Teaching is an adventure, full of drama, sometimes scary and very rewarding! Teaching English in a foreign country is even more exciting because you must also factor in cultural nuances and language barriers. The reward is seeing your kids outside of class and being greeted in English and the ability to converse even just a little bit or having them come back from a trip with excitement over their ability to use and understand English.
Last year I went to Brazil for 6 months and taught at a couple different schools, this year I am in Colombia at an institute in Pereira called Native Tongue. One thing that stays constant is that children will be children no matter where you go. On Saturdays I have a class of young children for 4 hours. They are wonderful, but sometimes they get so crazy. They are complete addicts of an inflatable swimming pool of plastic balls like the ones we loved as kids when we went to Chucky Cheese. Sometimes however I want to drown them in the ball pool because I cannot keep them out of it so I have to be very creative to hold their attention. Most of the time they are funny and make me laugh with their discoveries and ideas.
We always do the hardest stuff first which is basic questions which sounds something like: “Teacher: Quetesh, where are you from? Quetest: California. Teacher: Ohhh you were born in California? NIIIICE!! Juliana, please get back out of the pool,” “Ok eyes on me. Juliana, how old are you.” Juliana: uhhhhh. “Teacher: Juan Felipe, please stop hanging upside down on the slide. Come here. Juan Felipe, when is your birthday? (I whisper: Cumpleanos) Juan Felipe: MAYO!!!! Teacher: no, not Mayo, May. Oiga! May 11th.” Juan Felipe: *eyes glaze over and he looks lost*
With teenagers its a bit different. Sometimes doing homework is just out of the question. Teenagers can be really fun to teach because music means so much to them. So I try to expose them to something other than Adele and Lady GaGa while teaching English grammar to them in a digestible way. Teenagers are also really interested in English if they have a good motivation, like the option to visit Disneyland with their parents if they do well. Or visiting an English speaking country as an exchange student. As a teacher I must find their inspiration and use it to motivate them.
Finally adults. Adults typically work the hardest but can also struggle to learn the most. I once had a student who wanted to get a promotion. However to do this he had to be fluent in English. He knew all the basics but was so frantic and stressed about learning English that he was his own learning impairment. For adults it must be relaxing, move at a good pace and interesting. In the adult classroom I can make good, bad and slightly dirty jokes. One of my favorites is based on a Colombian joke. In Colombia if you come from a large family they say “your parents did not own a television.” Needless to say when we start talking about family vocab I always whip that one out of my arsenal, and bask in the glory of their laughter afterwards.
Teaching will always be a challenge, sometimes we get too stuck in our routines and need something to shake things up. The adventure is one that always changes and develops as the teacher changes and develops in his/her ability. I hope I will always find new ways to reach my students and keep life interesting both in and out of the classroom!!