Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) – can you do it? By Ian Hammersley | Hope Agency

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) – can you do it? By Ian Hammersley

Never done it before? A bit worried? Don’t be!

Whilst teaching runs in family (my mum, sister and sister-in-law were/are all teachers), even before
arriving at Hope, I was concerned whether I could teach a class of English kids, never mind a class
of Cambodian children who could barely speak English to start with. I hadn’t trained, I had no
experience in what to teach, how to teach.

These are all concerns that I imagine a lot of volunteers have prior making the decision to go and
support Hope. Let me put your mind at ease – if I can do it, anyone can do it. And the reason? Help
and support.

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When you arrive at Hope you are not alone. Every class has a “lead teacher” so depending on your
experience you can either spend your time as more of a teaching assistant, helping the children
manage the tasks the lead teacher has set, (helping them read, colour-in or just keeping an eye on
the more playful kids who sometimes need a little focus) or you can work more closely with the lead
teacher to move your own teaching ability forward and aim to become a lead in your own right – the
choice is yours.

Each class is given a name, each one at different levels of education, each one with different
characters, but every one of them with children who want to learn, who love it that people want to
come and teach them, to support them and to help them aim for a better life.
My first class with The Morning Glories, I was asked by the Kirsten, lead teacher, to stand and tell
the class about me. Age, where I lived, children, family, etc. Their job, in return, was to make notes
and over the weekend, write up what I had said and recite it back to me on Monday. Quite a strange
experience having Cambodian children you’ve only just met, telling you about yourself, but we
laughed together at some of their translations, we clapped at each presentation and we bonded
from there on in.

A lot of the time I spent in the classroom for each of the 3 classes per day was spent in more a TA
role. Depending on which class I was part of, I could be helping the more advanced class to
pronounce words properly, teaching younger kids about weather or encouraging the more
boisterous ones to sit and listen, there is so much that anyone can give to each/any class.
In between lessons, while it’s a great opportunity to grab a bite to eat or a cold drink, there is still
work to be done, planning the next lessons, coming up with new and innovative ways to educate the
kids. As with all schools there is homework to be set and marked, especially for the more advanced
classes. For the younger classes, activities to be planned to educate them through teamwork and

No one day is the same. Sure it might be the same classes each day, and the basic lesson structure
is in place for each class, but because you don’t know if the children will pick up and “get” what you
are teaching them, that can have an effect on how the lesson runs. It’s up to each member of the
teaching team to try and ensure it runs as smoothly as possible, and that is where the TA role also helps greatly.
Every other Friday certain classes are taken to either play football or go swimming. We took our
class swimming on my second Friday. The look of expectation on their faces as the tut-tut bounced
along the dirt track, the joy of being in water, of using me as a human climbing frame to jump off,
simple things that mean the world to these kids, is wonderful to see.

“Teacher Ian, throw me the ball”, “Teacher Ian, can I get on your back and you swim”, “Teacher Ian,
race you”. Don’t they know how old I am??!! But I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

The sense of fun, combined with the real essence of wanting to learn, make this such a joyous place
to teach. The older students have a vision, a yearning to make a better life for themselves and their
families, borne out of the help and support Hope is giving them. The younger kids laugh, play and
interact with all the teachers.

No-one frowns upon a lack of experience in a class room – some volunteers have a natural ability to
teach, others enjoy the support role. Either way, the team at Hope are there to help everyone,
teachers and students alike.


As much as you are there to teach them, trust me, those children will also teach you about many
things – patience, your own abilities, that material things don’t really matter as much as you think,
fun, laughter but most of all, that you can make a difference.

So, can you do it? In the words of Bob the Builder, Yes you can!

Long Live Hope

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