Here are some enlightening little tid bits of knowledge that I learned as a 1 to 1 English Teacher. Enjoy!
1. Working for a Language Center means you wind up working with mostly Westerners. My luck put me in a Language Center with mostly middle aged British men. To say the majority of them were quirky would be an understatement. Upon introducing myself to one named Michael he said, “Oh, Megan! Like M & M! My mom always signs her emails to me as M & M, Micheal’s Mother.” He was in his 50s. Oiy.
2. My job was really straightforward, each day we received a piece of paper with our lessons for the day. Then we went to our file and BEHOLD! there were the files of all of our students for the day. Within their files there was information on what book and what lesson within that book they were on. I would spend 5-10 minutes refreshing myself with that lesson and the material covered so that I could sounds like a knowledgable little old English teacher. There was always some fun to be had when my student would pull out a different book or stare at me like I was speaking another language (HA!) and I would realize that I read that stupid doctor’s handwriting/chicken scratch/any-other-euphemism-associated-with-horribly-outrageous-handwriting completely wrong. I wasn’t supposed to be teaching prepositions, I was supposed to be teaching pronouns! Ugh.
Enter small talk 101.
3. Which brings me to my next point; 6 out of 10 lessons the students were sick of the actual material and would come in and just strike up a conversation instead. At first, I dreaded these students. I’ve never really liked small talk in general, working at a restaurant definitely requires it so I can certainly say that I have probably advanced skills in the area but I never really enjoyed it. Now, after 3 months of constant small talk, I can small talk for an hour and a half and make my student feel just splendid about their english lesson afterwards.
4. Christmas morning isn’t even more enjoyable for me than opening a student file to find “N/S or CTL” (cancel or no show) scrolled across a high percentage of lesson notes.
5. I went to Thailand and wound up teaching 1 on 1 lessons at a Language Center. The majority of our clientele were Thai right? Wrong. Japanese! Japanese businessmen to be specific.
6. When you are living in Thailand, teaching Japanese men, finding relevant examples could prove to be rather daunting. Supermarket? Wegmans, easy. Wrong. Book store? Barnes and noble, even more wrong. Department store? Robinson’s in Thailand, Macy’s in NY, one of these have to be relevant in Japan, right? Wrong, and my student has only been in Thailand for 3 days.
Ha, this lesson will be interesting.
7. I now consider myself an expert in pictionary, taboo and charades.
8. At times I got so busy I didn’t really even have a chance to look at the name on the file until the student sat down in front of me. Well, I had a series of questions I would ask students who I haven’t taught before. “How long have you been in Thailand?” was one of those questions. Well, until that student responds: “I’m Thai.”
9. A handy little skill I now possess: the ability to read AND write upside down. If you have any occupations that this skill can be put to good use in, please let me know! Should it go on my resume?
10. Being a Speech Pathology major also comes with an innate ability to immediately recognize even the smallest sign of a speech impediment even in a non-native english speaker. Unfortunately, japanese and thai cultures are not welcoming to admitting that everything isn’t perfect, especially with their children.
11. Students varied significantly. Some students came in and barely participated. Those were infuriating hour and halves. Some students loved learning the language and came in with their own topics or questions. And some students have, “Doesn’t like to be interrupted” written on the outside of their file.
Don’t mess with that lady.
12. Going along with the theme of each student being very different; some students would say they are lonely in Thailand or that they want to take you out to dinner. Or they ask what ‘slut’ means. Life as a 1 to 1 English was always fun, you can’t deflect questions very easily when you’re stuck in a 5′ x 5′ room with just you and the student.
You can just pray for the next bell to ring.
For me, this experience was exactly what I was looking for teaching wise. (Teaching wise, ha I had to teach ‘wise’ in one lesson, that was rough.) Although, I really wanted to work with children, I wanted schedule flexibility more and this was one of the only options offering a lot of flexibility. I also did not have to deal with some of the awful school situations that some of my friends and acquaintances experienced.
Have you ever taught English abroad? What was your experience like?