asks or when it applies to their life – as compared to memorizing facts.
3. I have a mind that likes breaking stuff down into manageable steps.
Often times I’ll be going through a process and in the back of my mind I think of how I would teach someone else to do it. Yeah, I just do it automatically. My brain’s weird…
I actually love writing tutorials. I’ve joked that I like to write them in a “for dummies” version – like not assuming that anyone necessarily knows where the “power” button is. Don’t worry, though, I’m also a big fan of brevity so try to use five words instead of ten.
This week, I had to laminate something so the department laminator was brought to my office. As the thing had a lot more buttons than you would think necessary for something so simple, taped firmly to the top were instructions that I had made (years ago at somebody’s request probably), complete with illustrations of which buttons to push.
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I realize this post may sound like I’m tooting my own horn. Whether you believe me or not, that is not what I’m trying to do. Writing is usually my own personal counseling / reflecting / thought-organizing time. And since I think a lot – maybe too much – I apologize if I’m ever unnecessarily wordy. (Blogs /= tutorials. At least, not always.)
If anyone out there is reading this, I’d be interested to know what qualities you think make a good teacher. Are you a teacher? Have you been one in the past? Do you aspire to be one in the future?
And for goodness sakes if you’ve ever done TEFL please please please tell me about your experiences! I’m so excited to observe a class in town next week as I admit I’m still a bit ignorant of the whole process.
Update: I’ve been known to be naive. And I got a taste of the other side of things…