Are you considering a career working with children? Before you take the plunge, why not take time out to experience teaching in an exotic location.
After leaving school, like many, I drifted out of education with no clear plan of what I wanted to do as a career. For years, I was told that I would make a good teacher, but stubbornly, the idea of returning to school seemed horrifying. Little did I know, my experience as a teacher in South Africa (Cape Town) would eventually alter my outlook.
If you have ever considered teaching as a potential career path or you simply want to work with children, here are 6 reasons why volunteering with children is an incredible experience wherever you are in the world.
ONE: No two days are the same
As a secondary teacher in the UK, I know only too well the benefits of working with children everyday- no two days are the same! Children are quick-witted, spontaneous and full of wonderful – and sometime out right crazy- ideas. Children will say their mind and offer viewpoints that have not been influenced by cynicism. The only thing that does remain constant is their power to shock, surprise and amaze you.
TWO: Bonds last a lifetime
If you think back to your own childhood, you will remember most of your teachers. The reason for this is because you spent so long with them. Primary teaching, in particular, offers the opportunity to work closely with one group of children. Seven years after I taught a group of 4 year olds in Cape Town, I can still remember the names of each child- Nathan the boy who loved story time and Devon, who was notorious for bumping into cabinets. You will also form bonds with those you work with. I was bridesmaid to my boss, Rita, in South Africa and still receive messages from the school and pictures of her little girl.
THREE: Promotes a passion for learning
Teaching is the best form of learning. To teach someone else a topic or a skill requires you to become an expert first. However, the beauty of teaching is that you never have all the answers. I have taught topics more than once and am constantly surprised at how different each experience is. Children often end up teaching you things in return. I can now sing ‘Head, shoulders, knees and toes’ in Afrikaans because a four year old girl was patient enough to teach me. Children’s inquisitive nature is infectious and keeps the learning process fresh and exciting.
FOUR: Develops skills that are transferable
If you can teach you can do anything. Don’t believe me? To be a successful teacher, you need to be a good manager, counsellor, number cruncher, organiser, entertainer, leader… the list is endless. If you volunteer as a teacher, you will develop essential skills that will be desirable for any profession.
FIVE: Become part of the community
Every community in the world needs teachers. There is no better way to immerse yourself in a new culture than to work with the young- who will not be afraid to tell you when you stand out. You will meet parents who will be fascinated by your story and will in return tell you about themselves and the local area. As part of my duties, I used to drive the students to and from school in a mini bus and was able to see where many of them lived. The experience was eye-opening and I was never short of invitations to sit and have a Rooibos tea with the families.
SIX: Learn about a country through the eyes of the experts
There are two types of travel: slow or fast. Forget whizzing round the world, ticking countries off the list. Slow travel is far more rewarding. Really get to know a destination by understanding the children that live there. They will offer far more information than any guide book or tour guide can – and will do it freely and enthusiastically. View the world through a child’s eyes to unlock possible adventures that adults often overlook.
With so many reasons to do it and zero reasons not to, it is clear that teaching abroad is a fantastic opportunity. It not only benefits you, but also benefits the children that you work with. Don’t believe me? Go for yourself and find out.
If you are interested in taking part, check out the website for more details: