Harriet Parker

Teach Enrich Empower

Harriet Parker - Teaching in Nicaragua

One rainy Monday morning, heading to the office at 7am in the dark, it dawned on me…”I want to do something different”.

I didn’t want to continue working as a solicitor and I wanted to live abroad for a while. The next question was easy for me to answer – where to go? Central America. What to do there? Travel and teach English.

I have always had an interest in teaching and had been volunteering in primary schools as a reading coach for several years. Now it was time to make this a more permanent and full-time thing so, I signed up for The TEFL Academy’s 120-hour TEFL course.

Having handed in my notice at the law firm and having successfully completed the TEFL course, I set off for Mexico. After a few weeks exploring Mexico, I made my way South through Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador with a quick detour to Cuba. I had a wonderful time diving with sharks, climbing volcanoes, swimming under waterfalls and squeezing on to chicken buses.

“I didn’t want to continue being a solicitor and I wanted to live abroad.”

I then continued south and arrived in Nicaragua. I immediately loved Granada as soon as I arrived – a beautiful colonial city full of history and character and situated on the edge of Lake Nicaragua. I found a room to rent and started advertising my services as an English teacher. Business was slow at first – although tourism is the main industry in Granada and speaking English is a valuable and employable skill, most locals earn around $1 or $2 per hour and paying for English lessons is something they cannot possibly afford.

It became clear that the local Nicaraguan people were not going to be able to afford to pay for their own English lessons, although many I spoke to were very keen to learn, so I decided to approach their employers instead. Several café, restaurant and guest house owners were excited by the idea of funding their employees English language lessons and so I began to teach small classes several times a week. The classes are conversational and informal as well as fun and goal-focused. I concentrate on service-industry related topics and vocabulary in order to help these hard-working and ambitious individuals to improve their English and to improve their employment prospects.

In addition to helping these individuals, since starting my teaching career in Granada, I have also felt that I have truly become part of the community. I am able to contribute in a real and meaningful way and in a way which is positively and directly impacting on the lives of Nicaraguans. Teaching English to these people in small classes allows me to really get to know them individually and to understand their strengths and weaknesses, goals and ambitions. I am able to tailor each class to suit the learning styles and preferences of the students and to give them individual attention and feedback in order to help them progress as quickly as possible.

I hope to continue teaching in Nicaragua for several more months and to increase the number of students I have by further advertising and through word-of-mouth. I am so pleased I took the decision to trade my life as a solicitor in Bristol for a life as an English teacher in Nicaragua. I have not regretted it and would encourage others thinking about making a career change, or taking a career break, to take the plunge and let the adventure begin.

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