How being a TEFL teacher helped me develop 5 essential skills
I decided to spend a year as an English teacher in Mexico as I wanted to experience the world before starting my master’s degree. “OK. It sounds like fun” is what most of my friends and family told me. “But how is such a work experience related to a degree in international business?” they also added. I have to admit I thought they were right. I knew it was going to mark me for the rest of my life but how could it help me when looking for a job in marketing or business development or even event management?
Well, looking back at all that I learnt from those 10 months spent teaching, I can now say that is one of the work experiences that taught me the most in terms of understanding and communicating people, organizing my time and even speaking in public.
There is no job on earth that does not require good time management skills. Being an English teacher, you have to organize your time very wisely with lesson planning, preparation of the right equipment in the class, covering all the topics before the end of the session and even respecting deadlines. It all seems very overwhelming at the start, but as you gain experience as a teacher, it comes very natural and you realise that what you have been doing is managing every second of your time to make the session as effective as possible.
Communicating with people is not always easy. Sometimes what we say comes out as something different, as our body speaks too and may convey what we do not intend to convey. Having to deal with people of different age, background and even culture and language can teach you so much about the best way to communicate and make sure everyone receives exactly the message you want to give while avoiding any misunderstanding. And I can assure you, this is something that will turn out to be essential in any business environment. Whether you are in the middle of a negotiation or a meeting with a customer or with a potential partner.
Speaking in public
If you have never experienced that feeling of anxiety and “stage fright” before a presentation, then you must be a superhero. Whether it was a presentation in front of your teachers or a pitch deck for potential investors, or even a speech to deliver during an event with a big or small audience, being able to speak in public can turn out to be very tough that some people do not manage to learn during their entire life. Having to speak in front of a class, sometimes with people who are much older than you, and whom, at the start, you do not know at all, will train you for all the circumstances when you will have to deliver a speech in front of people. And again, this is a very handy skill to have while working in business or in any job where interaction with people is key.
They say leaders are those who inspire, those whom people naturally follow and trust. As a successful teacher, your end goal is to get your students to be inspired by you, to have you as a model and to be able to say “I learnt that from my teacher”. And this is what, ultimately, makes you a leader. In a work environment, you may find yourself managing a team which in the end, is not too different from managing a class. You will know how to overcome conflicts between team members, how to organise team work and how to have projects done in the most effective way.
Sense of humor
During my teaching experience, I often found myself in situations where all I wanted to do was laugh, either at me or because of something funny my students said. However, laughing like a madman in front of your students does not necessarily make you look like the most professional person on earth! This is how I managed to develop a good sense of humor, being able to still enjoy some laughter with my audience while not resulting offensive or disrespectful towards anyone.
Problem solving skills
Being a good problem solver does for sure turn out to be handy in any situation, work related or not. Classrooms with no boards, missing equipment, copy machine not working, classrooms that are extremely warm where it is almost impossible to concentrate, attendance sheets from other teachers whose class you took over… these are all problems any teacher will come across, especially if teaching in South American or South Asian countries where the concept of organisation does sometimes differ from the European one. This taught me how to find the most suitable solution in the quickest way possible, while still reaching my goals for my teaching session. And it is thanks to this that I no longer get scared when facing unexpected problems that occur while performing a task “I’ve been there before, I will find a solution” is what I tell myself!
So, if you are interested in doing a teaching experience abroad, don’t let the word “teacher” put you down or stop you from jumping into this experience. You will develop skills that you will be able to use throughout your whole life!