What does teaching mean to me personally?

TCCS (teacher collaborator and community service) volunteers start training pre-departure for a TEFL certificate. We were asked to write a reflection on:  

  • How do you feel about being a teacher?  
  • How does being a teacher fit your identity?  
  • What are some practices you are going to try to add to your teaching repertoire after this session?  
  • What are some practices you will want to avoid?

“I feel confident and reverent about being a teacher. I know that being a teacher is a challenging and rewarding role. I have always felt that the label “teacher” renders too much to a giver of information rather than the true role of a teacher: that of a guide, a coach and a learner. Teachers are guides who open up new opportunities, facilitate growth and create a safe path in which to explore the world. Teachers are coaches who encourage, problem-solve and nurture the growth of young minds. Teachers are also learners who are forced to face a daily mirror of self-reflection and continual self-improvement. I feel that teaching requires flexibility, fearlessness and humility to successfully meet challenges that arise. Later, the rewards can be found like the first blossoms of spring, few and far between at first until there is a whole garden of bright, blooming flowers reaching for the sun.

Clearly, I have an optimistic view of teaching. While I revere the role, I am not naive to its monotonous moments, its frustrations and its ability to provoke vulnerabilities. Even so, I choose to face every challenge as a positive moment for growth. If every day is a challenge, than every day provides the opportunity for learning. By making learning enjoyable and a safe place to make mistakes, an effective teacher can motivate a younger generation to become lifelong learners and independent thinkers. This module emphasized that teaching is about the students more so than the teacher, and I completely agree.

I identify myself as a lifelong learner; therefore, I enjoy the role of a teacher because it provides a constant learning environment. As a child, I always loved learning and was a role-model, teaching others by my actions without knowing what I was doing. In middle school, I soaked up books, watered my competitive nature and sprinkled my enthusiasm into a plethora of extracurricular activities. In high school, I became critical of the educational system that fit my learning style yet left so many others behind. I went to college for the pure love of learning and yet I realized that not everyone valued the education they were being given. What pushed me forward into more teaching roles was the desire to share my enthusiasm and gratitude for education while also improving its implementation and effectiveness.

My training has taught me to be observant and to discover ways to facilitate individual achievement so that the whole team succeeds. I know that everyone learns differently and that everyone is capable of achievement. Having worked with the challenging population of learning disabilities and anxiety issues related to learning, I have a huge compassion for different learning styles, different attitudes towards learning and the lack of skill sets provided for students so that they can succeed.

I look forward to teaching English because I enjoy teaching fundamental skills from the ground up. As a sports coach, I enjoyed the aspect of taking inexperienced kids, training them with the basics until they had the ability and confidence to become independent and creative with their skills. Furthermore, as social human beings, language is so essential to our connectivity and understanding. I know that language is challenging to learn and also rewarding, much like the act of teaching. With language as a communication tool, people have an unlimited canvas to experiment, build relationships and become leaders.

I am looking forward to collaborating with Thai teachers, learning from them and contributing whatever skills I can. Some practices I would like to add to my repertoire have to do with structuring and scaffolding. Although I am familiar with employing these concepts, they are not natural to me and require my due diligence. To be an effective teacher, I believe that I will need to be well-prepared with strong lesson plans that effectively facilitate retention and include learning practices that incorporate many modalities. I would like to be exposed to more lesson plans and more theories of language learning.

One practice I want to avoid is the attitude that the American way of teaching is superior to Thailand’s. Being aware of cultural norms and respecting the teaching methods already employed by Thai teachers will be important. Adopting an attitude of humility and curiosity will be key to learning, improving and gaining respect. I naturally feel confident in my ability to connect with people, to build a safe learning environment all while maintaining respect and authority. However, that is in an American environment. There will be subtleties and nuances in Thai interactions that I will need to learn and follow. I plan to observe closely, ask many questions and show the utmost respect for my host country.

Also, I want to avoid rushing while speaking, being unclear in my expectations or being too serious. I want to make sure I am speaking simply, clearly and precisely. I want to add more interactive activities to my repertoire, more attention-getters and more light-hearted fun that will enthuse my students and allow them to blossom into their own leadership roles. I am sure to gain a lot of insight and ideas in training from my experienced colleagues. I am very much looking forward to this wonderful opportunity to learn from my Thai counterparts, to learn from the students and to build lasting relationships within my community.”

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