TEFL Volunteer Teaching English as a Foreign Language

Volunteer teaching can be the most rewarding experience of your life or a total nightmare depending on your expectations and attitude. You need to be realistic about what kind of person you are. Are you the type who can travel the world making your own contacts and decide independently where best to spend your tine? Or are you the type who needs to know exactly where you will be sleeping each night and exactly what your days will hold? Most of us fall somewhere in between.

People often ask why should I pay to volunteer somewhere? Aren?t they already getting my time and effort for nothing? Well is most cases it costs the organisation money to have you there, sometimes the benefit outweighs the cost for them and sometimes not.

?In Nicaragua, I often heard the comment that ?volunteers come and go? without apparent regard for the importance of long-term, sustainable development. I also learned that volunteers are sometimes more a burden than an asset to many organisations because of their lack of technical knowledge, language skills, and cultural sensitivity.? (Le Ann Joy Adam

Le Ann Joy Adam raises some important points imagine a small organisation that may actually have to employ a person just to deal with volunteers. First time volunteers need to be met and shown the ropes and this can be a full time job. You will often get free accommodation when volunteering but keep in mind that this will come at a cost to the organisation who could be renting out the room to a paying tenant. Volunteer organisations welcome almost any volunteers who share their passion for the cause they are involved in, but benefit more from those who are willing ot stay longer. This is their life, while for most of us it is a few months or a year out from the life we will return home to.

Volunteer teaching often means that you can expreience countries that you would never be able to work in. There is very limited paid work in most African nations as they just don?t have the money to pay to learn English. However as a volunteer you can go to some of these nations and teach English to some of the most eager and deserving people on hte planet. Volunteering gives you the chance to help people that would otherise be unable to learn English.

?Volunteer opportunities are intended to benefit the recipients of the aid, but they also deliver many positive "side effects" for the volunteers themselves. Volunteers will have a stronger resume, will have immeasurable benefit from experiencing another culture or social environment whether domestic or international, will have a better understanding of how to address serious social issues at home and abroad and will have contributed to making the world a better place.? (

One small planet website highlights another side effect of volunteering that has been an effective tool in encouraging people to become volunteers. The benefit of gaining experience in the real world. When you are not experienced enough to apply for the job or break into the field you want to then volunteering can be a way to get that much needed experience to put on your resume. Of course volunteer organisations are often not as selective as private business about the people they accept as they don?t have to pay them.

Before volunteering, make sure you know plenty about the organisation you intend to work for, most groups are affiliated either politically or religiously this does not have to be a negative thing. Make sure that you agree with the basic principles of the group or your time spent volunteering will be very uncomfortable for you. Also ask yourself why you are volunteering and what you hope to get out of it. Just because you are wanting an overseas adventure this will not nesesarily make you a great English teacher.

Volunteers can bring a great number of positive attributes with them too. The volunteer is enthusiastic and fresh, they haven´t faced any hard or disapointning times the rest of the team may have gone through in the field.

"It is a mistake to underestimate the freshness a volunteer brings to an organisation. While staff can become inured to the routine, volunteers´ focus, commitment and enthusiasm can energise and refocus staff and make them happier and more productive." ( Nan Hawthorne This may mean a time of refreshment for other staff members that can leave a team working better even when the volunteers have left. Volunteering can be the most rewarding thing you ever do if you are prepared and realistic both about your own motivation and skills and your expectations of the journey. Remember that while most organisations are pleased to have you, it is likely that you will get more out of it than you are ever required to give. So don´t just look at it as a way to beef up your resume (although it can be a valuable way to do this) but a life experience that you will never forget.

Author: Debby Doughan

Date of post: 2007-01-08