I had the immense pleasure to be working as a language teacher last week. It was a great change to my regular student life, although it did add to my already ginormous workload. However, I got so much out of it, I am glad I did end up going for it.
Same place, different role
So I was working as a language teacher at an exchange student camp. The exchange students arrive to the camp for a week, before continuing to their host-families. The idea is to get them accustomed to the time-difference, new culture, and new language.
Now, I’d been at the camp many times before, but as a tutor. My role then was to aid the language teacher during the lessons, as well as follow the exchange students to their other activities and excursions, leading them in outdoor activities and overall acting as their older sibling and guide for the week.
One of the challenges this time, was getting accustomed to my new role. Everything was familiar, even some of the people I worked with, but it took a little time to get used to not being one of the tutors. And not only myself, but having the other people get used to it too. The camp leader would look at me, and ask something, but then say “why am I looking at you again, this doesn’t concern you.” There was a lot of instances of me trying to get my own mindset straight: “I’m not a teacher, no wait, yes I am.” In the end however, I was relieved not needing to attend every single activity and just getting some time for myself, and more importantly, to preparing the lessons.
This was my first time actually teaching. I was the one preparing the contents and all the material. And let me tell you, it took way more time than I thought. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do, what vocabulary to go through, and I had prepared most of my lessons beforehand. Most of my free time still that week went into preparing the materials for the next day. So here’s what I learned.
It’s important to be prepared. As stated, planning and lesson prep takes time, so to succeed it’s good to know what you’re doing. And your students, whatever their age, will know if you’re not prepared. Plus, its easier to teach when you have a plan.
Be prepared to improvise. Going in, you never know what’s going to happen. In a new environment, you have no idea who your students are, what their personalities are like and how they learn. So you need to be able to adjust accordingly. The students you have play greatly into how you teach.
Know your stuff. It’s hard to teach if you aren’t familiar with what you’re teaching. In my case, knowing how the language works, helped a lot. The students are more responsive to your teaching when you’re confident on the subject matter you’re teaching.
That being said, it’s ok not to know everything. You just can’t know everything, and your students shouldn’t expect it either. After all, you’re only human, not superhuman. It’s a great sign of strength and wisdom when you acknowledge that you don’t know something. You can always find out. And you can find out together, or, have the student(s) do some research. No better way to learn.
I also leaned a lot about lesson prep. I know I could have done way better, but I am still learning. It’s going to take a great deal more of experience for me to become a good teacher. And as someone who’s been studying education for a few years now, I know that the learning never stops. All you can do is your best, and the rest will sort itself out.