When a neighbour asked me to teach English to her son I said yes. I soon realised in the lesson that I hadn't got a clue where to start....'
This is a common experience for the eager volunteer English teacher who soon finds that pitching lessons at the right level, sourcing appropriate materials or explaining when to use the present perfect is no easy job. Clearly, speaking English does not necessarily mean you can teach English.
The way forward for the teacher keen to make a real impact on a learner's level of English is to get some professional training in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). But what then? How can you make a difference as a Christian with your TEFL qualification? Here are some ideas:
1) Through a Christian mission TEFL placement
Christian mission organisations recognise the importance of professional TEFL training as an aid to mission. English is often the gateway for poorer populations to access a better standard of living and provides an opportunity for TEFL trained missionaries to go to countries which are typically off limits to Christians and evangelism. Established mission organisations, such as TeachBeyond, Interserve, ReachAcross and Cambodia Action actively seek qualified EFL teachers to use their skills to help spread the gospel.
2 ) In your own church or community
"Providing English classes is one practical way to welcome and support internationals"
Closer to home, church congregations may be a mix of nationalities. Providing English classes is one practical way to welcome and support internationals and help them to better integrate with the church. Our own church actively links with international students at the local university through café meetings (quizzes, informal drop-in chats) and meals with families in the evening to provide welcome and hospitality. Elsewhere, there are exciting opportunities for church groups to use English lessons as a means of outreach by offering classes locally to immigrants and asylum seekers. Teaching English is a powerful and meaningful way to engage with people who otherwise would have no contact with Christians.
3) By being a Christian just where you are
In EFL, this means in your regular paid teaching job. At a basic but important level this means just doing your job well and with a good heart. This translates to being on time, preparing properly and not moaning about your students in the staffroom. Before we've even opened our mouths, these speak volumes about our hearts and priorities. On another level, teaching English provides a rare opportunity to get to know your students quite closely. Their experiences, thoughts and beliefs are often the basis for many an EFL lesson and if appropriate, this can be a valuable platform for sharing your faith.
If you are thinking about serving through teaching English, either locally or overseas, but don't know your passives from your prepositions, then help is at hand. Christian TEFL has just launched to help Christians get to grips with the teaching English essentials. Christian TEFL offers accredited TEFL courses online so individuals can train from home and fit their training around other commitments. For further info, contact firstname.lastname@example.org