Graduate Spotlights are stories and insights from past graduates of The Language House TEFL course. John Stanlake is a past graduate who’s taught in many continents all over the world. Hopefully his story will inspire you to teach abroad.
John graduated from the Language House in March 2009. He has since taught in the UK, Rwanda, and Bangladesh and he speaks here about how and why he got into teaching, why he chose the Language House, and about WorldTeach, the volunteer teaching organisation he volunteered with in Rwanda.
How did you get into teaching?
In all honesty I had never really planned to be a teacher. It just kind of happened due to circumstances and because of some choices which inadvertently led me onto that path! I studied Politics and International Relations at university and directly after this I worked in local government for a while. For a number of reasons I decided I needed a change, so I applied to volunteer with WorldTeach. Looking back now I am certain I made the right decision and the experiences I have gained from teaching in the past few years have made me incredibly grateful for the fact I ended up on this path.
Why did you choose Rwanda?
During one particular class in grad school we began discussing the genocide in Rwanda. I was shocked by how little I knew of this unimaginable tragedy and from that day I became kind of obsessed with trying to understand more about the whole event. My grad school thesis focused on how gender played a significant part in the genocide, and as I researched more about Rwanda I soon realized that I wanted and needed to go there somehow. I did a Google search one day and found WorldTeach, an organisation that sends volunteer teachers to a number of developing countries worldwide. They had just started sending teachers to Rwanda and it seemed a perfect fit.
Why did you choose the Language House?
After signing up for the WorldTeach Rwanda program I began to feel apprehensive about the idea of teaching in a totally unfamiliar environment for a whole year. At this point I had no direct teaching experience, and barely any public speaking experience either, so the thought of standing up in front of 50 students in a Rwandan classroom was daunting! I decided if I was going to get the most out of this experience and be an effective teacher for my future students I should get some proper training before I left for Africa. I began thinking about TEFL courses and one evening an advert appeared on Facebook! It was an advert for the Language House and as soon as I read the website I knew this was the course and the school for me, and I don’t regret my decision for one minute. The Language House provided one of the most entertaining months of my life! The instruction was fantastic and the support I received from the course instructors and my fellow TEFL students was always a great motivator. By the end of the course I felt incredibly well equipped to teach. Prague also provided the perfect location. I then spent the next few months teaching in both Prague and the UK before departing for Rwanda.
Why volunteer with WorldTeach?
WorldTeach is a well-established education NGO initially founded by a group of students from Harvard. They began in Kenya in 1986 and since then the organisation has grown and now sends teachers to 17 different countries worldwide. Volunteering with WorldTeach is a life-changing experience as you become truly immersed in your school and host community. Whether you want to teach in a village in the Tanzanian savannah, the urban hub of Bogota, teaching orphans in India, on a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, in the dense rainforests of Guyana, or in a isolated village in Namibia, WorldTeach can send you there! WorldTeach also offers the option of full year, semester, or summer long placements so you have the ability to choose a timeframe that works for you. My experience with WorldTeach is something I’ll never forget. I lived in a Rwandan village and it was a whole year of new challenges and experiences, and it’s difficult to put into words quite how important that year was to me.
What are you doing now?
After a period teaching at a university in Bangladesh I am now back working with WorldTeach as the Field Director for their Guyana program. In this role I provide field support and manage the program and the group of volunteers here. WorldTeach is a very close organisation and it is the preferred policy to hire people who have previously volunteered with them.
What advice would you give to future TEFL graduates?
Use your TEFL qualification to see the world! There are so many interesting places in need of dedicated teachers, and although at times it can seem a daunting experience, this feeling will soon subside upon getting to know your students and the community.
If you would like to know more about WorldTeach and the opportunities they offer, visit the website www.worldteach.org. They are currently recruiting for a number of different programs and would be extremely happy to hear from you.