This blog post is aimed at anybody thinking of working as an English Language Assistant for the British Council on their year abroad.
There are many reasons I would recommend this option if you’re a languages student. Firstly, it is an easy way to get paid work in another country. Applying to jobs and internships abroad can be really daunting in your second year, especially making a CV in your target language. The British Council application is all in English, and gives you some experience in filling out a professional job application. Working in this way also guarantees excellent hours (only 12 a week!) and very reasonable pay (nearly 800€ a month!). This, in addition to your student loan payments, means that you will have the time and the resources to make the most of your time spent abroad. It is also worth bearing in mind the number of guaranteed holidays you will have – in France schools have a two week break roughly every seven weeks, which means plenty of time for travelling and exploring!
Working as an English Language Assistant is also a good way to gain work experience in a professional teaching environment. If teaching is something that you are considering after graduation, this is the perfect opportunity to get a feel for the classroom and get to grips with what it’s like standing in front of a room of pupils. Even if you’re not considering teaching, it is an excellent opportunity to gain skills such as public speaking, organisation, and time management. All of which are transferable and will look good on your CV. And you never know, you might also uncover a hidden talent for teaching!
Going into a school for the first time can be daunting, however, especially with very limited training and such a broad scope for the role. The best way to approach this, is to make the role your own! The teachers you work with will be welcoming, and very grateful for your help. Let them talk you through what they expect from you, and if they are not clear on this don’t be afraid to ask.
Here are some tips for classroom teaching that I gathered during my time teaching in a French Highschool:
- Don’t be intimidated! Younger kids and even teenagers appreciate that you are there to help them and are happy to listen to your expertise in your own native language. I found that they were really willing to learn and interested in me.
- Be creative! Making lesson plans can be daunting, especially if you haven’t been given much guidance on which specific topics to cover. But look at this as a positive because it means you can use your creativity to find an interesting topic. Think about what interests you and what is relevant to your language and culture.
- Look at it as a learning experience! You can learn as much from your pupils as they can from you. Listen to what they have to say and ask them questions too. The experience is all about cultural exchange at the end of the day.
- Adjust your approach for your audience! Not all classes will be the same, and many pupils respond to stimuli in different ways. Try to pay attention to what works best with different age groups or classes and don’t be afraid to ask them what they would prefer to work on.
- Relax! If you’re stressed and nervous you can’t provide a positive learning experience for yourself or for your pupils. Be yourself and think about what you enjoy most about learning a language, and what inspires you.