Caszara Lockett, 29, received her TESOL Certificate 4 in her native Australia. After teaching at an English summer camp in Barcelona, Spain, she volunteered to teach English in the favelas (slums) of Salvador, Brazil. There she taught everyone from disadvantaged children to middle-aged women, earning their respect with the intermediate Portuguese she had acquired thanks to her abilities in Spanish. Here she reveals five lessons she learnt during her time there…
1. Teach English through music
“I realised pretty quickly that Brazil is a very happy, colourful and musical country. On the first day I met the children, they sang me a beautiful traditional welcome song. I could tell they weren’t tired of singing that song – despite the many times they would have already done so – because they were so happy clapping and singing together. I saw that music would be a way I could connect with them and decided to teach them through songs.
“It wasn’t just the children, either. The women who would come to the school and take part in activities such as sewing, art and crafts would all the while be singing along to music on the radio. I learnt that the best way to teach them English was to use a very creative, hands-on approach… and music!”
2. Your students are teaching you more than you think
“I can honestly say that after two years of teaching English, I’ve learnt much more about myself than I ever thought possible. After every lesson, I walked away feeling I’d learnt just as much, if not more, than my students. They taught me a new level of patience, compassion, commitment and focus that I never knew I had in me!”
3. Volunteering is worth it
“I was a bit pessimistic about volunteering at first, worrying about my safety and what the school would be like, and whether it would be worth my time. It turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. When you arrive in places like the favelas in Brazil, your own issues suddenly feel very minuscule in the scheme of things. These students were some of the happiest I’ve ever taught – surprising, given their backgrounds. My payment from volunteering work was that my students were so responsive and eager to learn.”
4. Essentially, all students want to do is talk
“Students just love to talk – especially in Brazil! So I geared my lesson plans to give them a lot of time to practise speaking English. I focused on a lot of communicative activities, songs and rhymes to keep them speaking English as much as possible. Luckily, Brazilians are a proud, confident people, so it wasn’t much of a challenge getting them to speak.”
5. Don’t take yourself too seriously!
“When I started teaching, I even changed what I wore so that I would be taken seriously by my students. I completely over-prepared by spending hours on lesson planning, only to cover about a quarter of what I’d done. Lessons are spontaneous because you’re dealing with real people and random class situations that can lead a lesson anywhere. It’s better to plan what you need to cover, but leave time for questions that may get the class sidetracked for a bit… it makes it more interesting!”