Southland Christian Ministry Training

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Teaching English as a Second Language

This has been an eventful couple of months for me. Not only have I discharged from the Permanent Air Force, but I have taken the first steps towards a new career, teaching English as Second Language (ESL). How hard could that be? I have been speaking it all my life and teaching in a range of contexts for the last 40 years! I was in for a shock!

Teaching English to non-native speakers is VERY difficult! I know it might be hard for some of you to believe but I talk too much and it seems that I have this inbuilt desire to show you how much I know, and dump on you my extensive vocabulary. Even my natural self confidence and enthusiasm can intimidate people who are struggling to learn English. On top of that I talk too fast and use too many Australian idioms (which don’t make any sense when translated word for word).

Yes, there were times when I felt like giving up. However, I have now completed the intensive component of the course, submitted lots of assignments and “all” I have to do now is a couple more practice teaching sessions and a few more assignments. What I’ve learnt is that I still need to replace all my bad habits with better ones.

The fact is, that does not just apply to teaching English but to the whole of life! We usually know our bad habits, but ignore them or make excuses, rationalising that they are just “part of us”. If someone is game enough to bring one to your attention, don’t “bite their head off” (OK another idiom I will have to get rid of) but recognise that they are trying to help you. Remember, habits are learned behaviour, so they can be unlearned or at least replaced by another better habit.

How long does it take to learn a new habit? What I have been teaching for years is that it takes 21 days – doing it consistently every day. NO, I cannot give you a reference to justify that statement but it works for me! However, I have to admit that those deeply entrenched bad habits sometimes surface when I am tired, poorly prepared or stressed. No, that does not mean I have failed, it is just a momentary lapse, so I admit it, address it and move on!

Words of wisdom from the good book:

“Don’t talk too much, for it fosters sin.

Be sensible and turn off the flow”

(Proverbs 10:19)

I am facing my demons, learning new skills and new habits, as well as continuing to be an Air Force Chaplain three days a week! Nobody ever said it would be easy but I didn’t think it would be this hard… yet I have the unmistakable sense that this is where God wants me… what about you?

Chaplain Ian S Whitley