Killing Three Birds with One Stone
Having come out of University with the same exact idea of what I wanted to do with my life (zero clue) I ambled from inane office job to regrettable pub job and back. Having a degree in European History was fantastic and I wouldn’t swap my decisions for the world, but aside from historian, there really isn’t a chosen path for a graduate like myself in contrast to the obvious benefit someone who had studied accountancy or architecture might have. I bandied around the idea that I would like to teach but there was another stumbling block. My need for adventure! I had watched as my friends and family members went off in to the mist of exploration and yearned to do so as well, but never being in a position to do this, I worked. And worked. And worked.
Becoming a teacher had always interested me but not at the expense of me travelling the world. Until that is I found out about TEFL and it seemed all my needs could be met. Firstly, I could see the globe. From the time I started my TEFL course in Prague to landing in Fuzhou took all of eighty days. Phileas Fogg would be proud. Secondly, I can earn money as I do so, making the art of travelling all that more secure. And thirdly, I would be gaining great experience of being a teacher which I could take back with me to England, should I ever choose to start teaching there. Brilliant.
From Pushing Pencils to Lesson Plans
I have been in Fuzhou for just over three months now. I teach five classes a week totalling roughly 13 hours of teaching a week, not including the preparation time and resource periods. At the moment I also teach a summer course for one and a half hours, four times a week but this only pushes my total teaching time to nineteen hours. Compared to my time working for an engineering company, sitting down all day staring at e-mails or phoning grumpy clients who had a broken light switch, this job is favourable every time.
There are countless benefits in terms of experience, stress levels, job satisfaction and colour. Every time I teach my kindergarten classes they can bring you out of a bad mood faster than valium with just the simplest gesture or question. Even if they ask in Chinese and the teaching assistant has to translate it can have some rather adorable or hilarious moments. Laughter seems to be part and parcel of this job and even when I was observing lessons at the start of my working month in May everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.
Some of the questions the older children, such as in my senior class made up mostly of thirteen to fifteen year olds, they can bring you out of a bout of irritation quick sharp. The level of humour is different but the sentiment is the same. Questions of interest or the class joker trying to impress his friends can stop you in your tracks or make your day. Obviously there are some questions that don’t need to be or shouldn’t be asked but you have to remember that these are children and their curiosity is heightened with this foreigner walking around in front of them.
All Work and No Play Makes Jack
Despite the low teaching hours and enjoyment of this work there is an incredible amount effort that goes in to what everyone does outside of the classroom. This is what makes it so satisfying. York school has a great support network and there are a lot of resources to make the lessons come alive for the students as well as us teachers. If it wasn’t for all the hard work of previous and current teachers then I certainly wouldn’t be in the position I find myself in now, where every class brings about a different start, middle and ending. Once the lessons are over and it’s back to the drawing board inventing new ways of introducing grammar, vocab and listening exercises you gain a sense of proud fulfillment when the metaphorical penny drops and the students express their understanding with a harmonic “Oooooooohhh…”.
As soon as they start understanding your humor, rules and the English you are teaching it all becomes very worthwhile and acts well to motivate you further. I plan to teach for a few more years and am loving every minute of it, I just hope that the children continue to get as much out of this experience as I am.