How to Make Your TEFL Teaching Environmentally Conscious

How to Make Your TEFL Teaching More Environmentally Conscious

By Monica Ruda-Peachey

From global warming to urban sprawl, from pollution to climate change, our planet is facing many issues that can no longer be ignored. More and more countries across the globe are working together to find solutions to these environmental problems that are likely to affect future generations if left unattended.

There are concerns, however, that the efforts of the current generation might be in vain if those who come after us aren’t prepared to deal with the matter at hand. That’s when environmental consciousness comes into play. From a young age, children should be brought up to respect plants, animals, and life in general – including that of our planet Earth. 

While this may sound like a good idea in theory, its practical application appears to be more problematic. Are state schools equipped with a curriculum that includes the theme of environmental consciousness? Maybe, or maybe not. Are parents informed enough to help their children understand the importance of eco-friendly behaviour? Possibly, but they might need a little help. 

A common language for better opportunities

As an increasing number of people of all ages sign up for English language courses worldwide, teaching sustainability to create a greener environment seems the next logical step in the ESL (English as a Second Language) classroom. As long as English holds its role as the common language used internationally for business, travel, and technology, teaching English as a Second language will remain a booming industry that allows you to share your knowledge and passion for this language. 

Also known as TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), this profession gives you the opportunity to travel the world and teach English abroad, or remotely, from the comfort of your own home. Either way, it is a fulfilling and rewarding job that can help you make an impact in the lives of others. 

For most students, learning English is a means to increasing their chances of finding a (better) job, getting a promotion, and improving their living conditions altogether. In other words, they are willing and ready to make positive changes in their lives. Why not take this opportunity to help them learn about the positive effects they can have on the environment and how to contribute to this change?

TEFL Teaching class seen through a window
A class at Clark International Airport, Mabalacat, Philippines
Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

Towards a greener (English) classroom

As a TEFL teacher, you can promote a greener classroom environment in several ways. You can start by introducing topics related to environmental issues through reading texts, interviews, videos, and posters. Just by teaching your learners a few topic-related words every day you can raise their awareness on the issue and help them become environmentally conscious. 

You can adapt your materials to teach environmental issues to learners of all ages. Engage learners, especially young ones, with practical ideas, like growing an organic herb garden or building a ‘bug hotel’. You would contribute to their development with a ‘green’ mindset and help them make more enviro-conscious choices as adults.

Another way to make an impact on your students is to lead by example. Introduce separate recycling bins in the classroom if you can, and avoid printing if possible – can students work in pairs and share a photocopy of the materials? There are also some topic-related events and ideas that can be promoted within your class or the whole school, like Earth Hour or plastic-free July.

Focus on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

In 2015, the UN Member States agreed on 17 goals as part of a 15-year plan towards protecting the planet and improving the lives of everyone everywhere. These goals have been created to bring people together in tackling global issues like inequality, poverty, and climate change. 

Each goal is clearly laid out and can be used to design lesson plans around it, not only for the English language but also for other subjects: analyse how viruses can thrive in our modern society in a Biology lesson, or study extreme weather events in Geography classes. All this while practising the English language. 

There are many advantages to including the SDGs in your lessons:

  1. They raise awareness. This might seem obvious in a class of young learners, but you might find that adults from different cultural backgrounds don’t have the same levels of sensibility towards the environmental crisis.
  2. They teach empathy and understanding. By learning about global issues, students will have a deeper sense of what goes on around the world and helps them understand how they can make a difference.
  3. They give your lessons a fresh approach. Language lessons can be a bit old-fashioned and even become obsolete, especially if you have been recycling the same lesson plans you created ten years ago! Revamping your lessons with current and relevant materials will make your classes more interesting and your students more engaged.
  4. They promote discussion. Some of the goals are due in the next couple of years, while others are set for 2030. Well-organised classroom discussions and debates will help learners practise their English while talking about priorities, deadlines, actions and reactions.

The bottom line

Any job gives you the opportunity to make an impact on society and the world we live in, but some jobs play a bigger role than others. 

As a teacher of English as a second language, you will have the chance to affect the lives of others by helping them achieve their own personal and professional goals. You will help them learn about your culture and they will teach you about theirs, making your teaching life memorable and meaningful. In this role, you have the privilege to explore different topics that interest you and your learners. Together, you can learn, discuss, and analyse the many environmental issues that our planet currently faces and, more importantly, you can both act to make a change for the future. What can be more engaging than that?