Teach English in Zhi'An Zhen - Tongliao Shi

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I will be teaching young learners in Africa. I already have some experience teaching in a few countries in Africa, namely, South Africa, Mozambique, and Ghana, thus, my intent is to write a summarative task based on my past teaching experience in Africa, combined with what I have now learned from this course, to speak briefly on a “problem” from a perspective rarely considered by TEFL teachers in Africa. There are a few obvious physical and environmental challenges one will face when teaching in Africa, especially when coming from a temperate zone country of origin such as the United States as in my case. I will address these environmental factors first, as it is quite dramatic when initially stepping off the plane into a tropical atmosphere of such intense heat that many newcomers immediately question to themselves, “What did I get myself into?” If this regretful attitude remains, you will carry this energy to your students who will feel it and see it on your face, which will then “be a problem for learners in the country of your choice” – a problem you brought with you! Many new teachers to Africa do not realize that what they consider a “problem” like the heat, to many who live there, it is just normal, and they do not consider it a problem…but if you do…and you bring that attitude with you…it becomes their problem too. This is an important point many new teachers to Africa do not consider – what you may think of as a “problem” may just be a normal aspect of life in Africa. This is where a positive attitude is absolutely crucial, because you don’t want the first problem for your learners to be your own. A simple solution to this is to adopt some of the local customs, such as carrying a handkerchief, and water at all times, and remembering that in big, beautiful Africa– being hot just comes with the territory! Another of the first things you should do is ask them what they consider are the challenges (never call challenges “problems” – that starts the whole lesson on a negative note) of learning in their area. Maybe it is the distance to class, money for class fees and school lunches, it could be dangerous to walk to and from school, especially if in the dark. You see, you may be considering the biggest problem to teaching whether or not there is a blackboard, or enough desks…whereas their (the students) idea of a problem might be whether or not they will actually be able to get to class in the face of challenges that preempt academics entirely. One solution to this is to incorporate an old tried and true method of “having class outside”...on some days, meet students that can’t make it to class, halfway! Something that is usually thought of as a big treat in any class in the USA, could be simply a necessity in Africa. A teacher can decide (with proper permissions from school authorities) to hold class outside under a tree in the shade, perhaps in a central area where children from the surrounding farms can join in! This can be seen as a free class for the community, building up good will with the community also, and helping you as an outsider help make friends and important supporters while you are living and working there. I have found that the more effort you put in to being a part of the community and being outgoing and generous with your self and your smile, the more success and joy you will receive from your teaching. There are many resources that are listed in the course that would be instrumental in taking the class out of the classroom, such as the resources of how to create learning games from paper and magazines, etc. that could be taken outside. Also there is more room to do movement exercises, room to move, great for activate exercises, etc. as well as being able to do lessons that are of interest and importance for the students, such as vocabulary exercises and games with tree and bush species, animals, farm vegetables, farm chores, etc. This can be a wonderful opportunity to bring the kids out into their world, using English. Engage, study, activate lessons can really be shown how useful a technique it is when teaching something very useful for the learners’ daily lives. Holding a class outside in a centralized area will also be a huge benefit for the students in that it is sometimes important for the parents to see the children learning English, and seeing for themselves what they can accomplish with having English as a skill, and that it is as important as the child’s chores, if not more. Also, allowing the parents to see what an actual English class looks like, will dispel any taboos they may have had about English class. This is because, in my experience, the main “problems” one may face teaching in Africa is usually cultural in nature, and the problem usually lies within the teacher, who is either ill-prepared or inflexible. That is why I am happy to say that this course offers, within its workings, all one would need to be both prepared and flexible. You offer plenty of online resources and support, and you offer it in such a way that it can be curtailed to my particular needs, out there in the field. I feel totally prepared to create my own classes, knowing I have all the back up I need in the form of structured class outlines, and easily customed classroom teaching techniques that are handily outlined for us and easy to access. I will be taking this course with me everywhere I go in this world to teach, and I honestly feel that ITTT will be there for me, wherever I go. Thank you, ITTT!