Teaching English in Colombia: Challenges and rewards of working with adults
Teaching English in Colombia to adults is typically a lucrative career full of challenges and rewards. If you’re one of the many educators who choose this job in Colombia for English speakers, you may benefit from knowing these key points about working with students who are also business professionals.
CHALLENGE: SCHEDULING CLASSES AND MEETING TIMES Adult English students, especially busy executives who travel or have constant meetings, typically have less time available to dedicate to learning than regular students in a classroom setting. It is not uncommon for adult English students to cancel last minute, or add a class at short notice.
In less formal classes, such as conversation groups, there may be days when every student in the office shows up, followed by days when only one student is available to attend. Regardless, in any of these cases, teachers should be prepared to present an interesting lesson at an agreed and reasonable time between the student’s work-related travel and meetings.
REWARD: FLEXIBLE TIME AND REMOTE TEACHING OPTIONS One positive aspect of teaching English in Colombia to adults with their own agenda is the potential for flex time and remote teaching options. While it seems difficult to accommodate adult learners with hectic schedules, it also means a teacher may have flexible hours, from early morning to late evening. Additionally, if students are unable to meet in person, the option exists for remote classes, via platforms such as Skype or Google Hangouts.
With today’s technology, remote learning is an excellent idea for irregular schedules. While the experience may not seem as hands-on or personal, remote classes are often as effective as those in a normal classroom setting.
CHALLENGE: HOMEWORK AND OTHER INDEPENDENT LEARNING Adult students learning English typically have little time outside of class to complete homework and other assigned tasks. For this reason, is especially important to make the most of the time available in class. Students who work full-time generally do not have many leisurely hours to dedicate to their own independent learning; in the hours they do have, students typically prefer to relax or spend time with their families.
While it’s good to have expectations established for students to learn at home, the reality is that they will probably do most of their learning in person, while in the classroom.
REWARD: SMALLER ASSIGNMENTS, REAL-LIFE RELATIVE LESSONS Often, assigning homework seems unrealistic, even when some English students need reinforcement and practice beyond regular class hours. In this case, it’s best to break up or “chunk down” the learning – giving adult students small tasks for take-home practice – with a focus on something that applies to their everyday use.
Using this type of “real life” application may extend language learning beyond the classroom. Instead of just assigning a reading activity, focusing on real-life tasks, such as when students need to speak English outside of class, can later be used to build lessons for practical use.
CHALLENGE: DIVERSE LEARNERS AND VARYING LEVELS For some educators teaching English in Colombia to adult students, it is typical to notice that the adult students differ from younger students in terms of self-confidence and learning capabilities. Occasionally, students of a mature age may be more self-conscious of their performance, such as the clarity of their pronunciation while speaking, or the ability to clearly understand English when listening to others. Conversely, an adult student may be overly-confident and unwilling to first master the basics, particularly if they feel they are at a higher learning level than their peers and may need more dynamic impulsive lessons.
REWARD: REALISTIC SITUATIONS AND MOTIVATION FOR LEARNING When faced with the challenge of accommodating adults on varying levels, some educators teaching English in Colombia find it best to keep their classroom focus on realistic situations and provide plenty of motivation for learning. Realistic situations may include role-playing between peers, such as conducting an interview, making introductions at a business meeting, or delivering mock presentations about a company product or service.
Motivation for students of different levels learning together may be provided in the form of games and activities which require them to interact with one another. No matter their age, most students enjoy games and, often, this aspect of teaching English in Colombia gives both the teacher and the student relief from a busy work week.