My teaching experience in Colombia will be completely different to others who have also taught there. If you have ever wanted to teach abroad, Colombia is a great country to start with its relaxed culture, friendly people and beautiful cities.
I initially wanted to teach in Colombia for 2 reasons:
- I had never been or taught in South America
- My Colombian students when I taught in Australia were so lovely and told me so much about Colombia that I just had to go
First I had to decide whether to just go and find a job or go with an agent, which I have used both strategies in different countries. After much deliberation, and find a free scheme through Greenheart Travel, (I have been to Thailand with them before and they are such a great company to go with), I decided to go through them. Basically I couldn’t put exactly where I wanted to go but I could put preferences, which was Medellin; every person I spoke to told me this was the best city in Colombia. Luckily, I was placed in this large, beautiful, sunny city. Initially I should have been teaching just south of Medellin but due to complications I was transfers to the north in Castilla.
I was teaching at a SENA centre of construction and space design. SENA is a government agency wanting to invest in the social and technical development for works. It’s a free institution for anyone who wants to develop their skills and gain a qualification. There are many different specialised centres around the country that anyone can go to free of charge. As part of their learning, they have English lessons (this is where I come in). During different semesters, they either learn English face-to-face or online. I was part of the classroom based teaching.
At my SENA centre, there were three classroom English teacher. As part of this programme, I worked alongside one of these teachers, which was different for me as I’ve only taught a class on my own. We taught different classes with around 25 students in each finca, however, this did vary from class to class, with most of the students from the age of 17 to 30 but again, there were some older ones. All the students are happy to experience a native English teacher and generally are willing to learn. I personally didn’t find behaviour a problem but it could be different at different centres.
My timetable consisted of 20 hours a week teaching plus three hours of planning. Let’s be realistic about this; this was my schedule, in reality I did 14 hours a week teaching plus 20 minutes of planning. SENA has classes from 6am to 9pm with three different cohorts: 6am-12pm, 12pm-6pm and 6pm-9pm. Due to rules and regulations, I could only teach anytime from 7am-6pm. Therefore my timetable for most of my time looked like this:
Monday: 7am – 12pm, 3pm-6pm
Like I said before, classes often got cut shorter or started later or just got cancelled altogether. Also I had a slightly different timetable at the start but it does depend on the centre and your mentor.
The English I was teaching was very, very basic English like greetings and farewells, numbers, verb to be, colours, animals, physical appearance, present simple, pronouns etc. We taught this most through activities, listening material, games, readings, short grammar descriptions, speaking and a little writing.
In the classroom, after maybe a little bit of planning with my co-teacher, we would start with a warm-up to review the previous topic, maybe introduce a reading with the grammar, then teaching the grammar, and doing activities around the grammar plus a lot of repeating to practice pronunciation. I wanted to encourage them to do as much speaking as they could. I didn’t use any Spanish in the classroom but my Colombian co-teacher would some of the time. I know I can explain an activity or grammar in English using gestures, pictures, actions etc. The actual teaching part for me was easy as I have a lot of experience but if not, one will get ideas from the orientation or the other teachers.
The aim of me being in the classroom was to get the students excited about English, have a native, practice pronunciation and just have fun together learning English.
That’s a little about my teaching experience, where I absolutely enjoyed working with my co-teachers and students. I would encourage anyone thinking about teacher abroad to go to it.
If you have any other question, please comment and I would definitely love to help you.