Two worlds coming together: teaching and volunteering

Being a business English trainer often involves much more than just delivering grammar and vocabulary to learners. Business people need English to do business and not to learn about it. Courses for them need to be purposeful and address the issues they have in the work place. For this reason, it is very helpful to be able to draw on other aspects in a course in order to discuss relevant issues with business English learners.

I have been working with a group of project managers at my local bank for a few years now. We use a course book (we are actually on our second one now) but I also find that bringing in experiences from both my business days working in advertising in New York City as well as the work I do for IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) is very valuable. They have often mentioned that they like the fact that I understand work packages, milestones, deadlines and leading teams. So much of what they do relates directly to my IATEFL work. As President, I am responsible for finalising the agenda for Trustees meetings, running the meeting, checking the minutes, leading an IATEFL Executive Committee, meeting deadlines for the conference and IATEFL publications and setting up working parties. This experience has helped me greatly in establishing rapport with my business English learners who see me as a ‘fellow business person’, a concept which goes both ways. I have at times asked them for advice on dealing with a team or running a meeting as we all face the same problems at times when keeping a group of people on track.

IATEFL Board of Trustees at work

IATEFL Board of Trustees at work

When I first began volunteering for TEA (Teachers of English in Austria) and then the IATEFL Business English Special Interest Group (BESIG) I felt I wanted to give something back to the community I have been working in for the last 34 years. Both friends and family asked me what I get out of it. It is difficult to put this into words but the longer I do this, the more I find it enriches both my life in a personal way but also in a professional one. My BE learners tell me how they relate to my stories about travel and resulting problems, deadlines, dealing with emails, (especially the unanswered ones), giving presentations, delivering content online, taking part in conference calls and encouraging everyone on a team to contribute, stay motivated and reach their potential.

Final screen shot of web conference 2015

Final screen shot of web conference 2015

Summing up, I would say that the balance I feel I have achieved at this point in my teaching career keeps me going and I can well imagine that this is true for many of us in similar situations. I hope this continues as teaching has been a major part of my life for so long as has volunteering for teaching associations. They have both led me down paths I had never imagined taking and I am looking forward to seeing where they will lead me in the future.

Travelling to a conference

Travelling to a conference – after rebooking due to airline strike

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