Teaching With Limited Resources: Tough Challenge Or Useful Experience
Teaching with limited resources can be both incredibly challenging and extremely educational.
Depending on where you teach, you may be faced with the challenge of teaching classes with limited resources. Teachers will define this term differently depending on what they are used to but in developing countries such as Cambodia, you may have to do without overhead projectors, TVs, and CD players which will limit what you are able to share with students. There may not be a printer or copier available at school either which will take some getting used to. Let’s look at the different sides of this type of experience.
At first, it may be daunting to teach classes without the materials you are familiar with. It can be frustrating to realize that if you only had a certain piece of equipment, the class could be a lot easier to teach, more fun for students, and more interesting too. When planning to teach in an area with limited resources consider taking some materials along to assist you during the transition period. Paper, printouts of materials you have used before, a laptop, an MP3 player, and some portable battery operated speakers as well as spare batteries will help you in class and make the change more bearable. You will be able to show students pictures and videos using your laptop and conduct listening exercises using your music player. It may not be an ideal arrangement but it will allow you to conduct listening exercises using songs and show your students pictures of your family, friends, and hometown. Sometimes students in these locations are also less prepared for classes than students in other areas so try to bring materials with you that they might need to use in class such as pencils and notebooks. You cannot anticipate everything you will need in a school with limited resources but bringing along some basic things will definitely benefit everyone. While it may take you a while to adapt, students can be very patient especially if they are used to having teachers change quite often and will be more flexible than students you may have worked with before. Since they are used to using the materials available in different ways and perhaps unused to having pieces of technology used in the classroom, they will not be frustrated by what they are lacking whereas you might be. Once you have had time to settle in, the initial challenges will give way to opportunities for you to grow as a teacher.
Teaching in a school with limited resources will cause you to improve as a teacher because you will have to be more resourceful and find ways to use what is available at your school in your lessons. This may mean asking students to practice writing in the sand instead of on copy paper but then again doesn’t everyone love a day at the beach? There is quite a range of what schools can provide you with but asking before you leave home may help you prepare better for your placement. By planning lessons outside of school hours, you should have the opportunity to print and copy materials somewhere else. If you really have to create everything by hand, students may just have to get used to completing exercises in groups and this may not be a significant change from what they are accustomed to. The most important thing to remember is that classes should still contain a variety of activities so that all your students can learn effectively. Since speaking is the primary focus of learning a language there is no reason that a school or classroom with limited resources cannot be an effective learning environment. Once you have adjusted to your surroundings, it will be no different teaching there than in any other location and you will have learned some new teaching methods.
While teaching with limited resources can present enormous challenges for ESL teachers used to different circumstances, it can also be a great learning experience and will allow you to improve as an instructor. Remember to use what is available to you and cover the same material you would anywhere else. Just tap into your creative side and prepare to amaze yourself and your students with your ingenuity.
Tara Arntsen has worked with English Language Learners of all ages for many years and has taught in Japan, Cambodia, and China as well as online. When she is not teaching, she enjoys cooking, traveling around the world, and scuba diving. She is a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California.
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