The first time I heard this phrase, It destroyed me. It made me feel ashamed to want to be a teacher: to stay in school forever. This phrase told me that teachers are those who can’t make it in the real world.
I’m here today to break that stigma.
Everyday I wake up and am welcomed into the living rooms of Chinese families that I have never met before. My English class takes place as the world around them continues: cars whizzing by out the window, relatives shouting in the back room. It’s nighttime there and I’m just finishing my morning coffee. The busy parents take time out of their schedule to monitor their young child’s English class and I am an honored and respected guest.
I teach some students once, and then never see them again, but some families invite me back into their homes again and again and I get to know them even more. Whether it’s adults or children, the student-teacher relationship is a unique one. Their children eagerly greet me with a new phrase in English or a new toy they want to show me.
This all takes place online.
It is very difficult to explain what it means to teach online and how much fulfillment it has given me these past two years. Growing up I was taught not to speak to strangers on the internet, and now I do it for a living. My whole life, I’ve been curious about new people and other lands, now everyday I get the opportunity to speak with someone new.
When I teach adults I often have to refocus because I realize that I spend too long on the introductory part of my class. I’m constantly asking my students too many questions about their hometown because I truly want to learn about their culture.
My students are amazing.
I’ve taught assistant directors, sales managers, engineers, doctors, action stunt directors, university professors, software developers, bankers, pet shop owners, and many other high-level position jobs. All those who have professions above my knowledge hold no status when they enter my classroom. I cannot do their jobs, but they cannot do their jobs without mine.
So therefore I say…
…those that do, must be taught.
Which goes to show you that we all have something to learn from each other if we just take the time to open our ears and listen.
If you had told me 5 years ago that 90% of my daily social interactions would be online, I would’ve been appalled. I’m not a fan of being consumed by the digital world, but let me tell you that some amazing things have happened.
I’ve built relationships with people in multiple countries. I’ve been invited to a wedding in Brazil, offered kung fu lessons in Taiwan, and taken dance lessons in Costa Rica.
Should I meet my students in real life?
Does this cross some ethical line in the virtual classroom?
I did it anyway.
Meet Alonso, my personal guide in Costa Rica.
Before Costa Rica, I had taught Alonso for about 4 months. He had always told me that if I came to Costa Rica to let him know and he would be happy to help me out.
Be careful telling me these words, because I will be on your doorstep.
Luckily he was genuine with his offer.
I couldn’t have had a more reliable friend then Alonso. Anything I needed, he was there. If I couldn’t find some sort of information, he was there. When I was too shy to call the bus station in Spanish, he called for me. It’s even thanks to Alonso that I have this website (It’s quite convenient having a friend who is a software developer).
To ensure that I enjoyed my stay in Costa Rica, Alonso made sure that I saw the Poas volcano, La Paz waterfall gardens, and even gave me dance lessons with his best friend who just happened to be a professional dance instructor!
There are times in your life that make you so thankful for certain people that it’s impossible to express how you feel. I felt this way about Julio’s family (my host family in Costa Rica), and then again with Alonso. My heart swells at the thought of these memories of hanging out with these Alonso, and it was my job that made our paths cross. Now, at home in the U.S., I ponder if I’ll ever get the opportunity to meet more of my students in their countries, and what a bizarre but exciting moment that would be.
To learn more about teaching online for VIPKID, click here
To learn more about teaching online for Englishtown, click here