TEFL Success Stories – Part 36

Elizabeth – UK

What keeps you motivated?

Huge interpersonal satisfaction plus a sense of repairing (political) damage done to vulnerable individuals.

Best teaching moment (in your current teaching situation)?

Having a Palestinian move from a position of hatred for the British, to developing warm relationships with people here. I had pleasure seeing her grow and flourish and pass her exams, but greater pleasure when she emailed saying, “I actually feel your heart is with me and you make me happy.”


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Worst teaching moment (in your current teaching situation)?

Facing up to the fact (after eight months), that despite all the goodwill and application in the world, a particular illiterate adult’s window of learning to read and write had passed.


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The biggest challenge you face (in your current teaching situation)?

To be honest, it’s finding tactful ways of ensuring well-intentioned but untrained volunteer English Language teachers working on a one-to-one basis with refugees have some idea how to engage and actually teach language. Refugee classes are about a lot more than language learning: there’s welcome, reassurance and being at the coal face of acceptance. It’s true that learning in the community will go on when people have the confidence to mix but, although any kind of listening/activity will help, it is a tragic waste when teaching/learning is not taking place because of lack of skill, imagination and experience on the part of the teacher. For me, to hear untrained colleagues blundering down blind alleys is painful.


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What have you learned from your students?

Courtesy, gentleness, respect and patience.

What’s next?

The fat lady hasn’t sung yet.

Top tip for other teachers?

Start from where your students are at. Adults who have never learned to read or write in their own languages do not need to learn all the letters of the alphabet at once or in any particular order. The struggling middle-aged woman who has never been to school is between a rock and a hard place. Use easy words she will see everywhere, like bus stop. This will give her the confidence to continue.


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