From Student to Teacher - My Language Journey
It was the last day of Japanese class and my teacher’s last day of teaching at our school. We were all standing up getting ready to bow him one last time. It was dead quiet but I could still hear sniffles around me and felt the sadness of the moment. I never thought I would care so much about a teacher leaving. To this day, the words and wisdom my Japanese teacher taught me still ring in my head. Flash forward to a few years ago, I went to Japan for the first time, after a hiatus of not studying Japanese, but amazingly I still had all the skills my teacher had taught me in high school. How did this person have such an impact on me? The answer I have come to realize is that because he truly cared about me becoming skillful in a foreign language. The most effective teachers I have ever had were the ones who could build that rapport with me, truly cared about my knowledge, and had the skills to make teaching exciting.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Henry D.
“Learning a foreign language can open doors to some of the most meaningful things in life”
Because of the language skills I acquired in high school and college, when I went to Japan and Vietnam I was able to connect with people on a deeper level and understand the country and myself more. Learning a foreign language can open doors to some of the most meaningful things in life and because of that I decided I would like to extend that opportunity to people through TEFL. A passionate, caring, and effective teacher is one who constantly checks up on their students and is trying to figure out how those students can get better. This inspires the student to also try harder and it creates a feedback loop where the student is trying to get better under the guidance of the teacher and the teacher is trying to figure out ways on how to make the student better.
For instance, I was once at a point where it felt like I was not getting any better at Japanese and I expressed this to my teacher. He sat me down after class and we discussed together what I could do to get better. Eventually we came up with this idea for me to write journal entries as writing had been my weak point. I did the journal entries and I started doing much better on tests. This moment meant a lot to me because my teacher was willing to take extra time to devise a specific way for me to get better and it worked.
Also read: Great Ideas for Teaching Writing Skills in the ESL Classroom
“The most effective teachers are ones who make their lessons exciting and challenging”
An effective teacher makes sure that language learning is relevant to the student because they realize that that is one key to making the language stick. One of the best ways my teacher did this was instead of having us go by the mandatory textbook, he took only the useful, relevant information from there and made his own book. Again, showing that effort to create something that would truly help us. From time to time he would also make references or examples based on what his students were interested in. He took the time to learn this about us because he cared about us and because he realized how effective it would be for me if I could relate Japanese to skateboarding, my passion at the time.
The most effective ESL teachers are also ones who make their lessons exciting and challenging. They realize that students are capable of a lot and are willing to put pressure on the student to achieve that level. The great thing about teaching a language is that it is possible to roleplay situations using the vocabulary you are learning. In the case of my Japanese class, my teacher’s role-plays were very high energy as he had a keen sense of storytelling. When he taught locations he made it feel as if we were really lost in Japan. Or when he would ask a question, he silently walked around the class, and then out of nowhere yell a student’s name, expecting an answer. This kind of pressure helped simulate how the situation would actually be in a foreign country where one is pressured to answer right on the spot.
Also read: Top 5 Tips: How to Learn a New Language When Teaching English Abroad
“It feels good to be grateful and to help other people”
After going to Japan and Vietnam where I do know the languages and comparing that to places like China where I do not, I have seen just how meaningful it is when you have the ability to communicate with people. When I went to Japan and used the thank you phrases my teacher taught me or when I asked for directions I learned that it feels good to be grateful and to help other people. I learned how interesting people are because I was able to ask them about their occupation or their dreams, and from that I was able to figure out how much I love learning about people. This goes the other way as well. I was able to connect better with people who were able to speak English in China and I realized that TEFL can give people the opportunity to make meaningful connections. My own journey to becoming a foreign language teacher started back in that Japanese class and through my experiences since then I have become very motivated and equipped to becoming an effective TEFL teacher.
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