When I first moved to Bangkok, I quickly realized there was a certain stigma attached to teaching English.
Expats in other professions would look down their nose at English teachers with an air of superiority. I’m ashamed to say that feeling may have rubbed off onto me as well, and I only ever considered teaching English as a last resort.
It was only after I moved to Brazil that I realized that the English teacher stereotype was more accurate about the expats in Bangkok, than about the ESL profession in general. In Bangkok, ESL is often a last-ditch effort to do anything you can to stay in Thailand and avoid the realities of going home. BKK ESL teachers, mainly guys, are known for their hard-partying, harder-drinking, and prostitute-visiting ways. Many are characterized by a lack of professionalism, preparation, and dedication.
But definitely not all, and painting with a broad brush is choosing ignorance. A few of my best friends in Bangkok, and in Thailand, were some of the most inspiring and hard working people I’ve ever met.
And so, when I came to Brazil, I decided to try ESL myself, as a volunteer.
I discovered I LOVE teaching English.
And yeah, I definitely got lucky with a few of the coolest students in the world. But from now on, wherever I live, I will definitely teach English. My decision to teach English as a volunteer has led to one of the most fun and rewarding experiences of my life. It was the BEST thing I did to adjust to expat life in Brazil.
You should teach English as a volunteer because…
You’re truly helping someone
English is the most “influential” language in the world right now, according to research. It is the most widely spoken language, and is almost a necessity for large scale international travel.
English is a great language for your students to know and a very practical skill to add to their resume, to help their future job prospects, especially if they want to live in a major city, travel abroad, or work in tourism.
You’ll learn more about your own language
Can you name all the tenses on demand? What about all of the rules for using “a” versus “an” (hint: it’s not always whether the first letter of the word is a vowel).
If you’re a good teacher, you’ll need to know the rules of English so that you can teach it properly. At the same time, you’ll improve your own speaking, writing, and reading.
You’ll gain appreciation for second language speakers
By teaching English, you’ll realize just how hard it is to learn a second language, and how much time and effort it takes.
You’ll gain so much more patience, understanding, and true appreciation for anyone who speaks English as a second language. The next time you don’t know whether someone is saying “lice” or “rice”, or “teeth” or “treats”, you won’t get annoyed or indignant so quickly.
You’ll make friends
I got into jiu-jitsu through a girlfriend from the school I volunteer at
Teaching English is great for expanding your network of friends. You’ll instantly be introduced to other teachers and workers, who have at least one interest in common with you, and most likely a lot more. ALL of my friends in Rio I met through the school I volunteer at, in one way or another.
You also might make friends with your students, and at the very least, you’ll be inspired by them.
You won’t have gaps in your resume
Exactly what every traditionally business-minded American worries about (or worse, nags you about). When considering an extended trip, volunteering and teaching English will prevent any gaps in your resume.
You’ll gain references, volunteer experience, and multicultural experience – invaluable in today’s global marketplace. And stellar on LinkedIn.
You’ll tap into your creativity
English is way more fun when you get to draw the man before you label him
Especially if you don’t speak the local language, sometimes you will be stumped for a way to explain certain words. You’ll need to mime, make noises, and act out some words. Actually, it’s a good idea even if you know how to explain the word, because it is more memorable for your student.
Activity planning also makes use of your creativity, as you’re called upon to make each lesson as fun and educational at the same time for your student. This is a great chance to think back to your own education, and what you wish would have been different.
You’ll add a great skill to your resume
Teaching is an invaluable skill and applicable in SO many different fields, even if you decide not to teach English. What about teaching social media marketing, coding, yoga, cooking… the sky is the limit.
And if teaching English is your thing, you’re in luck! English teachers are in-demand job almost every non-native English country around the world, so you’re exponentially increasing your job opportunities.
You’ll learn the local language
my students help me correct my pronunciation in Portuguese whenever it is wrong… which is a lot!
As you teach English, it’s impossible not to learn more of your students’ native language at the same time – either because you need to look something up to better explain it, or because your student shares it with you.
If it’s an actual goal to learn the other language (and not just a side effect), you can definitely capitalize on the opportunity by reviewing all of the words you teach in English, in the other language as well. Bonus, it’ll make you a better teacher!