By: Taylor A. Sands
Teaching abroad is a dream come true for me. I studied at the University of Illinois at Chicago for five years to be an Elementary school teacher. When I was unable to find a job in Chicago Public Schools, I was devastated, until I heard about the International TEFL Academy. I was so excited because I was finally able to combine my passion for teaching and traveling into one amazing experience.
I took the onsite TEFL class in Chicago, Illinois. Going into the class, I was fairly confident about my teaching skills and abilities. After all, I had studied for five years to be a teacher. Nothing could have prepared me for what I learned in my TEFL class. I thought I knew how to teach, but the TEFL class really helped me learn new methods and helped me embrace new ways of thinking about quality instruction.
Before I took the TEFL class, I was confident in my English grammar knowledge. After a few days in the class, it became clear to me that I still had a lot to re-learn. As a native English speaker, I always took my grammar knowledge for granted. I knew when to use certain punctuation, and I of course knew the basic tenses, but I learned so much more about the English language throughout the course. I learned that there are actually twelve tenses in English! That is something I never knew!
As an English teacher in Guadalajara, Mexico, I am so grateful for the detailed grammar information I was given in my TEFL class. Before taking the class, I would not have been able to give a satisfactory grammar lesson, but after taking it I feel like I am a wiz.
In Guadalajara, I teach a variety of students. During the days, I teach a mixed age group of preschool and kindergarten. In the evenings, I teach adults. Teaching adults and teaching children is very different. I am fortunate that I have a lot of experience with teaching children. Teaching adults was a completely new experience for me. A good amount of my adult students are older than me, and it made the teacher-student dynamic a little awkward at first, but now I can safely say that I prefer teaching adult English classes.
Teaching children is tons of fun and very rewarding. Children pick up on things so fast. I have been teaching in Guadalajara for seven months and my students, whose ages range from 2-5, understand almost everything that I say. However, I will say that teaching adults is by far, much more interesting and entertaining. When you teach adults, there is a possibility for real authentic conversation. I especially love when I give my students a topic to debate in class. I love watching their faces light up with excitement. It is the best feeling in the world to know you have helped someone get one step closer to his or her goals.
What is also great about teaching adult students here in Guadalajara is that it has forced me to learn the public transit system and given me the opportunity to explore this very cool city. I am going to be very honest; at first, I was terrified at the thought of taking the bus anywhere in this city. I had heard stories from other people about the intense bus system.
Now, it feels like I have been taking the busses here my whole life. There is a definite confidence that comes with mastering the public transit system in a foreign country, especially when you have a weak grasp of the national language. When friends of mine come to visit from Chicago, I feel an immeasurable sense of pride knowing that I am able to navigate a city that was once so alien to me. It is a heady feeling.
I think that this experience of living and teaching abroad has certainly changed my perspective on many things. I feel like I have grown as a teacher and more importantly as a person throughout my stay in Guadalajara. I would recommend living and teaching abroad to everyone that I know. It is funny how you do not really know yourself until you take yourself out of your everyday life and plunge head first into a new situation.
My advice to prospective students and current teachers is this: grab every opportunity. Embrace the different, the strange and most importantly, the unknown. You only get one life; you had better make sure that it is one worth living.
About the author: Taylor Sands is a twenty something from Chicago, Illinois. She holds a BA in Urban Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She graduated with a BA and a type 03 certification in 2012. She was working as a server at a popular Chicago restaurant when she decided to make the move to Mexico.
To learn more about Taylor, check out her other writings:
Vacation - All I Ever Wanted - Teaching English in Mexico - Taylor Sands
The Wheels On The Bus - Teaching English In Guadalajara Mexico - Taylor Sands