Teaching your own language to foreigners is, most of the time, one of the best experiences you can make. Not only can you approach different cultures and, consequently, new ways of relating to people, but you also end up having lots of fun in the process.
After 12 years in the field, I have now developed very useful skills on how to relate to students of different nationalities based on what I know they are usually more oriented to and what their expectations are.
When I train new teachers during their internships, they always end up telling me that teaching is very funny and enjoyable. Considering my personal style of teaching, they are right.
Teaching is funny and enjoyable, most of the time.
In fact, there are challenges and pitfalls you will encounter and, as far as I know, no teacher has ever become good at his job without facing them and, yes, sometimes, even getting hurt in the process.
First comes education.
Having studied Psychology, many of the topics I have delved into referred to neurobiology, memory, attention, perception, social learning, group management and much more.
So, when I first entered a classroom, even if I didn’t have a specific education aimed at teaching Italian to foreigners, I have immediately understood what tools I needed and how I had to use them.
Though, later, I have discovered that, in order to make progress, a lifelong learning process becomes necessary. The study of Foreign Language Teaching is very important. Learning new techniques, new ways to teach structures and new words, all this is essential. It all starts with a good knowledge of Italian from your side, sure, and it becomes a very useful tool in your hands every time you enter the classroom. A good teacher is, first of all, a good and organized student.
In my opinion, if you want to succeed at teaching, the first step is becoming acquainted with some elements of Psychology and Foreign Language Teaching.
Though, if all the papers and all the education can give you the tools, once you enter the classroom and face your students, it’s up to you to “make it happen”.
A good teacher is first of all someone with good communicative skills. You could know everything about what to do in order to make your students proficient, but if you don’t add any human touch, if you don’t become relatable for them, if you don’t make any effort to be a living instrument of education, if you don’t offer them a safe space where they can feel free to make mistakes and laugh at themselves, you will still achieve your goal, sure, but you will still miss something.
Caring for the affective side of learning is a core skill that you must develop in order to become effective in your teaching.
No wonder, in fact, that the existence of what is called an affective filter has been discovered more than 30 years ago. It means you can do everything “by the book” but if you don’t take care of your students emotions, they will raise a wall so thick that none of your amazing teaching techniques will ever be able to penetrate it.
Still, as prepared as you will be, both with your education and with your psychological setting, challenges will come and the most important thing to know about it is that you cannot predict them. Whatever happens, there are a few tools you might use in order to win.
- Be open to change your teaching schedule based on the students pace and needs. You don’t need to rush things; always remember that a well-acquired skill is better than ten skills whose function the student ignores. Aim for quality, not quantity.
- Be creative and brave enough to leave the path designed by the manual, sometimes. Manuals seem usually the best thing because they offer teachers all the lessons already prepared, audios, activities, grammar exercises. They come in handy if you have those 10 minutes left and don’t know what to do. Well, as perfect as they can be, they cannot take your place: it’s you who knows best what your students need and what activities they might like (or even dislike) more.
- Check yourself after each and every class. “Have I done everything I could?” is not the question intended, here. Not because it is useless, but because it is not specific. Focus on the proportion between grammar and conversation. Who has spoken more in class? How many new words have you given? Were they enough or maybe too much? How much effort have you done to make the students use those new words and structures in conversation? These are the smart questions that will help you improve.
- Look for chances to share opinions and techniques and suggestions. Whether it is those five minutes in front of the coffee machine or a whole lunch spent with your colleagues (especially the more experienced ones), always look for chances to share and learn something new. Maybe it is that activity you had never thought about or that suggestion that you never received: everything concurs to your own development and growth, whatever your teaching experience is.
Should you have any idea or any suggestion, or even recommendation, please feel free to share it here and to keep in touch with us!