For many recent graduates in North America, teaching English in a foreign country is simply a way to travel, get to know a culture and earn money at the same time, but did you know that teaching English can also improve your performance as a business professional?
I’ve been teaching English to adults in Italy for about four months now. Although I still have a few months to go and so much to learn, I’ve still come up with a couple of take-aways that would apply to any teaching job.
When you teach English overseas, you’ll …
1. Improve your English-language skills
Yeah, ok pretty obvious right? To teach a language you’ll already need have to have an advanced knowledge of the grammar tenses and structures, but when you actually start to teach, you’ll find yourself thinking even harder about the “correct” way to write and speak – knowledge that has since been buried beneath bad habits and slang. Not only will you look more competent and professional with improved English, you’ll become a more effective communicator in general! Which brings me to my next point …
2. Improve your communication skills overall
Sure, good grammar is sexy, but as a teacher you’ll also gain valuable skills in interpersonal communication. Most workplace (and personal!) disputes arise from miscommunication issues. With the increase in technology-based communication tools, it is more important than ever to communicate clearly and concisely. Whether you are training a colleague, leading a meeting, or writing an email, its important that the receiver can completely understand your message, thereby improving the productivity, collaboration and the effectiveness of your team and organization overall.
3. Develop stronger interpersonal skills
Unless you plan to be a software developer that works at home for another software developer that works in their own home, you’ll probably have to work with people at some point. Hey, it’s not always easy to see eye-to-eye with all of your colleagues, but teaching English to adults or children can help you develop the skills necessary to make it a little less tiresome. Everyone has a different learning/thinking style – they have different perspectives that make a one-size-fits-all teaching style very ineffective. Knowing this will make your life a lot easier in the classroom and in the boardroom. When you can empathize with others, meaning you can put yourself in another’s shoes, it makes problem-solving a lot quicker and leaves less room for argument. Not only that, being a teacher will train you to have a monk-like Zen patience which comes in handy.
4. Lead more effective, useful meetings
Too many people complain about how wasteful meetings can be on an office’s most precious resource: time. As a teacher, you need to help individuals or a group of people achieve a goal within a (usually short) predetermined time frame, you organize an agenda, introduce the topic, promote discussion and encourage the team to move toward’s the lesson’s goal. That’s right: holding a class is like holding a meeting. Realizing this will make you into a more effective meeting facilitator; able to balance mood-lighteners that keep the team engaged, as well as facilitating the collaboration necessary to achieve the meeting’s goal.
5. Start multitasking like Supermom
Like I mentioned above, just like in a meeting, leading a lesson calls for superior multitasking skills. In an English lesson, you need to simultaneously encourage the student to achieve the lesson goal, present vocabulary or grammar without confusing them, move at an appropriate pace for each individual, mind the lesson time, consider the required lesson topics that will be on the test, make sure they are both learning and still having fun. Phew! All of this mental exercise makes for an effective multitasker and strong thinker in any workplace.
So there you have it. Some of the things I’ve learned as an English-teacher in a foreign country, condensed down into bite-sized pieces. Teaching English abroad isn’t just a way to learn about another culture, it’s also an opportunity to become a more marketable professional at the same time.
Have you ever taught English in a foreign country before? Are you thinking of teaching English as a way to travel?