How I feel about being a Peace Corps TEFL teacher – Andrew

As Emily alluded to in her last post, we are currently taking a few online pre-departure courses through Peace Corps to help us prepare for our service.  One of our assignments was to write an essay answering questions about how we feel about being a Peace Corps TEFL teacher.  While not flowery writing, we hope sharing these essays with you will give you a glimpse into our mindset as we move closer to service.  Here is my essay:

Coming from a family of educators, I have always held teachers and the role of education in our society in high esteem.  When my wife and I first considered joining the Peace Corps, we dreamily reviewed all of the countries and program areas available to volunteers.  I was immediately drawn to the Education sector.  I am so excited to be able to develop my teaching skills, and contribute my energies to something that I view as so important.

However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t also incredibly nervous!  I know I have a lot to learn about teaching, especially when it comes to teaching a language I was literally born into.  I am a person with very high expectations for myself, and so embarking on this learning experience will require a great deal of being gentle with myself.

Honestly, I feel that I struggle to truly know how being a teacher fits my identity, as I do not yet feel that I am a teacher. My gut sense is that it fits well with my identity, as I am a believer in the power of knowledge & learning to help transform lives. I also really enjoy working with youth and using education to build their confidence.  However, I don’t feel that I have a solid sense of myself as a teacher yet. I look forward to exploring how teaching becomes more integrated with my identity.

A practice that I am hoping to add to my teaching repertoire through Peace Corps is building trust in the classroom, specifically on providing order and respect.  I want to focus on this aspect, because I believe created a trusting, respectful environment is a necessary prerequisite to learning any content.  This is also an area where I will be able to focus while I am learning the English language content.  Prioritizing building trust will be integral to meeting the two objectives of commitment and relationship on the “Triangle of Teacher Competence” on pg. 5 of the “Pre-departure TEFL Grammar and Methodology Manual.”  Specifically, I will strive to follow the advice on pg. 7 of the manual to “be strict towards the class, but be kind towards individuals.”

A practice I want to try and avoid is trying to be a friend.  In most of my teaching experiences so far I’ve been able to play the role of teacher and friend, as they have been in primarily non traditional, extracurricular settings (soccer & basketball coach, classroom assistant for after-school financial literacy program), etc.).  Avoiding this practice will also complement my goal of maintaining order and control in the classroom to help promote trust.  I appreciated the perspective offered in the training modules on the “Don’ts of Bad Teaching” that highlighted that the students “have enough friends, not enough guides”.  I will use this as a litmus test for my actions, and ask myself if I am coming from a place of friendship or guidance.

Overall, I cannot wait for the experience to learn, grow, and challenge myself as a teacher.  Thank you, Peace Corps, for giving me this opportunity!

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