Teaching children in any country is a huge responsibility. The role of the teacher — whether working in a state school and delivering the national curriculum, or working in a private capacity to teach children an additional skill which supplements their basic education — is an extremely influential one and should never be taken lightly.
When teaching in a foreign country, the challenges faced by the teacher, coach, or instructor, are heightened — cultural differences and language barriers being just two of the factors that one must work through.
Every year, Connecting Worlds organizes many teaching opportunities for English-speaking natives, with some kind of teaching experience, to help young Argentines develop and improve their English skills. Our lengthy experience in this particular field has taught us that its important to ensure teachers are truly prepared for the challenge they sign up to.
For this reason, if you’re considering signing up to a Teaching English Program in Argentina, and you intend to teach children, read the rest of this article and take our advice on board.
A few tips for teaching and working with children in Argentina
It’s a really good idea to have a basic working knowledge of Spanish before you arrive to teach English in Argentina. Even though you won’t be using Spanish in the classroom, it’s important to be able to understand the children when they speak in Spanish in case you need to report any kind of cruel verbal behaviour to a higher level.
Argentine Spanish is also very different to the neutral form of Spanish one encounters in countries like Colombia, Bolivia or Peru. The verbs are conjugated differently in the second person singular. Therefore, it might be an idea to enrol in a Spanish school in Argentina before your teaching placement begins to get acquainted with the basics at least.
It’s also a good idea to do a little research into popular culture in Argentina. Find out what the children are listening to, what programs they watch, who the famous artists are of the moment, and the kind of activities children in Argentina like to get involved in. For example, in most areas of the country, hockey is a very popular sport for girls and tennis is a very popular activity for both genders in wealthy sectors of society.
If you know what the children get up to in their free time, it will be easier to relate with them and to prepare English classes which cover topics of interest to engage them in the activities you present.
Teaching children with special needs in Argentina
Be flexible, be consistent, observe and make full use of visual, aural and tactile aids to encourage interaction and engagement. When working with children with special needs, it’s important to be flexible. You need to be ready to adapt and to try different methods until you find a way of incorporating them into the classroom activity.
It’s also important to be consistent. If there are rules for the other children in the class, then those rules must be applied to any child you teach with special needs. This will avoid any kind of segregation within the group.
It’s a good idea to let things flow for a while and just observe too. You can learn a lot about the strategies which work for a special needs student in your care by observing how they respond and interact over time, without actually asking too many questions or interfering to give them constant support. Sit back, watch and learn from what you see.
The final tip is to make use of colour, sound, visual and tactile aids. Sometimes, just by giving a child a comforting blanket to hold on to, you can give them the support and comfort they need to thrive in your lesson. This is probably even more important when teaching children with special needs who don’t speak your native language. More can sometimes be achieved without speech or words and through action or drawings.
Connecting Worlds can put interested teachers in contact with schools which need help with their special needs students. Schools are always looking for dedicated volunteers. We can help you to find an interesting placement and a school in which you can do some good.
Teaching children in Argentina is not a tourist activity
One of the most important things to remember when considering a teaching placement abroad is that children in Argentina — or anywhere else for that matter — are not tourist attractions. If you want to visit Argentina as a tourist, to travel, to visit its famous attractions and to try some of its tastiest dishes, it’s best to buy a plane ticket, reserve a few nights in a hotel and just enjoy the tourist experience.
If you sign up to a volunteer teaching abroad program in Argentina, there’ll be little time for travel and the commitment to the students will be a very important and challenging one. Signing up to a program just so you can take photos of yourself with the children, without actually focusing on the task at hand — ie: teaching them — is not what Argentine schools or private institutes are looking for. Please be conscious about the decision you make when you commit to a project in Argentina with children. It’s disruptive for everyone when ideas are not thought through.
The term “voluntourism,” is perhaps the most apt of all terms to clearly explain the difference between real volunteering and travel experiences disguised as volunteering.
If you are looking for Immersion programs or Responsible Tours in Argentina, visit our official website
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