Teaching English Abroad: Teacher as Tinkerer
By Todd Persaud
What if we’re given a situation: Our professions don’t come with any compensation and we work based solely on our talents and on what we can do. Would we still want to be in the path we’re currently in? No profession is easy. That’s why some can’t even afford to figure out what their true passion is and just pick whatever pays the most.
One of the most difficult fields is teaching. Not only because of the vast knowledge that teachers need to acquire and never, ever forget, but also because of the immense responsibility that comes with our relationship with our students.
As a teacher, I have come across various types of students. Those that just don’t care and are talking endlessly in front of class; students you don’t notice, keeping a low profile and silently taking in your lessons; there are also students who truly want to learn and be the person they want to be; and even students that kiss up to get kudos placed in their portfolios. There are students that are absolutely difficult to manage, causing havoc throughout the class, or the school. In this scenario, fulfilling your role as a teacher and how is now in question.
Teachers aren’t just sources of knowledge. Since students spend almost all of their time in school, teachers, and EFL teachers in particular, are considered as second parents, guiding and correcting them. However, bridging the gap between strangers is a massive challenge. That’s why as a teacher, you truly have to think of ways for students to look up to you, respect you, or even just the first baby step of treating you as a fellow in school.
Being too lenient can harm your class. I speak from experience. I’ve come across teachers that are too lenient with their students to the point that the latter treats the former as a peer too much. This often leads to role confusion and ultimately teachers being taken advantage of as rules are broken. On the other hand, being too strict can also be harmful to your managing the class because you definitely don’t want the students to dread coming to your class, especially as the guest English teacher.
Some say it’s better to be feared than loved. I say it’s even better to be loved and respected. Perhaps in some countries the norm of making students feel like their teachers are figures to be feared actually works but, in most cases, students dread a class with a strict teacher. This leads to disinterest of the lessons because of the dominating terror, thus a lack of willingness to participate in the exchanges of a class and thus ultimate failure in learning anything, which is a tragedy considering that we can all learn something from someone.
Getting students to be comfortable with you isn’t always easy. It sometimes requires multiple classes and various approaches to make it work, not just for you but the students as well. But I will say we live in a world of plentiful resources and you can always learn how to improve yourself and make yourself more inviting to your students. Some great resources I can recommend for your classroom and ultimately self-improvement:
Managing classrooms can be complicated, but think of it as a journey and always be willing to open yourself up to surprises. The following quote is a good one to end on and it’s by Alvin Toffler: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
TEFL Teacher, Author & Horror Musical Writer
TEFL teacher by day, horror musical writer by night; Todd Persaud escaped the glamour and bright lights of New York City, in the pursuit of adventure, romance and some money to make it all possible.
For safety during his foreign adventures, Todd equipped himself with a M.A. in Forensic Psychology, a B.A. in Criminology and a MA in Applied Sociology. These along with his BFA from New School University gave Todd a fighting chance to deal with students in five different countries so far.
These colourful experiences and dry, yet helpful insights about teaching English abroad can now be enjoyed in his new book: The TEFL Re-education Program: Your Satirical Journey
All Articles By Todd