Trail to EFL

I am the eldest sibling (there are just two of us), but being the eldest I gained the reputation as the bossy one. Can’t say it isn’t true, but it definitely is telling of my personality and how I ended up teaching abroad.

As a child, one thing I would make my brother do was play school with me. He was always the student, of course, along with my stuffed animals or barbies. He wanted to be the teacher some times, but I was a little too … erm … bossy for that. I would pretend to teach him things, and he would try not to act too annoyed.

Sorry little (not so little anymore) brother.

Teaching has always been something I have enjoyed. In high school I took classes that would help me in college for either a degree in business or education. One of the classes I took was PALS (Peer Assistance Leadership Services). It was a class on volunteering in the community, basically I felt I learned how to be a good citizen. I learned how to identify needs and how to be a solution, rather than ignore it or sit back and hope someone else could make things better.

One of the volunteer assignments we had was tutoring at an elementary school. I worked with a first grade student on reading. Sometimes he needed help with math, luckily it was just addition and subtraction. I think if it were anything else, the kid would have been better off alone… but thankfully, that was not the case. Helping that student helped me see that educating others was something I was actually interested in and I was gaining practical experience in that area.

I had never thought of myself as someone who knew what she wanted to do for the rest of her life as a child. Alas, I was one of those kids. I knew from a young age I wanted to live abroad. My desire was to work with people in the places I had only heard and dreamed about. My dad and I would often look at maps and talk about what those places might be like. Since then, I have been able to meet people from over 70 countries, visit 4 countries, and live in another. Until my early 20s, I had no idea what exactly the world contained. I didn’t know what countries were on which continent or what they were famous for or the languages they spoke … or anything of importance about them. When I started working with international students, I didn’t want to be ignorant of the world. So, I began teaching myself the countries of the world. For the most part, I could tell you which continent most countries belong to. Which was super exciting.

In college, I changed my major 6 or 7 times before ending up with a BA in English Literature and a Certificate of Teaching English as a Foreign/Second Official Language. My other majors ranged between Early Childhood Education, Business Administration, International Business, and back to Early Childhood Education again (with a two year gap in there somewhere). I chose a BA in English and a certificate so I could work anywhere in the world. Literally, anywhere in the world that is not a majority English speaking country … I could work there. I knew I wouldn’t really be able to use a BA in English in the US unless I went to Law School, Grad School, or stayed a secretary. So I settled on it and finished my degree, finally, and began trying to figure out where I would go after graduation.

During the fall semester of my last year in college, I began feeling like I was supposed to come to China. Within a 9 day period I received 3 different emails/phone calls in regards to jobs in China. Each was through a different company. I hadn’t told anyone at that point where I felt I was supposed to go, but that is where I was being pulled to.

I decided, officially, three months prior to graduation, that I would move to China after I graduated. Everything I studied between all of the many different major courses I took, seemed to work out for where I would be heading (where I am now).

During that last semester of school, I began volunteering at the Hispanic Center. It was such a sweet opportunity. The kids were great and I was able to use much of the Spanish I had studied since high school and through college. Which is funny, seeing as how I was about to move to China. How useful… The center had a few adults that wanted to learn English but couldn’t go through the Adult Learning Center in our city. So I was able to teach English language classes on the weekends. It completely reaffirmed me teaching English.

Since moving to China, I have been teaching students between the ages of 5-14. My classes are divided into different levels. In most cases the ages and levels correspond, but that is not true of all of my students. In one of my lower level classes I have a 12 year old student. It just depends on their English competency level, which is dependent upon when they started learning English.

This is my third term to teach (yes, third term and I have only been here for 7 months … cray cray). It has been so amazing to see how much my students in each level have progressed from term to term. Seeing the students progress reminds me why I want to get up and go to work. I’m not just teaching these kids English, I’m able to teach them things they can’t get in their elementary/middle/high schools. There are so many things that aren’t cultural here that we Westerners would consider “normal” education. That is another topic for another post.

These kids have been so much fun to teach and work with each term. I’m so glad I get to be here teaching them for now.

I’m so glad I followed this “Trail to EFL”.


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