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The Benefits and Drawbacks of Volunteer Teaching

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Volunteer Teaching | ITTT | TEFL Blog

As both an individual tutor and group teacher of High Beginning Conversational English for the ESL division of Literacy New Jersey, I have become familiar with the benefits and drawbacks of volunteer teaching. While the drawbacks can be challenging, the rewards of volunteer teaching far outweigh any drawbacks that I have encountered.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Charles M. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

My Personal Experience

Currently, my tutoring includes students from West Africa and Israel. My High Beginning Conversational English class has students from around the globe including Guatemala, Venezuela, Israel, Liberia and more. This makes for a diverse group of learners and excellent cultural exchange.

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One of the great benefits of both volunteer tutoring and teaching is the connection with the student or students. Watching a student grow and learn is tremendously satisfying. I can know with each lesson that I am contributing to helping the student learn a new language and life skills by teaching them the English language.

Another benefit of volunteer tutoring and teaching is cross-cultural exchange. As I help the students increase their skills with the English language and learn about cultural topics related to, in my case, life in the United States and the State of New Jersey, I am learning about their cultures of origin, of their lives prior to coming to the United States and the differences and similarities of the human experience from across the globe.

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The main drawback of volunteer tutoring and teaching is the lack of resources available for teaching. In the Literacy New Jersey program, due to funding constraints, every tutor and teacher is required to supply all their materials. While this requires creativity on the part of the teacher it can often require money as well. Sometimes, unfortunately, the extra money needed for class materials is not available and one must find innovative ways to teach and get concepts across effectively.

Another drawback is that since the classes are voluntary for both the tutor/teacher and the student's homework is encouraged but not mandatory. While ongoing assessment takes place both to monitor student progress and for the organization to make sure it attains its benchmarks for funding, there is no way to make sure that homework is done. It is in this sense that sometimes a student will be doing particularly well one week and then, without having done any homework, the student will have taken a major step back by the following week. Time is then required to return to the level of language proficiency previously attained. It is best to be patient and kind in these situations and to gently encourage more attention to study outside the classroom to reinforce learning.

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Ultimately, the drawbacks of lack of funding and taking extra time for review after homework has not been completed pale in comparison to the many benefits of being a volunteer tutor and teacher. It has been a life goal of mine to help others learn English. It is a way of life to me and one where I know that through each lesson my students grow more confident and will be able to better use English in their daily lives.

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