What I have learned about life from teaching English
I was going through some of my pictures that I took while travelling and teaching English, and I couldn't help but think how much of a life-changing event that experience truly was. In this blog entry I'm going to share 10 important lessons that I learned while teaching English abroad and in Canada.
1. The world is a really big and diverse place.
I think when you live in one place for a long time, you lose your sense of how big and diverse the world really is. When you start to travel though you can't help but notice how grand the planet earth is. For example, two places that I taught English were Ghana and South Korea. If you look at either on the map of the world you'll see they are really small countries, but within those tiny countries alone there is so much to see, experience and learn about. I lived in Korea for 3 years and I'd say I only saw a small fraction of that country, even though I traveled in Korea more than my friends there.
2. Although the world is a really big and diverse place, people all over the world are the same at heart.
No matter where you go, people share the same human characteristics. Everywhere I have traveled I've met playful, loving, empathetic, curious, driven (personally and professionally), strong, and respectful people. Does this mean that everyone everywhere is awesome, absolutely not. You'll also meet greedy, pessimistic, selfish, lazy and weak people. The same type of people you'll find in your hometown. One thing I want to add here, that is very important for people that are afraid to travel to places that are perceived as 'dangerous,' is the majority of the people in the world are good people that are not out to get you. Sure environmental and social factors force people to commit evil deeds, but again most people in the world are good people!
3. My views, opinions, and values are not always correct.
Travel with an open-mind and you'll receive the best education imaginable
4. The value of relationship building and working as a team
Building professional relationships with your co-workers and students will go along way in determining, not only how enjoyable your work will be, but how much your students will learn. If you are a new teacher this is especially important as your colleagues are invaluable to your success as a teacher. Moreover, I found teaching easier and much more enjoyable when I tried to create professional relationships with every individual student in my classes.
5. Students' learning reflects my work
6. Criticism is tough, but essential.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, I thought that just because I was a trained teacher in Canada, that going abroad and teaching English would be no problem...boy, was I wrong. To make matters worse when I first received criticism from colleagues or the school principal, I didn't listen to it all, and thought I know what I'm doing, I was a teacher in Canada. Overtime (and something I'm still working on) I have discovered there is tremendous value in criticism. To develop professionally, no matter what your career is, you need criticism, feedback, and help from the people around you. However....
7. I need to avoid negative people in my life
Not all the criticism and complaints you receive are constructive and the negativity of others can bring down the most optimistic people in the world. As I mentioned earlier, anywhere you go you'll find people that share the same characteristics, which means you'll find negative people in all workplaces. If you want to be happy in life it's so important to surround yourself with positive people and spend as little time with the negative ones as possible. What you'll find if you spend too much time with people that are constantly complaining or overly-critical, is that you start acting the same way. Negativity can quickly bring down the morale of a large group, even if it only one person who hates everything.
8. It's amazing how you can make a life anywhere
Culture shock and anxiety are natural feelings when you live in a new country...however if you keep an open-mind and have a bit of adventurousness in you, its amazing how quickly people can adapt to new surroundings. Before you know it you'll find yourself developing routines in a place you thought it would be impossible to adapt to.
9. Traveling and teaching abroad will make you appreciate your home.
I've been all over the world, and I can tell you that the old adage is true: "There's no place like home." Living abroad can be tough as the people you love are so far way. You'll find keeping in touch with people back home is crucial in successfully living abroad. Not only do you miss people, but you'll miss the lifestyle and culture of your home. In many places everything is so different than what you are accustom to in your home country. The food, weather, people, customs, etc. can be all challenging, but at the same time intriguing. Coming home for me was always something I looked forward to and although travel is amazing, coming home to your own bed is equally amazing...trust me.
10. Money and a cushy job aren't the keys to happiness
Traveling and living abroad will give you a new prospective on life. For me, living and teaching in Ghana was the single greatest life-changing event of my life. To see people that have nothing and live in impoverished conditions, but look and seem so happy was shocking. Even more shocking to me though is upon returning home from seeing places like the slums of Buenos Aires or Manila or Bangkok, and seeing Canadians who have everything, but are so miserable. I know it sounds cheesy, but what I have seen that really makes people happy are friends, family and doing what you really love, regardless of pay. Being loved and loving others, combined with a fulfilling career or hobbies is essential to a happy life.
These are just 10 things that I learned while teaching English. Really there are thousand of things that I learned during this time of my life and things that when I reflect upon still teach me things to this day. If you are thinking about going abroad to teach, stop dreaming and do it. Even if you have a terrible experience teaching English, it will be an experience that will teach you so much about the world around you and yourself.