Anonymous asked: Did you feel prepared to teach ESL in China? What kind of background did you have teaching ESL- and how would you reccomend preparing for becoming an ESL teacher?
Before coming to China I taught ESL for two years in America. I felt really comfortable doing that and I think I did a good job, but working here has taught me so much more about teaching. Peace Corps China does a good job of training volunteers in teaching EFL but most of our training is aimed at teaching college level students. Since my students are low-level vocational high school students I don’t use a lot of the things I learned in training. I don’t feel like I’m the best teacher here, and a lot of my lessons fail. But I see little bits of progress here and there so some things must be working.
If you want to become an ESL teacher I recommend becoming TESOL certified. I’m not, but I’m planning on it after Peace Corps. If you can’t do that but are still planning on teaching English at home or abroad, here a few suggestions I just thought of:
1. Have open expectations. There’s no way to predict or prepare for what your class will be like unless you’re commissioned to teach a certain level or skill, and even then what you find might be very different from what you signed up for. Your students could be any level, and you’ll most likely have a range of levels in one class. They could have a lot of interest in English or very little. Opening your expectations will let you plan your classes around their needs vs. your interests or expectations for them.
2. Bring yourself into the classroom. Your students will probably find you somewhat interesting just based on the fact that you’re in front of the class. If you’re teaching abroad, there is no doubt they’ll want to know more about you. Bring some things from home that tell about who you are. You can turn it into an English lesson and they’ll respect you more once they know a little bit about you. Similarly, do activities that will allow you to get to know them.
3. Use the internet (or books). I read somewhere that one good thing about being a teacher is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It’s true. There’s a lot of sharing of material that goes on on the internet, and it’s really helpful. This is mostly helpful when lesson planning, but you could start by researching some blogs or forums that will help you later. But be careful! Trolling teaching blogs is like checking your cold symptoms on WebMD. There’s so much information and so many possible lesson plans that it can get overwhelming.
Hope this is helpful! If you’re a future Peace Corps Volunteer, don’t worry! Peace Corps will train you to be the best teacher you can be.