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One of the best pieces of work experience I’ve ever had wasn’t in IT or information security, in fact, it was Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) in Spain.
Let me tell you a little story…
Once-upon-a-time I was looking for a bit of a challenge, something different, and something not in the IT field. So I applied for a course that prepared you for becoming a TEFL teacher based in Spain. I passed and was subsequently offered a job with the college based in a small city called Zamora in the North West of Spain.
My job was to create and teach lessons using the course text for juniors, seniors and adults. At first I was a little apprehensive but then I thought to myself this will be easy, I have the text book and I’ll create lessons using the guidance provided on the TEFL course.
What could go wrong?
My first few classes were with the juniors and…well…erm…let’s just say they were no fun!
No one listened, no one paid attention and most importantly no one actually learnt anything.
I played it wrong. I went in with the attitude that I was the teacher and that I was right. That my lessons were engaging and that they should listen to me.
After a couple of classes and a lot of mockery from the students (I am now well versed in Spanish profanity) I realised that something needed to change. It was me, I needed to change. I had to change the way I was doing things in order for me to get any results. So what did I do? Well…
- I took salient points from the text book and then I ditched it.
- I began to chat with the students during the breaks asking them about
their likes/dislikes, hobbies, favourite sports etc.
- I played football with the guys and talked about fashion with the girls
- I moved the class room desks around so that the atmosphere was less formal
- I had competitions e.g. guy vs girls
All of the above changed the dynamics of the class and after a few lessons they warmed to me. They listened to what I had to say, began to interact in class, made suggestions on future lessons and even began to ask if we could go over certain topics again. From then on I taught in the same manner and style across all the age ranges with the same results – I managed to get them engaged!
Comments like “your lessons are fun”, “you’re the best teacher” and “please don’t leave” were very flattering but all I had done was to take a different perspective and see things from their point-of-view. My job was then to look at the best way to get them on board.
Essentially, I changed my behaviour to change theirs.
The skills and experience I picked up during my time in Spain I now use in information security. As professionals in this field we need to take the time to understand people, notice the different personalities and the overall picture of the environment, in essence – the organisational culture.