my thoughts on teaching English…

Here I am with my English students. The ones who aren’t smiling are happy, I promise. Cambodians often don’t smile for pictures…plus they’re teenagers.When I first found out that I had to teach English I thought I was going to throw up. I’m a NURSE, not a TEACHER. To say that I hate teaching is rather extreme, however, that’s not far from the truth. Even at the mention of teaching my heart races, I get all sweaty and nervous and I can’t think straight. On top of that, I was abnormally intimidated by my little teenage students who are half my size and who range from 11-16 years old. But as you can see by the picture, I’m smiling. I’m not only smiling because it was the last day of class, but because I survived EIGHT weeks of teaching. And towards the end, I actually started to enjoy it {gasp}!!! {I even cried when I had to miss my last class because I was sick with food poisoning}

I learned a lot about myself through this experience. I realized that parties, games, songs, paper airplanes, stories and hangman are great teaching methods. I realized that you can basically fully communicate by using gestures, hand motions, acting things out, making sounds, drawing pictures and pointing at things. I realized that my students didn’t need an accredited, talented teacher, they just needed someone to care. I may not have been the best teacher and they may have not gotten very far in their textbook, but we had FUN. Every bout of tachycardia, every shirt I sweat through, every knot that appeared in my back as a result of stressing about teaching evaporated when I walked into class and saw their smiling faces and heard their voices say in unison “goooood evening techa”!

These past few months have really stretched and challenged me. I experienced, first hand, that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. I did something that I didn’t think I could do– something that was as foreign to me as the Khmer language. Although I won’t intentionally seek out more ESL teaching opportunities, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I grew to love my students. And I think they grew to love their crazy, tall, sweaty, nervous and awkward “teacher” too…


95 thoughts on “my thoughts on teaching English…

  1. You are actually a really good English teacher, even though it’s not your favorite thing to do. I remember the kids talking about how much they like you more than their old teacher…

    Good job!

  2. Caring for the students really encourages them to learn more than we realize. Thanks for sharing God’s love with these teenagers.

  3. It’s daunting teaching English abroad, but it gets easier as time goes on. I’m starting on my third year of it, and for the first time in my life I think I might have the hang of it. It’s so rewarding though. When my life gets low (my life is low), those kids of mine find a way to make it better.

  4. Hey, I describe myself as “crazy tall” too (even though your description does say, “crazy, tall…”). 😉

    It sounds like an INCREDIBLE experience. And their expressions are priceless — seems like they were lucky to have someone like you in their lives!

  5. “I experienced, first hand, that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” ~ LOVE this line. 🙂 It’s amazing how God can take what we think we’re the WORST at doing and somehow make it successful. It’s an amazing experience to watch Him work in our lives and show us things about ourselves that we never even knew!

    Beautiful post and congrats on being Freshly Pressed! 🙂

  6. Adorable children! Every semester I fall in love with my students. It happens slowly sometimes, but they all have such sweet characteristics that it makes them so lovable. No matter what the nationality or religion, they all have the breath of life in them, that piece of God’s life. How can that be anything but adorable?

  7. Pingback: my thoughts on teaching English… (via Anderson Adventures) « Rameshnanda's Blog

  8. Teaching is truly and undervalued profession in the U.S., glad you get to teach somewhere they actually appreciate it! Great post 🙂

  9. I had the pleasure of teaching ESL in western China nine years ago. My class ranged in ages 14 to early 30’s. My background is in education and I still felt intimidated! Thankfully, some of my students were already pretty good in speaking English. I pretty much taught off the cuff, using my materials as a guide, not as a verbatim source.

    I even had my own bout with food poisoning – a student gave me some soft serve ice cream and I was obliged to eat it in front of him.

    An interesting time to be sure. Glad you enjoyed it.

  10. TEFL does push a person to places that they never thought they would find within themselves! I just returned from teaching in Chilean Patagonia for six months, and my students were about the same age as yours. I also had some very young kids, who were my absolute favorites!

    I felt burned out on teaching about a month ago when I had to leave, but now I feel as though I might want to do it again! Maybe challenge yourself to teach for a semester or year!

    You can read about my Chilean adventure here

  11. I came across your blog on Freshly Pressed and I must say I’m glad I took the time to read this. I just graduated with a BA in English and while everyone has been telling me I should teach English, I’ve been very reluctant to do so. I want to write, but lately something has been urging me to help the latino community and teach English to Spanish speakers. It is very inspiring to hear a story like yours and that you used God’s strength to get you through a task that you didn’t think was up your alley. Thank you for sharing!

  12. Motivation is key – a motivated teacher like you and students who are interested in learning – a magical combination. A bit of imagination helps too.
    I enjoyed teaching in Poland. They were older than your students and an interesting bunch.
    Except for the one who had learned English from Russian textbooks and thought he already knew everything. As a special present he received an “advanced” booklet of colloquial phrases I made up just for him. It contained those classic English phrases – “As happy as a cupboard”, “As round as a Spaniard”, etc.
    What do you reckon? Naughty or justified?

  13. Very nice, young lady! As a nurse, how did you get yourself into this teaching English position in Cambodia??? I guess sometimes square pegs can fit into round holes, but it’s rather unusual.

  14. They ought not be smiling. 🙂

    You, or maybe the picture, reminded me of a Chinese buddy while working in a construction in Guam. One day he came sadly for work and to say goodbye. His company was sending him home to China [PRC]. Asked why, he just showed a tabloid that showed about 50 of them, captioned something like Chinese workers complaining to U.S. Labor about slave wages by their Chinese contractor.

    And he was there with a big Cheese. 😦

  15. It’s great to read about your challenge. I have taught college English in the US and have recently begun thinking about teaching abroad. I’ve lived in Haitia and Vietnam, but taught in neither place. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Hi, what a narration. For sometime, I too have been teaching English to some very naughty students. I wish I could have your qualities and a realistic attitude in teaching. I look forward to reading similar posts.

  17. This post put a smile on my face. =)
    i’m sure you’ve mentioned this somewhere before in another post, but how exactly did you land a teaching position when you’re a nurse?
    p.s. are you sure you weren’t crying because you had food poisoning? haha!
    p.p.s. i really like your hair!

    • Good question, I asked that one myself too! We went with an team and we did all different things including teaching English, AND a bringing medical care and supplies into poor villages. So I DID get to do what I love. And thanks about the hair compliment!

  18. I am actually training to be an English teacher and was always a really shy introvert who got super nervous when talking infront of others but taught my first class for four weeks building my way up to full lessons. Finally I taught a full lesson on Grammar (even though I had limited knowledge and was worried about giving them the wrong advice) and wasn’t nervous at all. God did amazing things for my confidence, I’m glad that you enjoyed the experience 🙂 peace
    p.s. I cried on my last day of school cause it was over too lol!

  19. Wonderful post! As an overseas ESL teacher for the past 15 years, I REALLY enjoyed reading your post. It reminded me so much of all the wonderful groups of kids I taught in South Korea so many moons ago and the nervous feeling one always gets (at least I do!) when teaching. Thanks also for linking to the beautiful post on Shrey ya’s “little red shoes”. I especially loved the video. You could really see the love and joy of Christ on your faces as you guys presented the shoes to Shrey ya. Precious!!! Thanks for inspiring me to remember that it’s all about others, loving them unconditionally and impacting lives. May the Lord Jesus continue to bless you abundantly as He blesses others through you! (Psalm 90:17)

  20. Hi,
    I really enjoyed your post . you got a true heart of a teacher being a nurse .A teacher need to understand that with love and care they can win the hearts of their students and then it becomes easier to change the way of students.
    when I am with my students I forget the other world .The other teacher comes and knock at the door of my class to tell that my hour is over ,till then I enjoy with my students teaching and having fun.

  21. It’s amazing how God helps us grow. It’s always worth it even when it’s hard. Praise God you didn’t give up but pressed on in serving Him and those kids. I live in China and I have friends who are English teachers. They always seem to have good stories to tell. 🙂

  22. I am actually training to be an English teacher and was always a really shy introvert who got super nervous when talking infront of others but taught my first class for four weeks building my way up to full lessons. Finally I taught a full lesson on Grammar (even though I had limited knowledge and was worried about giving them the wrong advice) and wasn’t nervous at all. God did amazing things for my confidence, I’m glad that you enjoyed the experience peace

  23. Your experience is very different from ours, because we ourselves learnt English as a second language and are now teaching it in our own country. I feel, knowledge of the local language is actually a hindrance in language teaching.

  24. Sometimes you do what you have to do to find out what you’re called to do…I admire your honesty, staying true to your gifts/calling and following your heart. But being committed to something you feel is not your strength is a quality I really admire because that is strength. And I’m glad you recognize God’s spirit inside you in giving you that strength.

  25. Hey! I taught English for a while too and it was one of the most interesting experiences ever! It’s amazing how keen to learn they were.

    Thanks for the post and keep up the good work!

  26. Wow, congrats! Perhaps you’re actually made to be a teacher after all! …well, who knows? I’m an english teacher as well, and believe me, it was the least thing I wanna do on earth, but as time goes by, I thought being a teacher is a lot of fun!

  27. I came across your post on Freshly Pressed and I must say I’m really blessed by your post especially by your love for your students. Students always feel and know if a teacher truly cares for them. We can indeed do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! May God continue to use you to touch more lives! 🙂

  28. Great story.. I love teaching too, though I’m not really a teacher and I don’t have any students, just with my nephews and nieces 🙂 I find teaching job as a heroic act and having a great teacher you can connect with is very rare.. I’m glad you have a wonderful experience…

  29. If I had had a foreign English teacher during my study experience, I would not have a pity.Now, I am using my poor English working at trading company.

  30. I worked with the children in Cambodia a couple of times during my few visits there too. They are the sweetest people around, their genuine appreciation and gratitude to whomever that have touched their life in even the smallest way touched my heart all the time.Please continue to do whatever you are doing 😀 hope to work with you in the future too! 😀

  31. The greatest gift is giving your time. Through your process you recognized that “greater is He that is in you, than He that is of the world.” That speaks volumes of your faith. You definitely left an imprint in those lives which will last beyond your years. 🙂

  32. You post is encouraging. I want to be an ESL teacher and it’s good to know you enjoyed it. It gives me hope. Nice post 🙂

  33. I too have taught English in Asia (China). I too said I would never do it, and I too grew to like it. In fact, I think I grew to love it and now I miss it. Thank you for sharing! Eight weeks is a long time to do something that intimidates you so much. I praise God for your reliance on the gospel.

  34. HEY,
    good job.. ive been teaching kids too.. ages 9-11.
    although there are lots of challenges, i still enjoy it specially wen u see the sparks in their eyes..
    im teaching bible stories and im doing it all for the glory of GOD! Godbless all the reacher’s out there!

  35. God has a way of bringing us places and using us in unexpected ways. Thanks for rising to the challenge and being willing to be used in areas of perceived weaknesses. Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  36. The teenagers’ look are similar to my Kadazan Dusun faces here in Sabah, Malaysia. It has been a great experience to teach especially the English language to those young people. It will be great benefit for them in future 🙂 And, thanks to the teachers like you for that 🙂

  37. Just seeing the picture alone, i thought they are Filipino children.They look so much like Filipinos. It’s nice to know that someone like you is helping others from other countries by teaching English. Keep up the good work!

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