- On 19 July 2017
- Tags TEFL Florence
Week 1. Day 5. AKA… My First Day Teaching at Via Lingua
All I could feel was my adrenaline pumping, hands sweating, and stomach turning as I approached the classroom door. I stepped across the threshold and, without even realizing it, the corners of my eyes crinkled and the sides of my mouth turned upwards. To my thrill, the students smiled right back, immediately putting me at ease.
From that point forward, teaching has been a series of surprising shifts in my own assumptions and people. For example, I had assumed, given we’re in Florence; all of my students would be Italian. Instead, I was faced with a middle-aged Russian, an Ecuadorian teen, and two 20-something Italian girls.
I remembered in one of my trainer’s input sessions on “Teaching Skills,” she emphasized the importance of creating a learning environment that is student-centered, challenging, and most importantly, safe space. Overwhelmed by the fact that I had 4 students, 3 of them from different countries, I suddenly froze. How was I going to create a “safe” environment with a group of people from different backgrounds, languages, and cultures? My nerves completely took over, and I just started reading the first line of my lesson plan verbatim - like some kind of robot! “Do you all celebrate Halloween in your countries?”
I looked up and their facial expressions said it all. In that moment, I knew I had to lose the fear, lose the stiff, procedural approach and just talk to the group as my true self. I looked at the Ecuadorian teen and asked, “Do you have a favorite candy?” He eagerly responded, “I like chocolate.” The Russian man chimed in and said, “For me, snickers.” Within in minutes, the conversation opened up and each of them seemed genuinely excited to talk about Halloween in the United States. My fear dissolved as the lesson proceeded and we became a group of unique human beings openly discussing our respective cultures.
Look, my first day teaching during the Via Lingua TEFL course was by no means fluid or effortless. However, it was fulfilling. I took away the powerful epiphany that the best way for me to be an effective teacher is to free myself up to be my authentic self and in so doing, allow the students to more freely open up to their lessons. Each day of teaching I gain more confidence and my own teaching style. By displaying a cultural awareness, openness, empathy, and compassion, you will be able to create innovative and enjoyable learning experiences for your students.