TEFL Preconceptions

sn?t it funny how our preconceptions are often way off course? Certain things we?re preconditioned to think, be it because of cultural influences, peer/family influence or experiences, and, more often than not, we don?t question these; Tesco and Wal-Mart are Mecca?s; McDonald?s food tastes amazing; being quiet makes you a good student.

I ran away from this conditioning and ended up on a TEFL course in sunny Phuket, the ?Pearl of the South? : an excuse to escape the real world for a while and maybe earn a qualification with which I could escape for a wee while longer. Many things Western culture had tried to precondition me to believe I?d already balked at- Wal- mart´s and suchlike are more demonic corporations to be run away form rather than Mecca?s to be embraced and McDonalds burgers probably contain more chickens feet, MSG and offal than most street lining stalls in Thailand, yet taste not half as good. I did however buy into the perception that silence does a good student make. Pah!

I thought I?d be an awful teacher- my past experiences had taught me that to be a respected teacher in the eyes of your peers, you need to be serious in your approach; commanding authority in everything you do with no time for joviality. I find I?m actually rather a good teacher, and am such with an attitude the antithesis of my preconceptions.

It?s only having done this course however that I understand where my preconceptions came from; being a Western teacher must be horrific. I understand how difficult teaching can be, and that?s here in Thailand, where all the students want to learn with an urgency that might almost be described as desperate. Knowledge isn?t something to ridicule people for as it is in Western schools and even to some extent in Western culture. It?s very rarely the studious kid who?s the popular kid in Western schools. More Often than not, the studious kid is the one ridiculed and bullied. As a teacher in Thailand, I?ve not once had to discipline a student because teachers are respected- as an imparter of knowledge you are adored. The comparative adoration in the UK is reserved for football stars, celebrities famous for being famous and suchlike- certainly not the lowly teacher. Despite knowing my students want to learn and choose to be in my classes, I shake with nerves before each lesson; I feel as though I?m on stage without the illusion that is my character or costume to hide behind. The nerves only disappear when I stand in front of the class and they respond. Of course the response form Thai students is positive and I thrive on this and so my teaching improves; the eager eyes I see in front of me I don?t recognize from my past classroom experiences and as a teacher and a person, I long to see more of this eagerness.

I don?t see teaching as a long term career, but I do now see it as possibly more than a stop gap. Fuddy-duddy stiffness is a thing of the past; productive lessons come from environments where students and teachers alike are comfortable and this comfort comes from fun and fun is achieved from interactions. My preconceptions were wrong, my Western conditioning has once again failed me; silence a poor student makes and expectations of silence an out of touch teacher makes.

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Author: SuzanneTurley

Date of post: 2006-10-10