By Steven Sanders
There are times when travellers are given the opportunity to prolong their stay in a place, be it through volunteering, studying or working, and some opportunities are too good to pass on.
While travelling through Bolivia – the South American country that surprised me the most – I was three days into exploring the white washed buildings of the county’s second capital, Sucre, when I came across a job advertisement.
There was something about this high altitude city that captivated me, and it made sense to enquire about the job in question – teaching English to Bolivian teenagers. After struggling through the interview in stuttered Spanish, I was offered a short term contract the next day.
I had one week to transform from a backpacker in khakis to a teacher in a shirt and tie, and the spur of the moment experience is something that I will never forget. I stayed in Sucre for an additional four months, and soon realized that the reason these students were struggling to grasp the English language was because they were simply struggling to enjoy it.
I showed them a different style of learning: by creating resources – and visuals – from scratch, creating a one-hour music lesson each day, and implementing lessons which involved taking my students out into the city on daily photo expeditions, scavenger hunts, and even conversation practice at an English speaking restaurant.
I implemented a strict “no Spanish” rule, but made sure my lessons had my students laughing and smiling, even while they were racking their brains for the correct English phrase or verb.
The last day of the school term – and my last day on the job – will be a day that will live long in my memory. Communicating in simple English with my students became a reality, and the barrage of gifts and thank you handshakes from parents, made me remember why I had done all this hard work.
Teaching abroad is no stroll in the park – but it is days like these which make it all worthwhile.
Steven Sanders is a Placement Coordinator at Teach Away. Sanders taught English in Italy and Bolivia.