Student Volunteering Week 2016

Before I started work as an English Language teacher in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I was unsure about what to expect.  I had visions of a classroom full of silent, disengaged students, raising their eyebrows in incredulity as I bumbled my way through my first lesson.  It was this feeling of depredation that motivated me to do some volunteer work in a school before I started teaching in earnest.  

The online TEFL course I had completed offered a lot of useful training in English grammar, teaching and class management techniques, but was no substitute for hands on classroom experience that I felt I needed.  Luckily, a friend who had been teaching in Bangkok for several years agreed to let me shadow him for a couple of weeks so I could learn the ropes.  

I cannot overstate how much this helped me tackle the first tricky months in my new teaching role.  I started my job with a lot of tricks up my sleeve to keep my students interested, and I had a host of lesson plans in my repertoire before I taught my first lesson.  Perhaps the biggest benefit, however, was the confidence it gave me.  

On the afternoon of my first volunteering day, my friend encouraged me to teach one of his lessons while he took a back seat (in hindsight it was probably so he could get a head start on his marking).  In a volunteering environment, the pressure was off, and I had fun standing at the front of the class, going through the basics of reported speech and finishing the session with a game.  

By the end of that illuminating fortnight, I was able to walk confidently into a room crammed full of students and begin a lesson with something resembling calm authority, using some class management techniques I had observed.

Student Volunteering Week starts on Monday 22 February to promote the merits of volunteering.  The benefits stretch beyond those I mentioned from my own experience.  It can really make your C.V. stand out and improve self-esteem, social and communication skills, and give you the opportunity to make a valuable contribution to your community.  

A 2014 NUS poll revealed that over half of student volunteers chose to volunteer in either a charity or an educational organisation, so volunteering can provide teaching students the opportunity to serve their community and develop skills that will boost their career!

Do you have any plans for Student Volunteering Week? Please share them with us! 

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