Tag Archives: teaching english as a second language

What Teaching English Around The World Does For Your Soul

I became an English teacher by mistake.

I initially signed on to volunteer training young students how to use a computer in a South African township, but once I arrived I found that the computer training program did not exist. Instead, my volunteer coordinators made me put me into a grade one class along with two other volunteers. “Their teacher is absent,” they said. “We need you to teach these kids.”

It was more like a Royal Rumble match than an actual classroom. I was no teacher. I was stuck in that class for weeks.

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Ok. That was South Africa. Those kids were horrible. Though I did learn that this school among so many other schools in Africa were in desperate need of capable English speakers to help teach their students.

So, I decided to give it another shot, but this time by volunteering in Tanzania at a much smaller local school. It was a little better. I assisted the main teacher for five weeks with her small primary kids. They weren’t as crazy as my previous surprise experience.

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With that bit of confidence, I returned to South Africa a month later to try teaching again. This time, I fared a tiny bit better.

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I volunteered three more times afterward teaching English as a second language in Vietnam, Nepal, and Guatemala before I eventually decided to get certified. I took a master course and received my certification to teach English as a second language. This would be a supplement to my travels. Instead of volunteer teaching all the time, I could get paid to do it!

Vietnam is when I really started to enjoy teaching. I bonded well with the students at the Hospitality College I was assigned to and they took a liking to me. The amount of effort was felt in the rewards.

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Nepal was another challenge I was ready to take on, but I felt even more inspired here because of how primitive the setting was. I was placed in the middle of nowhere, explaining the English language to several different classes. Even delving into other subjects such as Geography, Social Studies, and Physical Education at the request of the school’s principal.

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Guatemala was interesting, as I felt like a teacher and a student. The kiddos there at the after-school program I was placed in had an amusing time teaching me Spanish as much I simultaneously taught them English. Here, I created a few new English learning games, which the kids loved to play. One important lesson I began to realize: all the kids I’ve taught around the world thus far, no matter their differences, are all for one the same.

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With each country, I gained a whole lot of valuable experience and knowledge and became more at ease with adapting to the different cultures and traditions of the respective schools.

The reception I get from many of the students, age ranging from six years old to young adults in their twenties have been mostly positive. There is something quite warming and fulfilling knowing these students are benefiting from having me around and that they respond to me so well. I was completely devoted. Little did they know, they were helping me as much as I was helping them. Besides all the adventure stuff I love doing while traveling, I now had a cardinal, more fruitful purpose to my worldwide escapades.

How did I volunteer to teach English?

There are plenty of volunteering organizations around the world that have opportunities to teach English as a second language, however my usual and most trusted go-to source is through an organization called International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ). I’ve used them eight times (not all teaching English though) and have never had a single bad experience with them.

Another viable option is through Workaway which is much more affordable, but less of a hand-holding organization. Besides the $30 annual fee, Workaway is usually mostly free. I recently went through Workaway to do some private homeschooling in Mozambique where I taught Social Studies and Photography. Loved that too!

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What did I need to begin teaching English in the first place?

Well, speaking fluent English for starters.

Secondly, a clean background history. As in no criminal record which you must prove to the organizations with background checks. Those two things are all I really needed to volunteer.

For landing a paid job teaching, all I needed were those two requirements in addition to a TEFL certification. And in some countries, a bachelor’s degree as well. I have an Associate’s in Graphic Design and a BS in Comm Tech…nothing to do with education.

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How did I receive my TEFL certification?

Once I realized that having a certification could enhance my travels, I went through the process of earning one myself.

Any clean English speaker can earn their certification through on-site training in many different countries or through an intensive online learning course. I went through an online master course which cost me around $30 USD using Groupon. In a few months, I received a certificate in the mail. It took me about two months to complete.

The two major differences between on-site and online I found are the hands-on training versus learning at home and secondly, most on-site programs will always help you get a job whereas you are mostly on your own for the online courses, though this is not always the case. It depends on who you go through.

Some places offer you free accommodation and meals in lieu of actual pay, which may also be fine depending on what you are looking for.

Over the past few years, I’ve collected a bevy of learning games and techniques to unleash upon my classes along with tricks of the trade when it comes to keeping the students engaged in learning. They’ll only be as interested as you are, and with the time I’ve invested into each classroom, it shows in the positive reception I receive from the students and other teachers alike.

I became a mentor and coach to those kids and still chat with many of them over the internet to this day! I encouraged them to message me, that way they can practice having conversations in English as I casually correct their mistakes while I’m away.

I’ve created a parallel universe outside of my typical life back home. A universe full of eager foreign students who wish to learn the English language and better their lives. Being one of their many guiding lights is pure satisfaction for my soul.

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If anyone is interested in teaching English abroad and wondering how to get started or have any questions or comments, shoot me a message! I’d love to chat. :)

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