Challenges for a first time English teacher

Gemma Canham

When I was approached 4 months ago about the prospect of teaching English, I was extremely hesitant. Firstly, I had no experience and was certain that I would mess it up. Secondly, there was a reason that I hadn't signed up to work for the British Council on my year abroad, I didn't want to spend my year abroad from my Spanish degree speaking English. However, I needed to pay my rent somehow and I was slightly intrigued by the idea. It was for these reasons that the next day, I contacted  Institute Exclusivo.

I was soon given my first students. My first challenge arose pretty quickly, how would I decide what to teach in my classes and how would I go about planning them? With no English teaching experience and limited knowledge of English grammar aside from the fact that I was a native English speaker, I was at a very inconvenient loose end. I flapped around like a stressed out bird for a while but thankfully I was made more than comfortable in asking for help. Thanks to Lizzie and Roeland (the English coordinators at the institute), I was soon good to go with a bunch of topic ideas for all the levels I would have to teach.

The second challenge that I faced was, now that I had these ideas, how could I go about communicating them to my students in a way that made sense to them. I could barely even teach these ideas to myself, let alone to anyone else! And then the day of my first teacher training session with Roeland arrived… I was, of course, nervous that I would make a fool of myself, that my lack of knowledge would become abundantly clear and that I would be fired on the spot. But while the first two things definitely happened, for some reason, unbeknown to me at the time, I still had a job at the end of the session. I was made to feel more confident and ready to begin my first classes.

One of my most rewarding moments so far as a teacher involved a class in which I was putting into practice a grammar teaching technique that I had learnt in my first teacher training session. The look on my students’ face when I clambered up onto the table in the classroom and started stomping around yelling, ‘I walk on the table, I. Walk. On. The. Table!’, was priceless. He had no idea what this nutcase was doing on the table and probably wanted to request another, less crazy teacher straight away. But then, it dawned on him what I was trying to get across and I saw the realisation spread across his face and realised that, I might be alright at this teaching lark after all.


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teaching English / Spanish /  Institute Exclusivo / English grammar / native English speaker