Growing up, I was an extremely shy child. I cowered behind my mother when meeting new people, and at school I always dreaded classes where I had to answer questions in front of my peers or give presentations. Thankfully, my shyness gradually dissipated as I got older. However, the fear of public speaking lingered in my adult years.
Despite this aversion to talking in public, I always had an interest in teaching. I liked the concept of being the authority on a specialized subject, and helping people achieve their goals. Moreover, as a writer who spent most of my days glued to a computer screen, I craved real human interaction in the workplace.
And so, last spring, I decided to conquer my fears. I somewhat impulsively signed up for a TEFL course at TEFL in Spain, packed up my things in Georgia, USA, and moved to Malaga.
Going into the course, I had no idea whether I’d be able to do it or not. After all, a teacher is essentially a glorified public speaker with a small audience. I knew I couldn’t possibly be a good teacher if I just froze up when the students asked me a question. But I had faith that practice and determination could go a long way.
And they certainly did. One terrifying yet essential part of the TEFL in Spain course is that it throws you straight into teaching right from the get-go. On only the third day of the course, I was required to plan and teach a 20-minute lesson. What’s more, my fellow TEFL trainees were also in the room, observing and taking notes on my lesson and teaching techniques. It would be a lie to say it wasn’t nerve-wracking, and that my heart wasn’t racing as those first students sat down in their seats, ready to be taught. But amazingly, as soon as the lesson began, I felt myself ease into the teacher role, and it came surprisingly naturally.
Through the course, I also learned that one of the main aspects of teaching English is keeping “teacher talking time” to a minimum. In the TEFL classroom, it’s more about facilitating discussion between the students than constantly lecturing to them yourself. By the end of the four-week course, I had dropped all my inhibitions and felt totally comfortable up in front of a dozen students who were my age or older. Teacher development courses like Teaching Young Learners and Cambridge Exams also gave me more specific knowledge and added to my level of confidence as a teacher. Getting to know each student personally and identifying each of their individual needs was an added reward that made teaching all the more enjoyable.
These days, I teach two exam classes, two private lessons with children and two private lessons with adults. I still wouldn’t say that teaching is easy, but it has certainly become more manageable over time. Admittedly, my heart still races a little when I get new students or have to teach a new level – but now, it’s a good kind of excitement. I have now also started Spanish classes to improve my quality of life, so I am now a student myself!
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