Declan Carey writes about his practical experience as a trainee teacher on the Trinity TESOL course.
While nothing can be as frightening as teaching for the first time, teaching at the African Social Health Agency (ASHA) really tested me. The students are refugees from Africa and the Middle East. They are all at different levels, with some students having no prior experience of learning English. It was last year, with only two hours of teaching experience to my name, that I taught my first lesson there.
The reality of ASHA was the most challenging aspect. The students have unimaginable backgrounds. War, violence and tragedy is commonplace for many, and yet every time I taught there, each student turned up with a smile and positive attitude. They are some of the friendliest people I have ever met, and I felt a huge responsibility as a teacher to make sure they learnt as much as possible.
I quickly discovered that ASHA required a different set of skills from anything I’d ever done before. My lesson plans would be completely flipped upside down as I had to improvise on the spot with every task. It was difficult but exciting because I never knew what to expect when the lesson began. Sometimes, after hours of preparation, I’d realise that some of my plan would be impossible to attempt and so I had to think deeply about how to go about teaching there. Every activity required a great deal of time and planning to work.
At ASHA, I understood more about the teaching profession. For me, this was the best kind of teaching because it was real - I was able to make a positive impact on someone’s life. Teaching at ASHA has made me want to become a teacher even more, because it has shown me first-hand how much good teachers can do.
My required teaching hours for the TESOL qualification have now passed, but I’m still keen to teach a few more hours at ASHA. I’ve still got a great deal to learn as a teacher, but I also feel there’s more to learn about myself, and it seems that I learn the most when teaching at ASHA.