When I graduated college, I decided to move to Ecuador and teach English for a year with WorldTeach, a nonprofit organization that provides volunteer teachers to meet local needs and promote responsible global citizenship in developing countries. The world is an awfully big place and it was important that I take some time to experience it. Living abroad has pushed me out of my comfort zone, and offered new perspectives on life. Plus, the views of the Andes Mountains are incredible.
Many people asked, “Will this affect getting a job when you come home?” It’s a perfectly reasonable question. I studied communication focusing in public relations — how in the world does that relate to teaching? Though it might be difficult to see a connection between the two, I would argue my biggest strength in my teaching position is my love for communicating with people, which I spent four years learning to do. The way I look at it, teaching is all about finding the best method to convey information in a way people can remember. That’s not so different from what we do as public relations professionals.
Below are three skills I learned as a communications major that I use on a daily basis as a teacher.
When you talk to a room full of people ranging from ages 15 to 40 for four hours daily, preplanning is required. For each lesson, I organize a main idea with supporting points, concrete examples and easy to understand language for my students. I must keep them engaged, while also supplying necessary information during class time. It’s handy knowing what to say and how to say it.
Crafting Key Messages
Along with organizing a plan and flow to my words, I have to pinpoint the takeaway messages I want students to garner from class. It’s vital they receive messages in a clear, concise manner because they need the information for future tests. It’s my responsibility to craft these points in a way they can recall quickly and easily.
Perhaps the most important item to remember is that I’m teaching people with a culture and background completely different from my own. I’m in a place where it’s perfectly acceptable to arrive at 4:10 p.m., even though class started at 4 p.m., and referring to an instructor as “Teacher” instead of by name is respectful. I have to monitor my habit of talking too fast for a non-native English speaker, and remember the idiom, “a piece of cake,” translates literally. Learning and respecting cultural differences is an incredibly important skill; one that I believe is necessary to practice all the time — not just in my classroom.
Of course these are only a few of the many skills I use. There are so many ways I take what I learned in school and apply it to my work here in Ecuador. When my year abroad is finished, I know I will have plenty of experience under my belt which I can apply to my future public relations career.
How could you utilize your public relations education in a non-public relations field?
Lindsay Mahaney earned a bachelor’s degree in communication focusing in public relations from the University of Toledo. Currently, she is teaching in Ecuador. Opinions are her own and don’t reflect the opinions of WorldTeach. Follow her on Twitter @lindsay_mahaney or connect on LinkedIn.