The Greatest Gift My TEFL Students Have Given Me

We’ve got a lot on our minds with the holiday season vastly approaching; winter break is closer than it is far (yippee!) and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. So we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to reflect on how grateful we are for the rewarding TEFL life we all live. With that in mind, asked past IDELT student (and current TEFL teacher), Caitlin P. for some insight on what she considers the greatest gift she’s ever received as a teacher.

When asked about the best gift I have ever gotten as a teacher, I had a difficult time coming up with an answer. There are many material things I’ve received, but I don’t value those as much as some people might; they’re a nice memento of a student or class, but they’re not the most important things to me.

Marilyn vos Savant said,  “To acquire knowledge, one must study; but, to acquire wisdom, one must observe.” Along with knowledge comes observations, and in turn, wisdom. These skills are absolutely essential to learning any language, or in my case, teaching a language. As a student of TEFL, we were required to observe our fellow trainees, as well as to be observed by them and by our trainer. As nerve-wracking as it was, I realized I had to allow myself to be observed in order to become a better teacher. If I didn’t have the wisdom to teach, how the heck was I going to improve? I had to let myself soak up the knowledge being given to me in Chile and give it back to my students, no matter where in the world I happened to be teaching.

In Costa Rica, our group of teachers were observed every day by students and evaluated at the end of the month, which let us know how we were doing. My knowledge and everything I had learned in the IDELT course were now being observed by fellow teachers, TEFL trainees, and my students. Acquiring knowledge from my peers, and especially from my students, has helped enhance my teaching skills.

As I’m still teaching, I’m surprised every day by each student’s knowledge, bravery, and willingness to step outside their comfort zone and learn a new language; especially one as difficult as English.  Whether it was during my first days as a trainee in the Bridge IDELT program with BridgeTEFL in Santiago, Chileteaching English in Costa Rica, or now as a more experienced teacher, teaching Spanish and computer classes at a literacy center where I live and work in Arizona, every student teaches me something every single day. I walk into a classroom and I, myself, become a student again.  That knowledge I gain from students is the best gift I have ever received.

By Caitlin Peterson

The best gifts for a teacher are often intangible. Read about Jen’s fondest memories as a TEFL teacher.