Nishaat Choonara, lovingly known as Shantha, is a South African currently teaching in India. At fifty years young, she’s living out her dream of becoming a teacher and motivational speaker. And dang, does this gal have inspiration to spare! Read her stories to learn more about her life abroad and how YOU can have a meaningful experience like her.
Tell us about your journey to teaching abroad. Where have you traveled, what have you studied, what have you done?
I’ve studied toward a BA Education degree specializing in English and Sociology. I abandoned my studies in my 2nd Undergraduate year due to financial constraints and my Dad’s sudden illness. Instead, I went on to complete various courses (secretarial, travel and tourism, interior decorating) to gain an advantage in the job market.
I managed to secure employment in the Banking Sector and held jobs as a Business Development Officer and a Human Resources Coordinator, the latter job deeply instilled my passion for working with people. I progressed to counseling employees on various issues both personal and work-related and of course, gained confidence in motivational speaking.
I truly desire to pursue motivational speaking on a bigger scale and a wider platform. To incorporate it while teaching would ideally be the “cherry on top of the cake!” Since my divorce two years back, the seeds already planted years ago began to sprout. I firmly believe that if you put forth a clear enough intention into the Universe, that the Universe would indeed conspire to make it happen.
So it was no coincidence that shortly thereafter, I came across an advertisement for TEFL on the internet and decided there and then to follow through and do the necessary to get myself qualified as an Educator. Travel was the easy part, the part that appealed most to my sense of adventure. I have traveled to many parts of the world, both locally and internationally, and consider myself truly blessed to have been so fortunate. My international travels include Egypt, Malaysia, Singapore, Greece, London, and India.
What lead you to choose the life of an ESL teacher?
I suppose not having any dependents was a huge contributing factor. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain and as mentioned above, the idea was already firmly embedded in my mind. My divorce was the green light I needed to lose my inhibitions and finally decide to live life on my own terms.
What motivates you every day to do a great job as a teacher for your students?
Touching lives, feeling appreciated, making a difference, giving and receiving; these are all such important reasons that should remind us of our true purpose—regardless of what we do!
Do you think you could have been successful as an ESL teacher without the proper training? What words of advice do you have for those considering skipping getting a TEFL certificate?
No. I think it is absolutely essential to be TEFL qualified. Trying to proceed on your own, without training would be like putting the cart before the horse, not practical at all. TEFL, with proper training, affords you the opportunity of having continuous support, both during training and after completion. Peace of mind and proper career guidance are priceless and yet totally attainable with a TEFL qualification!
Tell us about a typical day in your classroom.
A typical day would and should begin with having a suitable lesson plan. As an English Communications Teacher, I sometimes allow spontaneity and the mood of the students to dictate how I proceed. Restricting and coercing scholars to discuss topics, of little or no interest to them, unavoidably defeats the objective of them learning and using the language correctly and efficiently.
What is your favorite part about your adventurous life abroad?
Meeting new people, learning their cultural traits, and sampling the foods of different communities is always something I look forward to.
What three things do you wish you knew before teaching abroad?
India has been my first teaching experience. Although I visited India before, I traveled as a tourist then. The dynamics of living among the locals is entirely different; hence, I wish I knew more about their living conditions and social etiquettes.
Regarding acclimatizing at school, it is important to know what the chain of order is. One cannot appear to be over-familiar when dealing with Senior Officials, or perhaps meek and timid, by reporting to less senior staff. Some feedback of the Organisation would be helpful for TEFL teachers. Also, what are the essentials one requires on arrival at the living quarters? Having knowledge of these basic things would make life a lot easier…
Thanks Shantha! Best of luck on your teach abroad career path. :)/i>